A change of scenery: Black Ice hockey tournament kicks off at Everett Arena

By ERIC RYNSTON-LOBEL

Monitor staff

Published: 03-18-2023 7:15 PM

The Black Ice Pond Hockey Tournament has a new venue this weekend – city-owned Everett Arena, where the temperature is a bit warmer, and the ice is a bit smoother.

Typically held outdoors at the end of the January on the pond at White Park, an unusually warm early winter forced the event to pivot indoors. It’s the ninth time in the 12-year history of the tournament that it couldn’t happen as originally planned, but this is the first time the event will take place entirely inside.

At White Park, they’ll usually set up seven or eight rinks for games to take place. At Everett Arena, they’re limited to only three. However, just 55 teams will be playing compared to about 80 that typically participate, slightly lessening the impact of having fewer rinks.

“It’s just a little smaller event this year,” said Joe Shoemaker, the president of the Black Ice Pond Hockey Association. “Fifty-five is about the number we could manage in a three-day event inside, so it really worked out perfectly.”

Condensed into a three-day event, Shoemaker and his team have long hours ahead of them this weekend. On Friday, they were at the rink until about 10 p.m.; it’ll be a similarly late night on Saturday. The plan is for it all to wrap up around 3 p.m. Sunday.

They’ve also had to be a bit creative with the rink setup, dividing the ice into three, relatively equal-sized rinks using 2x4 lumber to keep the puck from sliding into another game and makeshift goals made of used pallets.

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“We’re very fortunate to have what we call the construction/logistics committee on the board, guys with some great carpentry skills that help us put that together, design it right,” Shoemaker said.

Playing on the Everett Arena ice instead of outside on the pond means the puck moves quite a bit faster.

“The ice is much faster in here because it’s maintained,” said Chris Brown, one of the founding members of the Black Ice Pond Hockey Association. “You’ve got a fresh sheet of ice, and we’re going to make ice in between every two games. Pretty much every team that plays will have a pretty good sheet of ice to play on.”

Brown’s team, the Concord Budmen, was among the first to take to the ice on Friday morning. They lost to the Turkey Pond Flyers 2, 11-8, in the Men’s 50+ A Division.

“It was a spirited game,” Brown said. “We definitely didn’t embarrass ourselves, but it was definitely a little different than playing out on the pond.”

Still, it was a great way to kick off St. Patrick’s Day weekend, even if this year’s event looks a little different from those of year’s past.

“It’ll be just as fun as it’s always been,” Shoemaker said. “We have a board of 18 people that put in a tremendous amount of time in year round, and we couldn’t do it without the board, the volunteers, the high school groups that come donate their time. … It’s really just been a great community event, and it’ll be just as good as it’s always been.”

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