MEREDITH — "When you can't change the wind, adjust your sails," said author H. Jackson Brown Jr. That's a lesson well-learned by Scott Crowder, founder of the New England Pond Hockey Classic. Ice has been very slow to form on Lake Winnipesaukee's Meredith Bay this winter, and it doesn't look like there will be enough ice to host the seventh annual event at its typical. Crowder announced yesterday that the popular and growing three-day tournament will be held less than a mile away, on Lake Waukewan, where there's plenty of solid ice.
The 2016 New England Pond Hockey Classic will be held Feb. 5 through 7. More than 250 teams of players are expected to participate.
"We have official word from Mother Nature that the 2016 event will be on Waukewan," Crowder said yesterday. He had hoped that the recent cold weather would finally freeze the surface of Lake Winnipesaukee, especially Meredith Bay, but high winds prevented ice formation.
"Looking at the temperatures this week, we thought we'd be closer than we are by now," he said. Nearly all of Meredith Bay is still open water, leaving little hope that there will be at least 10 inches of ice by the time the teams arrive. Fortunately, it's a much different story on the smaller Lake Waukewan.
"It's a tale of two lakes," said Crowder.
On Waukewan, "we're approaching that 10 inches of ice pretty quick."
Crowder has had to move his tournament before. Poor ice conditions forced the event to be held on Waukewan in 2012, so Crowder is familiar with what needs to happen to pull this event off.
"It's nice to have the plan B alternative," he said, adding that with so many teams coming from out of the area, changing the date of the event would be a last-case scenario.
While located just on the other side of downtown Meredith from Meredith Bay, Waukewan has a couple of hurdles that the usual location doesn't. The first is that there's no large-scale parking facilities nearby, so all participants and spectators will have to park at a designated remote lot and ride a shuttle to the tournament.
Additionally, Lake Waukewan is the water supply for the town of Meredith, and as such carries more restrictions that does Meredith Bay. For Crowder, that means no fires on the ice, no dogs, no glass bottles, no littering and no vehicles.
"We're not putting anything on the ice past our rinks," he said. He is grateful to Middleton Building Supply, which is allowing the event to use its property to locate the tournament village, which will include vendors and other necessary facilities. Without that business's help, Crowder said the event might not be possible.
Since its founding in 2010, the Pond Hockey Classic has become a highlight of the year, not just for hockey players but also for local residents who enjoy watching the game played in its purest form – outside and on natural ice.
"We want everyone to come down and experience the event, just like when it is on Meredith Bay," said Crowder.
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