Pinestone prepares to serve up slapshots and saucer passes to spectators
By Darren Lum
Some will wear goofy costumes complete with outrageous wigs, others will play in matching hockey jerseys or everyday clothes, but one thing all of the hundreds of participants will share is a love of outdoor hockey.
The Canadian National Pond Hockey Championships – a four-on-four, 30-minute game format tournament – draws people from all over the province, and a few from outside the country, to play hockey over two days.
Depending on the division, players will play from Jan. 24 to 25, or the following weekend on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1.
Organizer John Teljeur welcomes the public to see the event that combines the spirit of Halloween and the athleticism of outdoor hockey, set against the Highlands winter backdrop.
He said he’s learned a lot about the community after running the event for four years.
“We have an amazing community that shows up every year to help. I’ve talked to so many of them and the feedback is they have fun and enjoy meeting new people. Anyone that has played or volunteered in the event will tell you that the experience is really amazing. They really like the event and what it does for our community. Over 92 per cent of the teams come from outside of our community, which helps fill up rooms at the Pinestone, Haliburton Heights and other facilities,” he wrote in an email.
Teljeur’s knowledge of ice has expanded greatly since assuming control of the event.
Although the pond in front of the Pinestone is smaller than other venues, the ice can be “tricky to maintain.”
According to Teljeur, an average of five million cubic feet of snow is moved and nearly 70,000 litres of water is pumped to prepare the 500,000-square-foot area for 18 rinks thanks to volunteers and $100,000-worth of machinery. There must be a minimum of 12 inches of ice before ice preparation. The ice building process and the event can be seen on HalibooTV, which provides constant footage via its live streaming cameras.
Teljeur said there was great risk in taking over the championships in 2017.
In 2016, he learned the past event owner was looking to sell. Teljeur took over the ownership following a discussion with his wife about how depressing it would be if the event were not in Haliburton.
“That’s when we decided to just take the risk and buy it ourselves. The first year was very stressful. We had never operated the full event on the Pinestone ice surface and weren’t entirely sure we could. It is also a very every expensive event to run costing upwards of $60,000 annually. Thanks to the support of some amazing people in the community who jumped in and volunteered their time, we were able to make it work and we have never looked back,” he said.
Teljeur thanks the volunteers and the event sponsors including Budweiser, Gibson’s Finest Canadian Whisky, Ventrac Compact Tractors, Battlefield Equipment Rentals, Baffin Clothing, Viper Marketing, Amazing Agency and Budget Propane.
New for this year is a 40-foot inflatable igloo tent, which will provide an outdoor food and beverage option.
There will be live entertainment each night. The Baz Littlerock Band performs on Jan. 24, and then the next night, Neon Nostalgic, which covers classic ‘80s and ‘90s in front of the original musicians’ videos. Rude E Bones performs on Jan. 31 and then Haliburton’s Arden and the Tourists perform on Feb. 1.
Admission is $15 in advance and $20 at the door. Volunteers and players are free.
The Pondimonium Division, which focuses on recreation and offers no playoff round, is returning. The idea for the division came from player feedback.
“They just wanted to play and not worry about the score. My daughter Sarah came with the name and the rest is history,” Teljeur said.
Despite the time and energy, Teljeur said he hasn’t forgotten what is at the root of the event’s success and what it means for the Pinestone and the community.
“The hours are very long – sometimes back-to-back-to-back 18-hour days but I’m surrounded by great volunteers and Pinestone team members who are there every step of the way to make the event a success. To see it all come together after months of planning is awesome,” he said. “I’m especially driven by what the event does for the resort and area. The brand is well known so it is an achievement for the community to host one of the largest pond hockey events in the world successfully every year. The event also helps fill up the resort on two weekends that can be hit and miss for anything else. The four days of pond hockey accounts for nearly 10 per cent of [Pinestone restaurant] Stone 21’s annual revenues.”
See canadapondhockey.ca for information on the event.