As Lakes Freeze Over, Pond Hockey Season Begins

December 11, 2020

In early December, Dominic Valentini, senior, is preparing for hockey practice by taking off his skates, putting on a decent shirt, and opening his Chromebook. 

Sports have become one of the top sources of COVID outbreaks in Minnesota, with the second-highest number at 780, according to data from the Minnesota Department of Health. 

On Dec. 4, the Minnesota State High School League’s (MSHSL)  board of directors developed a plan to possibly roll out seasons for winter sports by Dec. 21, with Jan. 4 and Jan. 18 being back-up dates. Combined with the 30 percent reduction in games and meets made by the board in October, Valentini won’t be getting on the ice as much as he wants to. 

“Well so far we haven’t had any hockey at all, and right when the season was supposed to start it got delayed,” said Valentini. “However, we have been meeting on zoom as a team to get ready for the season.”

As the winter sports season takes a huge hit, Valentini and his friends have their full attention on the next best thing: pond hockey with the boys. 

Samuel Harris, senior, is not an experienced hockey player, but is just looking for a way to stay active during a season of inactivity.

“I like that no matter how good or bad you are, everyone is usually very inclusive and wants you to join in,” Harris said.

Being that Gov. Walz’s Executive Order prohibits physical winter activities with members from other households, it will be interesting to see how the “boys” are going to spend some quality time together. 

“We are trying to stay in a smaller group, but I think people just want to get out in the winter and have a good time where they can decide to be competitive or take it easy,” Harris said. 

If pond culture had a physical embodiment, it would be Jackson View, senior. One of the founders of this sacred, two year-long tradition. View has seen the player base go from 8 to 10 to now 20 plus boys. 

“My favorite part about pond is just being able to be around all the guys, sharing laughs and just messing around while playing an amazing sport,” said View. “Pond Hockey culture is huge! When there is only like two things to do in the winter in Minnesota — the state of hockey — everyone owes it to themselves to play pond or at least try it at some point.”

Between Valentini’s virtual skating sessions, and Harris and View not being able to train for their final season of high school baseball, they will all have a lot of free time. 

“I think pond hockey is as close as you can get to real hockey, but it’s honestly great in its own way. We all just like to go out and play for hours, and never get bored,” said Valentini. “Only a couple of us actually play hockey, but everyone is getting better at skating and it’s a great experience for everyone.”

It may not be the best send-off to the end of their athletic careers, but the pandemic can’t take pond hockey away from these guys.

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