Join city's hockey history celebration

Last modified: 1/28/2011 12:00:00 AM
Concord became the birthplace of hockey in the United States when the first game was played 128 years ago on Lower Pond at St. Paul's School. It has been a hockey town ever since. Today, in what we hope will become an annual event of athletic competition and community building, a tournament celebrating Concord's hockey history will begin when Gov. John Lynch drops the first puck on White Pond to open the city's 1883 Black Ice Pond Hockey Championship.

The tournament was a success before it began. Its sponsors, and the 50 teams that will compete over the weekend on the six rinks set up at White Park, raised enough money to pay the city to reopen a skating pond at Rollins Park. The skating pond was last flooded in the 1970s.

Kudos to City Recreation Director David Gill and New Hampshire Distributors President Chris Brown, the team that came up with the idea. Concord is struggling to maintain the services and facilities it has in this economic downturn, let alone add new amenities. The money raised by the tournament will make a big difference in the lives of the city's children and make Concord an even better place to live.

Many local businesses were quick to support the championship. (The Concord Insider is the event's official media sponsor.) It will be free for spectators, but fans should consider making a donation.

You won't see the game as played on television. There are no goalies in pond hockey. The puck must find its way into a 2-by-6-foot box with foot-long slits cut in each corner. This year, the tournament will include 50 teams with seven players each. Next year, maybe 100 teams. These things, when they work, have a way of expanding rapidly.

The Black Ice Pond Hockey association plans to eventually raise enough money to help the city build a new skate house in White Park and to create pond rinks throughout the city. That's a wonderful goal, and the bigger the tournament, the faster it will happen.

Local sporting events build community. Parents meet on the sidelines at ball games or in the frigid stands of Everett Arena and become friends. Adults meet by banging into each other in the city's basketball leagues or becoming rivals on bowling lanes.

Events like the pond hockey tournament are also economic engines. They're good for Concord's stores, restaurants and hotels. City government should be as open and flexible as possible when considering similar proposals and revisit its policy of banning alcoholic beverages on public property. Properly managed, temporary beer tents and wine bars to add to an event can raise a lot of money for good causes.

People with energy and vision like David Gill and Chris Brown; Katy Brown, founder of Concord Arts Market; the organizers of the summer farmers market; and Joan O'Connor of Henniker, who worked with Doug Cole of Cole Gardens to make the winter farmers market happen, deserve a salute. They are making the city a happier, more interesting place to live and visit.

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