It’s an annual tradition — but it’s been cancelled for 2024.
The World Pond Hockey Championship brings teams from around the world to Plaster Rock, in the Western Valley region of New Brunswick every February.
But this year, there was not enough ice to safely go forward with the event, which was scheduled to begin on Feb. 15.
Danny Braun, the founder and organizer of the event, said the ice on Roulston Lake is no more than 11 inches thick, some of which is just frozen snow, but that’s not enough.
He said a foot of “good blue ice” is needed before putting any machinery on the lake.
“We usually have ice on that lake out there late in the hunting season, but didn’t this year,” he said.
“December 28th, we actually had people here in town golfing, which doesn’t happen.”
The competition typically runs four days and 40 teams all play simultaneous games on the lake’s surface. The tournament usually hosts around 120 teams of five players each.
Braun said it just wasn’t worth the risk to move forward this year, and with people traveling for the competition, the organizers needed to give enough notice of the cancellation.
He said on Wednesday, organizers measured the temperature of the water under the ice and it was around 3 C.
“So as much as we were trying to add ice on the top, we were actually losing ice on the bottom, so we weren’t making any headway,” said Braun..
Safety is key
“There’s no evidence to suggest with the water temperatures like they are that it’s going to magically turn the corner in the next, you know, 10-14 days.”
Grégoire Cormier, the program manager for the Lifesaving Society of New Brunswick, said this year, there have not been long periods of freezing temperatures compared to previous years and there also hasn’t been much snow on the ground, which would normally act as a layer of insulation.
He said ice formation varies year to year and it’s always important to check the ice, rather than basing the decision to go out on what was safe in past years.
Cormier said ice thickness should be four inches to hold an individual, around five inches for a small group, but closer to a foot to hold a small car.
But he said while ice thickness is important, quality is too. The clear, hard ice is the strongest, while ice that is grayish in colour with white bubbles inside is not good quality and is sometimes referred to as “rotten” ice.
Cormier said when it comes to Braun’s call to cancel the tournament, safety is the most important consideration, especially for a multi-day event.
“It’s not going to be going on for a couple of hours and one or two people — this is going to be a heavier use,” he said.
Braun said this year’s event was supposed to bring teams from as far away as Slovakia and the Czech Republic.
He said while it’s disappointing to have to cancel, the group is trying to look at it positively because now some things have already been done for next year’s tournament.
“It’s an important event for the community, especially at this time of year and that’s the downside,” said Braun.
“But I guess if there [was], you know, an unfortunate tragedy associated with it, if we tried to push forward, that would be worse than not having it at all.”