It's amazing how the simple combination of ice, skates, wooden sticks, a rubber puck and a net can bring together an entire community.
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The Alberta Pond Hockey Championships, happening this weekend on the frozen pond of Lac Cardinal just outside of Peace River, are a perfect example of that.
The biting cold of -20s weather, which can feel like -30s weather with the wind blowing across the open prairies, hasn't stopped hundreds of hockey players, hockey fans, musicians, members of the Edmonton Oilers staff and a dedicated team of 250 volunteers of all ages from channelling hockey's heritage and creating what is quickly becoming a shining inspiration to grassroots hockey in Alberta.
What started out five years ago as a tournament to determine which Albertan team would win the chance to compete in the World Pond Hockey Championship (hosted this year in Plaster Rock, New Brunswick) has quietly evolved into a full community event, with the actual tournament (which features over 80 teams from all over Alberta competing against one another spread out across 20 outdoor rinks) now being accompanied by live music, fireworks displays, hockey clinics and community visits hosted by the Oilers Community Partnership and Grassroots Hockey Staff, the World's Largest Pond Hockey Game and much more. Volunteers have been working on site 24 hours a day to ensure that this event, which started out as a dream five years ago, continues to remain a reality.
"The tremendous amount of heart, excitement and passion about the sport of hockey that is being shown by these people and communities is incredible," said Trevor Murphy, Oilers Manager of Community Partnerships. "It truly is a testament to the impact of hockey in Canada."
This year's festivities mark the third year in a row where the Oilers have been involved. They've hosted hockey clinics thus far for the Peace River Minor Hockey Association, Grimshaw Minor Hockey Association and Manning Minor Hockey Association, have visited local schools and businesses, and will feature NHL Alumni Dave Lumley, Norm Lacombe, Chris Joseph and Rob Brown competing in two Alumni Games on Saturday afternoon, one against a group of local minor hockey players that won the chance to play and another against the defending Alberta champions of the tournament, Doug Marshall Chevies. The Oilers Alumni were also among the group of more than 400 players that made history by participating in the World's Largest Pond Hockey Game on Saturday afternoon.
"The Oilers have always been strong supporters of celebrating hockey's heritage and growing the sport all across Oil Country, so we are very proud to be a part of this event for the third consecutive year," said Murphy. "It's a trend that we hope will continue."
The festivities continue throughout the rest of Saturday and Sunday, so don't miss out on your chance to head down to Peace River and take part in something special.