SIDNEY — The wind was fierce Saturday on Messalonskee Lake as about 1,000 hockey players, volunteers and spectators from Maine and beyond gathered for the second day of the Maine Pond Hockey Classic which raises funds for the Alfond Youth Center in Waterville.

The shore of the lake, also known as Snow Pond, was busy with several skating rinks, a warming tent and ice bar, while a lodge on a nearby hill served as a gathering and eating place. On the third floor, volunteer massage therapists worked in a wellness lounge.

Tournament director Patrick Guerette said he expected the weekend event would raise between $30,000 and $35,000, with an additional $20,000 or $25,000 expected to be raised Sunday through the Alfond Youth Center’s 27th annual Polar Bear Dip scheduled for noon.

“We don’t really know the final figure until everything is done,” he said.

Guerette said players comprising 83 teams came to Sidney from states including Michigan, Illinois, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, as well as Canada. The event Saturday was going well after Friday’s ice storm, he said. It was sunny Saturday and the temperature was 19, but with the wind chill, it was in the single digits, according to Guerette.

“The weather yesterday was a challenge for our volunteers and staff but we’re working through most of that,” he said. “We have an incredible group of volunteers.”


At 10 a.m., Dan Didham, 52, of Halifax, Nova Scotia, was getting ready with his team, “The Old Buzzards,” to play against “The Fifth Line,” a team that included players from Waterville and Boothbay. Both teams were competing in the age 50 and older category.

“It’s our fourth year here,” Didham said. “We started out playing other pond hockey tournaments 10 years ago and we made this our regular one after the first year because Pat (Guerette) and his crew do a good job and it gets better every year.”

He said the Halifax team spent Thursday night in Bangor. Because of the weather, what typically is a six-hour drive turned into a 10-hour trip. A 23-year veteran of the Canadian air force, where he was an aviation mechanic, Didham said his team is basically a veterans organization in Halifax. Its 120 members play throughout the year and compete in charity tournaments in North America. The teams raise funds for Feed Nova Scotia; Soldier On, an organization helping keep Canadian veterans active in their community; and Nova Scotia Special Olympics.

Player Kevin Thompson, 54, of Halifax, said the team loves coming to Maine.

“This is our favorite event,” he said. “We’re doing one next week in Moncton. This is the only one we go to in the U.S.”

The team, which won a game Friday evening, gives gift bags to members of all the teams they compete against, according to Didham.


He and his team fought hard Saturday against The Fifth Line, whose members wore Colby College shirts and included team members Bob Marden and Gary Gorman, both of Oakland, and Jeff Stone, of Sidney.

The game lasted about 30 minutes. At half time, the score was 0-0 and members of both teams engaged in friendly banter. Marden said his team has played at the hockey classic for five years.

“Many of us play noontime hockey at Colby,” he said. “Mike Roy has always been our commissioner, or organizer.”

Roy, the city manager of Waterville, played hockey for Colby in the 1970s. Asked what he thought of The Old Buzzards, Marden characterized the team as “crafty.”

“They come here and they play, they ply us with gifts, they’re very smart,” Marden said. “They love to play. We have to to be careful because they use their age and experience against us — and their Maritime charm.”

The second half of the game was tough for The Fifth Line, however, and The Old Buzzards won, 5-1. Didham was not gloating.


“It’s not about winning,” he said. “We’re here to have fun. It’s fun — that’s the main thing.”

Outside the warming tent, Samantha Burdick of Waterville was with friends, enjoying the sunshine. A member of both the Waterville Planning Board and Charter Commission, Burdick said she enjoys coming to the hockey classic and watching friends compete.

“It is fun because it gets bigger every year,” she said. “It’s a fun community event. Patrick (Guerette) does a really great job putting on the event.”

In the lodge, players and spectators milled about and sat at long tables, partaking of refreshments. On the third floor, Amy Joseph of Unity was one of three volunteer massage therapists working on players in the wellness lounge. By about noon, a handful of clients had stopped in for massages.

“They’ve all been on the ice,” Joseph said.

The Maine Pond Hockey Classic will host the annual Polar Bear Dip on Sunday to benefit the Alfond Youth Center’s Kid’s Kitchen, which serves more than 85,000 free, hot, nutritious meals and snacks annually to about 200 at-risk children daily. More than 65% of the children say it is their last meal of the day, according to center officials. The kitchen also supplies 125 families each weekend with backpack meals.

The Alfond Center comprises the Boys & Girls Club and YMCA of Greater Waterville and serves more than 5,000 youths with athletic activities, community recreation, youth development, and an after school program that serves  free hot meals and snacks. A fitness and nutrition center also is on site.

Crista Lavenson, director of advancement at the Alfond Center, said more than 100 people donning costumes will take part Sunday in the Polar Bear Dip, including members of the Colby football, field hockey and soccer teams; Portland Pie Co.; Silver Street Tavern; and the architectural firm that designed the Alfond Center’s addition.

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