SIDNEY — Playing hockey outside in single-digit temperature, while snow fell steadily on lake ice complete with its cracks and bumps on nine makeshift rinks, had hundreds of people feeling rejuvenated Saturday at the Maine Pond Hockey Classic.

Jordan Bourgoin, of Lewiston, playing with friends under the team name of Hat-trick Swazye, said playing in the pond hockey tournament was awesome and full of “that good hockey spirit.”

“The snow just added to the whole pond hockey feel,” he said after his team had played its second of three games. “Everyone chips in and shovels. It brings back a lot of memories of growing up and going to the pond to play hockey and staying there all day. It’s like being kids again.”

A couple of dozen people took things a step even further than playing hockey in the cold, snowy conditions, and jumped into the water, though a hole cut in the ice of Messalonskee Lake, which is also known as Snow Pond, in the Alfond Youth Center’s 24th annual Polar Bear Dip. Dippers into the icy water gathered pledges for doing so, raising money for the center’s Kids’ Kitchen, which serves 45,000 free, hot, nutritious meals a year, and food to some 200 youths and provides food to take home to their families.

“This is really about the kids that won’t go home hungry this year,” Tony Tuell, of Sidney, said before his team from Silver Street Tavern, which he said raised about $3,000, took the plunge. Once in the water, his red face contradicting his words, Tuell said, “Hey, it’s nice in here,” before climbing out of the ice hole and heading to a nearby barrel where a fire of pallet wood was burning, and donning a pink bathrobe, to try to warm back up.

Numerous plungers were in costume, including Ken Walsh, the Alfond Youth Center’s chief executive officer, sporting a snazzy tuxedo and bow tie; Joel Lockwood in a penguin outfit; and, taking the plunge for their fourth or fifth year, Emily and Joshua Fournier, with Emily in a bright yellow chicken suit and Joshua dressed as a farmer.


Emily Fournier said she has a strange reason for taking the polar dip every year. She said she fell through the ice into a river six years ago, while she was by herself, and was able to make it back out of the water to survive the incident.

“I do this as a way to celebrate” surviving that unintended plunge through the ice, she said. “And it’s a great cause.”

She describes the feeling of hitting the water as “a rush of both ‘I’m going to die,’ and ‘I’ve never felt so alive.'”

Back on top of the ice, Patrick Guerette, director of the pond hockey tournament, said he expected 800 to 1,000 people, including about 400 hockey players, would take part or watch the tournament over its three days, concluding Sunday.

It was a challenge to keep things going at the outdoor event, bookended as it was by a blizzard just before it and another expected to arrive Sunday into Monday, bringing high wind and heavy snow. High wind Friday made it impossible to set up the planned warming tent on the ice, though the nearby lodge of event host Snow Pond Center for the Arts did provide participants a warm place to spend time and have snacks, coffee or beer. And at least one Friday evening game was made more challenging when light towers set up to light up the playing surface failed to work, prompting organizers to scramble to have people park their pickup trucks around the rink with headlights on, illuminating the ice.

Guerette said they might compress Sunday’s schedule to conclude the tournament earlier than planned previously, to try to avoid the incoming blizzard.


“There have been a lot of weather challenges, but we’ve overcome, mostly, all of them,” Guerette said. “Players are having fun and making the most of it. They’ve been very understanding. We had a lot more people come volunteer than we expected, to jump in and help out. We’re very grateful for the community effort.”

He expected the event to raise about $20,000 for the Alfond Youth Center.

Teams played four-on-four games, with no goalies, lasting two 20-minute periods. The 75-by-150-foot rinks were outlined by 6-by-6 boards, and players and volunteers scraped the snow off between games.

Bourgoin said the snow, and cracks in the ice, made play slower and more difficult than playing on an indoor rink, but it still was lots of fun.

Members of the only team made up exclusively of women, The Murphs, wore custom-made team shirts with a picture of a man’s bare, muscled chest on their fronts.

“We just wanted to fit in, you know?” team member Margaret Aiken said of the attention-getting uniforms, after they finished one of their games. They lost that game. But none of the team members seemed distressed about that result; they were laughing and talking as they left the rink.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

Twitter: @kedwardskj

Comments are no longer available on this story

filed under: