Winter Classic - Pond hockey participants grateful to have a ‘plan B’ in winters like this

Brian Hogan and his team The Puck Monkeys ,lace up for their 35+ Shinny division game with the Reggie Dunlop team on day one of the New England Pond Hockey Classic on Lake Waukewan Friday.

Brian Hogan and his team The Puck Monkeys ,lace up for their 35+ Shinny division game with the Reggie Dunlop team on day one of the New England Pond Hockey Classic on Lake Waukewan Friday.




MEREDITH — The New England Pond Hockey Classic has come to be a highly anticipated event for an increasing number of people. This year, 1,800 players, on 260 teams, have been planning for months to travel to Meredith and take part in the weekend of a winter sport played in its purest form – with a handful of friends on a naturally-occurring sheet of ice, such as Meredith Bay of Lake Winnipesaukee. But, what when that sheet of ice doesn't form? That's when Scott Crowder, founder and organizer of the event, said he realizes how perfect a town like Meredith is for the event, because it has a backup lake less than a mile away, and even with the mild winter of 2015-2016, there's plenty of ice there for a hockey tournament.

"It's in pretty good shape," Crowder said of the ice on Waukewan, which, despite the warm days this week, has continued to grow when he checks it each day. As of Wednesday, he said the ice ranged in thickness from 9 inches in some places to more than 11 in others, enough for him to feel confident in inviting his players out on the 26 rinks he and his crew have prepared.

He's less enthusiastic, though, about the many spectators that typically walk out onto the ice to take in the games and the atmosphere. Crowder noted that the event is held on a public water body, and he doesn't have any control over individuals who want to walk out onto the lake. He said participants should be versed in basic ice safety, specifically New Hampshire Fish and Game's recommendation that people avoid standing close to one another in groups.

"There shouldn't be masses of people congregating at one place," Crowder said, noting that the strength and thickness of natural ice can vary due to underwater springs or currents. "The reality is, it's a natural body of water."

"When you're out there on the ice, you're out there on your own accord," he said.

The good news is that there's little reason for spectators to need to walk out onto the ice. Because Waukewan is the town's public water supply, many of the tournament's ancillary activities are restricted from the ice. Instead, the "tournament village," which includes lockers, fire pits, vendors and an entertainment venue sponsored by the Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion (formerly known as Meadowbrook) will be held just across the street from the lake, on property made available by LaValley-Middleton Building Supply Company. And, with the rinks in close proximity to the sidewalk that skirts the lake's shore, Crowder said spectators will be able to watch many games from dry land.

Crowder is grateful to the construction supply firm, as well as to the town of Meredith, without whose support he said, "This definitely wouldn't be happening."

One challenge of hosting the tournament at Waukewan is a lack of parking space for nonofficial vehicles. To overcome this problem, shuttles will be constantly running from parking lots at Prescott Park, the Meredith Town Docks, Hart's Turkey Farm and Laconia Harley-Davidson. The event is also an easy walk from downtown Meredith, and Crowder expects many spectators to simply stroll in.

"At the end of the day, it's going to be an awesome scene ... There's a lot of people excited about it," Crowder said.

One of those people excited for the tournament is Robert Iafrate, a Bridgewater, Massachusetts, resident who will be joining seven other Bay Staters to create Team Looney Bin, named in honor of the Weirs watering hole that they frequent when visiting their weekend homes. The team has been taking part in the event since the first one was held in 2009, and recalls when bad conditions in 2012 pushed the tournament to Waukewan.

"It was a little bit challenging, but we know what to expect this year," Iafrate said, adding he would prefer to have the event on Meredith Bay, but that he and his teammates have a "great time each year."

"The event brings everyone to the lake, it brings everyone together," he said. "It's a good event. We've met people from the Midwest at the tournament, people from Europe, it's pretty amazing what happens that weekend."

Chris Kelly and his Team Re/Max, based in Meredith, has also been competing in the event since 2009 and has developed a multifaceted appreciation.

"Personally, as an advocate of Meredith and the economic growth of Meredith, I believe that what Scott Crowder brings to the area is a tremendous opportunity, not only for local businesses, but as well for our local community members that are looking for something different and fun to enjoy on a cold February weekend."

"My preference will be on Meredith Bay, because of the synergy between local businesses and the event. Having said that, I believe that we are blessed to have Lake Waukewan as a backup," said Kelly.

Tyler Markley, and his six teammates on "Chancellors of Dangleslavia," are returning for only their second year, but it sounds like they're already die-hard fans of the tournament. Markley, who lives in Boston but grew up in Center Harbor, said his teammates live all over New England. They're all college buddies from their days at the University of New Hampshire, where they would shovel a small rink on a river that ran behind their apartment building. Thanks to the tournament, they have a reason to get together for a winter weekend.

"It's an obligation that forces us all to get together," he said. "I enjoy it. All my best friends getting to play a game we've been playing all our lives, in what I consider to be the most beautiful place in the world. It's almost euphoric, just passing the puck back and forth with friends.

"The guys do a great job putting it on," he added. "Everyone's there to have a great time. It's a top-notch event."

The Lady Jeffs team, made up of Amherst College Alumni, go head to head with the Red Hot Chili Puckers in the women’s division.  (Karen Bobotas/for the Laconia Daily Sun)

The Lady Jeffs team, made up of Amherst College Alumni, go head to head with the Red Hot Chili Puckers in the women’s division.  (Karen Bobotas/for the Laconia Daily Sun)

The “Backyard Ice” team (Shinny 35+ division)  arrived with a sense of humor and their life jackets for their first game with the HFD Flatlanders during day one of the New England Pond Hockey Classic on Lake Waukewan Friday.  From left are Chet Warsheski, Chris Davison, Brent Squires, Andy Johnson, Alex Rogo and Tim Davison.  (Karen Bobotas/for the Laconia Daily Sun)


2016 NEPHC Graphic

Remember there is absolutely no on-site parking at Lake Waukewan. Please be respectful of the neighborhood and private residences in the surrounding area.

Event Lots/Shuttle Pick Up Locations

  • Hart's Turkey Farm
  • Laconia Harley Davidson
  • Meredith Public Docks (Downtown)
  • Prescott Park (No Sunday Service)

Shuttles will run from 6:45 am to 5:30 pm on Friday and Saturday and 7:30 am to 3:00 pm on Sunday.

Event lots and shuttles will transport spectators down to the event however Pond Hockey Classic participants will have priority to ensure all players arrive on-site in time for their scheduled games.


Schedule of Events for the NEPHC

Saturday, Feb. 6


7 a.m. - Player Shuttles start from Laconia Harley Davidson/Hart's Turkey Farm/Prescott Park & Meredith Town Docks Downtown


7 a.m. - Locker room tents open


8 a.m. to 4:35 p.m. - Games
10 a.m. - Common Man concession/Labatt Blue Zone/Pure Hockey merchandise booth/Bank of NH Pavilion Stage with live music open in PHC Tournament Village


10:30 a.m. - Red Bull Wings team on site


1 p.m. - On-site parking at Middleton Building Supply opens


5 p.m. - Common Man concession/Labatt Blue Zone/Pure Hockey merchandise booth/Bank of NH Pavilion stage with live music close in PHC Tournament Village


4:45 p.m. - Shuttles stop to Laconia Harley Davidson/Hart's Turkey Farm/Prescott Park & Meredith Town Docks downtown


8 p.m. - Playoff brackets announced - online


Sunday, Feb. 7


7:30 a.m. - Shuttles start from event lots at Hart's Turkey Farm/Laconia Harley Davidson


8 a.m. - Player locker room tents open


10:30 a.m. - Pure Hockey merchandise booth open in PHC Tournament Village


9 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. - Playoff games


2 p.m. - Championship games


2:45 p.m. - Award ceremony


3 p.m. - PHC Tournament Village close




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Gilford facing second lawsuit over agritourism rules


LACONIA — The neighbor of a local family farm that wants to host weddings has asked the Zoning Board of Adjustment to overrule the Planning Board's decision saying town ordinances don't include agritourism. If the neighbor wins, it would mean the Planning Board has no jurisdiction over a site plan review.

Monique Twomey, as an individual and as trustee of her estate, said the Belknap County Superior Court should rule that the Planning Board has no jurisdiction over the proposal by Andy and Martina Howe for a piece of property on Gunstock Hill Road because the town's zoning ordinances do not include agritourism as a legitimate use of land.

The Zoning Board, through its decision, determined that agritourism and agriculture are one and the same, and that the Planning Board should review a site plan proffered by the Howes for a wedding venue about 250 feet from Twomey's home.

That site plan review is scheduled for Monday at 7 p.m. at the Gilford Town Offices.

This is the latest twist in the saga that is being played out on Gunstock Hill Road as the Howe family seeks to host weddings and other activities on a piece of their property. In addition to two lawsuits filed against the ZBA by an abutter for its rulings that favor the Howes, the Planning Board has proposed its own zoning amendment adding and regulating agritourism for the town, primarily as a counterbalance to the amendments petitioned by the Howes on to the annual warrant that would change the zoning in the area to allow their proposal.

The town of Gilford has objected to the first suit filed by Twomey as untimely. It has not responded to this latest suit yet.

Twomey said the ZBA decision to overturn the Planning Board decision that it didn't have jurisdiction was incorrectly influenced by her concerns that the ZBA chairman chose to ignore the Planning Board's determination and that its decision was to be based only on what evidence had already been presented.

Twomey also argues the ZBA's decision was against current state law because the New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled in 2014 in Forster v. Town of Henniker that the legislature deliberately determined that agritourism is not agriculture.

She said that because Gilford's ordinance includes the words "and other commercial agricultural activity," weddings or similar activities should not be allowed. She cites a well-settled law that the court should interpret words themselves in the "plain and ordinary meaning."

Twomey said any other commercial activity should be agricultural, meaning the growing of produce or the raising of livestock.

"None of these are akin to hosting commercial events such as weddings and similar activities, that are not centered on agriculture," wrote her attorney, Joseph Driscoll III.

Twomey also asks the court to determine if the ZBA failed to take the negative effect the Howes' plan would have on the value of her property into consideration. He said an real estate appraisal obtained from a broker at a local real estate firm said the Howes' proposed activities would diminish her property values by about $200,000, or one third, and further cost her the private, peaceful enjoyment of her home.

Twomey said all of the property being considered for the Howes' proposal is in a conservation trust and she partially used that information to buy her home expecting there would be no commercial or industrial activities there.

Twomey is also asking for legal fees.

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Humane society's 'Willow Fund' tapped to help two cats in crisis


LACONIA — About 30 years ago, the New Hampshire Humane Society was brought a dog that was had been tied to a tree in Bridgewater, presumably left to die. The dog, named "Willow" by the animal shelter, made a full recovery, thanks to significant emergency care and was adopted by a loving family. The incident proved two things to the organization – that animals that are even on the brink of death can be rehabilitated to become ideal pets, and second, that the shelter needed to establish a fund so that it could provide life-saving procedures on a moment's notice. Last week, the society's Willow Fund was leveraged twice to help two cats in need of urgent, and in one case, life-saving, care.

"Neglect and cruelty happen, animals do come in that need help ... We're the safe harbor for these animals," said Marylee Gorham-Waterman, executive director of the New Hampshire Humane Society.

On the evening of Thursday, Jan. 28, the Laconia animal control officer delivered an orange-and-white cat, "Razzy", which had already been to a veterinarian in Laconia, where it was suspected that one of the cat's front legs was broken. The cat was sent to the Concord Area Veterinary Emergency Services, where it was determined that both front legs had been broken.

Gorham said that "all points indicate" that the cat had been forcefully kicked down a flight of stairs in a private home in Laconia. The cat's fur was matted, and he was dehydrated, Gorham said, which points to possible neglect prior to the suspected abuse.

A representative from Laconia Police said that there was an "open investigation" into the incident.

"I certainly hope that there will be some accountability for what happened to this cat," said Gorham. "He's in pretty bad shape." One of the legs required the use of pins to reset the bones, and he is currently recuperating at a foster home.

On the same night that "Razzy" was receiving emergency medical care, a family in Belmont discovered another orange-and-white tomcat desperately in need of assistance. Gorham said that a family dog alerted its owners to something under a set of porch steps; when they looked underneath, the found a cat, now named "Olaf," who was curled tightly in a ball. Because it was late in the evening, the family pulled the cat out and gave it a warm bed for the night. When they awoke in the morning, they feared that it had died due to its lack of motion.

"When we looked at him, we found truly the ravages of frostbite," said Gorham. Exposure to the cold had destroyed soft tissues on the rear legs, such that bone was visible. He was dirty and starving, indicating that he was living as a stray for quite some time, though he also had been neutered at some point in his life.

"We don't know how he ended up fending for himself on the streets," Gorham said.

"Olaf" is being cared for at the shelter. Once he regains his strength, he will require surgery to remove a portion of his ear that was damaged by frostbite. His care will require at least $1,200, while "Razzy's" treatment will cost at least $2,000. Those expenses will be paid out of the shelter's Willow Fund.

"Both of these cats are sweet and gentle, just so loving. That's the truly sad part," said Gorham.

Donations to the Willow Fund can be made through, by mail to P.O. Box 572, Laconia, NH 03246, or by visiting the shelter.

Those who wish to support the shelter while celebrating in Big Easy-style may buy tickets for "Unleashed: Mardi Gras with a Mission," being held at Tavern 27 on Tuesday, Feb. 9, from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Tickets cost $54 in advance, or $63 on the day of the event. The fundraiser features a wine and tapas tasting, with live New Orleans-style music, and a Mardi Gras party. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the New Hampshire Humane Society.

Razzle the cat is healing from having two broken legs. (Courtesy Photo)

Razzle the cat is healing from having two broken legs. (Courtesy Photo)