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Life on the pond: Ice hockey not just an indoor sport

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Going to hockey games is a popular activity in the north country, but it usually involves going indoors.

In Alexandria Bay, however, they host a pond hockey tournament.

The third annual outdoor event, which will run Feb. 7-9 and likely will have 24 teams, is a lot different than what indoor fans are used to seeing.

Imagine having teams skating from side board to side board (about 85 feet) rather than the standard rink length of 200 feet.

Then remove the glass, lower the boards and get rid of the goalies, replacing them with two small holes that the puck must be shot into in order for there to be a goal.

Oh, and the players can’t shoot the puck in the air — which would endanger the spectators — and players can’t purposely guard their own goals.

“It’s a lot more confined,” said Fred Dobbins, the unofficial chairman of the event. “It’s very fast, you skate in spurts, and you aren’t doing any long-distance skating.”

The teams also play by different rules. Instead of three 20-minute periods, there are two 15-minute halves. Hitting and checking is not allowed, and while there is a referee, instead of putting a player in a penalty box for infractions, he’ll award a goal to the other team.

As for the lineups, teams usually consist of six players, with four skating at one time.

“It actually has a little bit of skill to it,” said Corey Fram, a former Alexandria High School hockey player who is on a team known as the Lumberjacks. “You have to stick-handle the puck. The spectators are so close that everybody is aware of that. There’s no winding up (on shots).”

Because it’s outdoors, the elements are a factor. Organizers hope for no or little snow and temperatures cold enough to keep the ice in good condition.

“Snow is going to slow the game down,” Dobbins said. “The biggest thing is we get cracks. You have to be careful sometimes.”

The event has grown. There are three divisions — ages 21-34, 35-49 and 50 and up. Teams come from Jefferson, St. Lawrence and Lewis counties, as well as elsewhere in the region.

SUNY Potsdam and Syracuse University will send teams this year, and Massena also will field a team.

“Everybody just kind of said we needed pond hockey,” said Susan Boyer, executive director of the Alexandria Bay Chamber of Commerce. “We want people to know that we are not just a summer destination.”

POND HOCKEY TOURNAMENT
Who: 24 teams in the Northeast
When: Feb. 7-9
Where: Alexandria Bay, in front of the Otter Creek Inn, 2 Crossmon St.
Info: (315) 482-9531; www.visitalexbay.org/index.php/events/pond-hockey-tournament
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