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'Park rats' turned Black Ice brains

  • Dan Deane, left, Ken Sansone and Tom Fallon celebrate as time sounded and their team, Dietter's Disciples, won the 18+ rec final against the Kearsarge Krew in overtime at the Black Ice Pond Hockey tournament at White Park in Concord on Sunday, January 26, 2014.  <br/><br/>ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff

    Dan Deane, left, Ken Sansone and Tom Fallon celebrate as time sounded and their team, Dietter's Disciples, won the 18+ rec final against the Kearsarge Krew in overtime at the Black Ice Pond Hockey tournament at White Park in Concord on Sunday, January 26, 2014.

    ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff

  • The Iceholes, Jen Glynn, left, Taryn Lapierre, Jolene Rambone, Jamie Mey and Jacki Lapointe rest during halftime of the woman's 18+ division final against the Barley House at the Black Ice Pond Hockey tournament at White Park in Concord on Sunday, January 26, 2014.  The Iceholes beat the Barley House in overtime.<br/><br/>ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff

    The Iceholes, Jen Glynn, left, Taryn Lapierre, Jolene Rambone, Jamie Mey and Jacki Lapointe rest during halftime of the woman's 18+ division final against the Barley House at the Black Ice Pond Hockey tournament at White Park in Concord on Sunday, January 26, 2014. The Iceholes beat the Barley House in overtime.

    ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff

  • The Ice Tartans (red) play Dietter's Disciples in the 18+ Rec division semifinals during the Black Ice Pond Hockey tournament at White Park in Concord on Sunday, January 26, 2014.  Dietter's Disciples won in overtime and went on to win the final against the Kearsarge Krew.<br/><br/>ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff

    The Ice Tartans (red) play Dietter's Disciples in the 18+ Rec division semifinals during the Black Ice Pond Hockey tournament at White Park in Concord on Sunday, January 26, 2014. Dietter's Disciples won in overtime and went on to win the final against the Kearsarge Krew.

    ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff

  • The Concord Budman, left,  try to defend the against the Concord High School 92 during the Black Ice Pond Hockey tournament , Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014, in Concord, N.H. The defending champion Budman lost to the Concord High School 92 team on the final day of the tournament. More than 80 teams from New England and Canada played in the three day tournament. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

    The Concord Budman, left, try to defend the against the Concord High School 92 during the Black Ice Pond Hockey tournament , Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014, in Concord, N.H. The defending champion Budman lost to the Concord High School 92 team on the final day of the tournament. More than 80 teams from New England and Canada played in the three day tournament. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

  • Dan Deane, left, Ken Sansone and Tom Fallon celebrate as time sounded and their team, Dietter's Disciples, won the 18+ rec final against the Kearsarge Krew in overtime at the Black Ice Pond Hockey tournament at White Park in Concord on Sunday, January 26, 2014.  <br/><br/>ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff
  • The Iceholes, Jen Glynn, left, Taryn Lapierre, Jolene Rambone, Jamie Mey and Jacki Lapointe rest during halftime of the woman's 18+ division final against the Barley House at the Black Ice Pond Hockey tournament at White Park in Concord on Sunday, January 26, 2014.  The Iceholes beat the Barley House in overtime.<br/><br/>ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff
  • The Ice Tartans (red) play Dietter's Disciples in the 18+ Rec division semifinals during the Black Ice Pond Hockey tournament at White Park in Concord on Sunday, January 26, 2014.  Dietter's Disciples won in overtime and went on to win the final against the Kearsarge Krew.<br/><br/>ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff
  • The Concord Budman, left,  try to defend the against the Concord High School 92 during the Black Ice Pond Hockey tournament , Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014, in Concord, N.H. The defending champion Budman lost to the Concord High School 92 team on the final day of the tournament. More than 80 teams from New England and Canada played in the three day tournament. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

The rest of the Concord Budmen had skated off to the players’ tent to change, but Chris Brown was still on the ice.

He wasn’t playing anymore – his team had just lost in a semifinal game. But as he skated across the eight rinks on the White Park pond, he stopped to say hello to one skater and help another clear the ice for the next game.

And as the remaining teams prepared for their championship matches, the announcer noticed Brown in his light-blue jersey, both a player and the orchestrator behind the Black Ice Pond Hockey Championship, exhausted from his game but still ready to help before unlacing his skates.

“Put your sticks on the ice for him,” the announcer shouted into his microphone. “This would not happen without Chris Brown.”

The sticks clattered across the ice, a hockey player’s standing ovation.

Brown, the president of New Hampshire Distributors, learned to skate on the pond at White Park when he was a kid. Yesterday, he and more than 600 others skated on that same pond during the fourth year of the annual pond hockey tournament.

Brown skates with the Concord Budmen, the host team made up of many of the tournament’s founders. Many of them grew up as “park rats” who learned to skate on the White Park pond; now, they’re co-workers at New Hampshire Distributors and Thursday night hockey buddies, player Tom Philbrick said.

So of course the pond hockey tournament took shape at the pond where many of the Budmen learned to love the game, Philbrick said. Of course they established the tournament as a nonprofit that has donated thousands of dollars to the park where they still skate and to youth hockey programs across the city.

“It was a natural spot for a tournament,” Philbrick said.

The rules remain the same as when those park rats played pond hockey as kids, before they could qualify for the 35-and-over division. Few formal rules, no referees.

“We basically work it out ourselves, that goes back to the roots of our childhood. . . . You settled your differences and moved on,” Brown said.

When the team fell to CHS ’92 yesterday, Philbrick’s wife, Aileen, stepped out on the ice to snap their picture anyway.

They may be co-workers, Aileen Philbrick said of the Budmen, but they treat the team and the tournament like “a family thing.”

“I guess I never pictured it to be this big,” she said, looking around at the eight rinks and the hundreds of people.

Now, the tournament attracts players from all over to this small city park. Alice Sansone, 39, cheered for her husband, Ken, as he competed with Dietter’s Disciples, the eventual winner of the 18-and-over recreational division. Her husband’s team is a group of his brothers and their friends, all longtime hockey players. The Sansone family came into Concord from nearby Bedford, but other players on their team came from New York and stayed at their house.

The weekend is their reunion, she said over pulled pork sandwiches and hockey.

“It’s really a family affair,” Sansone said.

The team lost in the semifinals last year, Sansone said, interrupting her thought to cheer when the team scored a goal. But this year, they’ve been practicing. This year, they came to win.

“My husband was skating here on the pond before work. It’s really cute,” she said, laughing. “I mean, it’s very serious.”

The couple’s two sons haven’t taken to hockey, she said. But the family also has a 4-year-old daughter, who yesterday chose to remain snuggled in two blankets and a purple puffy coat in her stroller.

“He’s got his hopes pinned on her,” Sansone said.

When the team’s hopes for a Black Ice tournament victory, at least, were realized, it was Brown who presented them with a custom-designed hockey stick as their trophy.

He and the other Budmen, as well as volunteers from their company and other sponsors, broke down the rinks yesterday. Now in a teal Black Ice Pond Hockey jacket, Brown ran between supply trucks and snow shovels with the energy of a man who hadn’t just played his own game of hockey.

“Might as well burn it on both ends,” he said, holding trophy hockey sticks for the next award ceremony. “I honestly couldn’t do this without all the volunteers.”

One of those volunteers, Brian Smith, ran the clock and the commentary as the announcer through the weekend. He also works for New Hampshire Distributors and said he immediately got on board with the idea that grew from his co-workers’ conversation over “a few Bud Lights” a few years ago.

“It started to take on a life of its own, with (Chris Brown’s) support and the support of New Hampshire Distributors,” Smith said.

That life would go on, Smith assured the dispersing crowd before he turned off his microphone.

“See ya next year,” he said.

(Megan Doyle can be reached at 369-3321 or mdoyle@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @megan_e_doyle.)

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