SIDNEY — Neither a nearly nonstop biting wind ripping across Messalonskee Lake, nor an injured ankle nor pregnancy could keep firefighters Lori and Brett Jones or their young daughter Morgan off the ice Saturday at the Maine Pond Hockey Classic tournament, where 84 teams of at least four players each played hockey.

It was the way most first learned to love the game — outdoors in the elements, on a frozen lake or pond.

Brett Jones, a firefighter in Old Orchard Beach, watched Saturday from the side of one of the 10 rinks plowed out on the lake, hobbled by an ankle injured when he took a hard-hit puck to the side of his skate in his team’s first game of the tournament. He occasionally sheltered Morgan from the wind as they watched his wife, a South Portland firefighter and paramedic who is four months pregnant, play in a recreational division with her fellow South Portland firefighters, a group that also helped flood the rinks for the tournament.

He said he wasn’t worried about her playing hockey in the tournament, in which there isn’t supposed to be contact between players, in part because she would be careful and the division her team was playing in didn’t have the same fast pace and competitive-minded players as some of the other divisions.

The couple grew up playing hockey on ponds in Cape Elizabeth. Brett still plays regularly, but Lori hadn’t played in about 10 years, until knocking the rust off her skates in their own pond at home just before the tournament.

“Mama’s legs are tired,” Lori Jones said as she was relieved briefly by a substitute in their morning game and she checked on Morgan to make sure she wasn’t getting too cold. The young girl deep inside many layers of coat and clothing said she was not, and seemed unperturbed by the cold wind.

“We’re a hockey family, so we’re used to being outside, Brett Jones said. “We’re pretty hardy.”

Brett said he planned to get an x-ray and hoped to return to play with his team Saturday afternoon if his injury wasn’t too bad. It’s the third time he’s played in the tournament, a celebration of pond hockey played in all conditions, both in the air and on the ice.

“We all grew up playing outside on lakes and ponds when we were kids, so there’s a lot of nostalgia,” said Brett Jones, who added that they were staying at a hotel in Augusta for the weekend event. “And it’s a big social event.”

Being outside, as pond hockey players know, comes with challenges because of the weather. Patrick Guerette, tournament director and operations director at the Alfond Youth Center, said Friday’s games started two hours later than planned because of rain that softened up the ice in the rinks. Then the cold wind started overnight, threatening tents that were set up on the ice to help protect players and the 60 to 70 volunteers who helped before and during the event. Volunteers delivered hay bales to the site to help prevent the tents from blowing over, or away.

“We have a great group of volunteers here, and the players chip in too, helping to keep the rinks clear,” Guerette said, referring to the snow and ice they cleared from the rinks between games by skating along behind large metal shovel-like blades. “We appreciate all the support we’ve gotten to make this happen.”

Guerette said the event, including the hockey tournament and polar dip in which people who collect pledges jump into the frigid water through a hole cut into the ice, usually raises around $40,000 for the club.

He said for many players, it is a weekend out of the house with friends and family.

Player Lance Gray, of Westbrook, said players appreciate the efforts of organizers and volunteers required to pull off the multi-faceted event, which also included curling demonstrations, and which had food and beer tents open for business starting in the morning and going into the night.

“So much work goes into this. I think everyone appreciates it,” Gray said. “It’s just fun, a good excuse to get together with friends and drink some beer and play some good competitive hockey.”

Dale Hallberg, of Flagstaff, Arizona, didn’t lace up in skates Saturday. He was there to watch his two sons, Trevor and Casey, both students at the University of New England, play with their team, the Jagr-meisters, a play on the alcoholic drink Jagermeister and the name of famed hockey player Jaromir Jagr. He was one of only a few spectators to brave the cold for the event.

“It’s not bad as long as you dress for it,” he said. “It’s a great event They’re doing a great job with it.”

Other team names included the Granite Iceholes, Bad Knees Bears, The Fifth Line, Crease Lightning, Mid Ice Crisis, Hat Trick Swayze, and Bud Light Boys.

Teams came from out of state, including several Massachusetts teams as well as a few from New York and Connecticut — and according to the list of teams, at least, the Clansmen, came from Scotland.

Gary Gosline came from Yarmouth to play with his teammates on the Wanderers. He said the key to staying warm in the wind was to keep moving.

He said pond hockey is all “about the love of the game.”

Three metal fire pits set up on the ice were popular spots, and players switched from their boots to their skates in the limited shelter from the elements provided by the tent set up on the ice.

Players were asked to try to keep the pucks low to avoid flinging them off the rinks, which were lined by 2-by-6 boards, and shooting them out across Messalonskee Lake, in front of event site at Snow Pond Center for the Arts. Scorekeepers had buckets of pucks at their feet to keep the games moving when pucks went astray.

Volunteer scorekeeper Brian Shey, of Readfield, who plays for the Maranacook-Winthrop hockey team, said he’d of course rather be playing, not keeping score; but he volunteered because of the great atmosphere of the tournament and for the love of hockey.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647
[email protected]
Twitter: @kedwardskj

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