COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - The ninth annual Labatt Blue/USA Hockey Pond Hockey National Championships are set to take place this weekend (Feb. 7-9) on Dollar Lake in Eagle River, Wis. The event will feature 336 teams and nearly 2,300 players participating in 600 games on 30 rinks.
Players in the 2014 Labatt Blue/USA Hockey Pond Hockey National Championships will represent 30 different states, including Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin. Teams will play in 19 different divisions, including five women's divisions, on an ice surface currently 20 inches thick. Registration for the event opened July 29, 2013, and was completely sold out two days later on July 31.
The immense popularity of the event has resulted in continued expansion over the years. In 2012, the event attracted 281 teams that took part in 511 games on 24 rinks. Last year, the Labatt Blue/USA Hockey Pond Hockey National Championships featured 28 rinks and 18 divisions. The inaugural event in 2006 included 40 teams and 240 players.
Full coverage of the Labatt Blue/USA Hockey Pond Hockey National Championships can be found here. Additionally, the USA Hockey Adult Events app, which launched last week on Android and iOS devices, will provide participants, spectators, and fans with the opportunity to follow all teams, divisions and games. The USA Hockey Adult Events app is available in the Apple App Store and on Google Play.
In addition to Labatt Blue/USA Hockey Pond Hockey National Championships game action, a specially designed, 300-by-130-foot rink will be on display Saturday (Feb. 8). Participants will be encouraged to play on the rink, which will simulate what it's like for an 8-and-under player skating on an NHL-sized ice sheet.
Adult hockey not only promotes a healthy and active lifestyle, it requires it. As adults get older, they increasingly need to emphasize regular exercise and a nutritious diet. There’s no easy way to go about it—but there is a fun, challenging and rewarding option that sticks with you for life:
That’s right. Hockey is part of the perfect prescription for an adults’ health regiment. Just ask Olympian and former NHL player Steve Jensen.
“Physical fitness is something we should all be thinking about as we get older,” says Jensen, a longtime certified USA Hockey coach/official. “There’s no better activity than hockey to stay in shape.”
Dr. Michael Stuart, chief medical officer for USA Hockey, says the positives of playing hockey are contagious.
“Participation in ice hockey provides all the benefits of exercise while building friendships and ensuring a fun time,” says Stuart, who is also the vice-chair of Orthopedic Surgery and the co-director of the Sports Medicine Center at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
Dr. Stuart and colleague Dr. Edward Laskowski of the Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine Center sketch out specific benefits for hockey players:
“Playing adult hockey is a great way to feel better, gain health benefits and have fun,” says Stuart, who also emphasizes maintaining a balanced diet. As for safety concerns, he adds: “The risk of injury is small in no-check, adult hockey games, but players should wear high-quality, well-fitting equipment, including a helmet and facial protection.”
The Minnesota-based Adult Hockey Association is starting to see employers embrace hockey as a health and performance benefit for its workforce. Some businesses are beginning to subsidize hockey registration fees for employees because they feel the activity fits the policy of their wellness programs.
“It’s not a lot, but we’re starting to see more and more trickle in,” says Dave Swenson, the AHA’s secretary treasurer who also serves on USA Hockey’s Adult Council and Minnesota Hockey’s Board of Directors.
Swenson wants this trend to continue growing, not just to see the number of players rise, but to reward players for committing to a healthy lifestyle.
“I’m hoping employers think about that a little more,” Swenson adds. “It’s not just softball leagues anymore. There are recreational hockey opportunities out there for adults.”
Hilary McNeish, a longtime player, ambassador, and current executive director of the Women’s Association of Colorado Hockey, says she sees the positive results in women’s hockey every day.
“There are so many benefits,” says McNeish, “but the quote I hear most from ladies is: ‘It’s like working out a lot, but it’s so fun, it doesn’t feel like working out!’”
Aside from the physical health gains, there’s also a mental side to the story that’s special to hockey players.
“There are so many positive experiences that come with it,” adds McNeish. “Being able to play a sport that so many deem difficult is also great for the mind and wonderful for your personal attitude.
“It’s great to see the looks from people when you can say, ‘I play hockey’”