Sunday, February 7, 2010

Frozen Bodies (…of Water): Part II

At this time of year all across Canada and the northern USA, pond hockey tournaments are being held. Probably all of them were inspired by the World Pond Hockey Championships in Plaster Rock, New Brunswick. As stated on their website, “the event has caught the imagination and triggered the emotions of hockey enthusiasts worldwide.” They aren’t kidding, as players come from literally all over the world every February to this tiny village for the experience. I have been lucky enough to play there on two occasions.

My team was comprised of me, my father Bob, my brother Jaimie, and my cousin Mike. We finished second…in every game except one. I think we could have won at least our first two games if we had any idea of how to exploit the rules that were in place. Since the rules stated that goaltending was not allowed, we decided to try playing in a box formation and not get too close to our net, for fear of being penalized a goal for “goaltending” (as per the rules). You can imagine how this strategy worked, and we were beaten by teams with inferior players before we figured out the nuances. After that, we were simply beaten by teams with superior players.

We came away from the experience with some notoriety; along with a couple of newspaper articles about us, a picture from one of our games appeared in a “special” advertising section in the March 8, 2004 Canadian edition of Time magazine.That’s me, and I’m either scoring a goal or perhaps missing a field goal wide left. Take a look at our team’s jerseys; since we were a family team and our family name is Kane, my father dubbed us the HurriKanes. So I drew up a simple logo: a big “K” with maple leaves, shamrocks, and the four playing card suits inside it (we Kanes sometimes play a little cards). Dad superimposed it over the Carolina Hurricanes logo, and the rest is hockey history.

On our second trip there two years later, the highlight - besides our epic victory - was playing against Brian Skrudland’s team, the Calgary Rustlers, in the pouring rain. Before the game, as a crowd started to form around the rink to see the Stanley Cup winner, I skated up to some kids and asked if they were there to see me play. There must have been at least 2 inches of water all over the ice, and Skrudland was the only guy who could carry the puck through the water. (Try stickhandling in a full bathtub sometime to see what it was like.) All of us were completely soaked. Skrudland was cracking jokes about the conditions throughout the game; he was humming the theme from “Jaws” and commenting that even as a former Montreal Canadien he wouldn’t take a dive on a day like this. At the end of the game, he gathered the two teams together and got us to skate quickly across the ice, pile on the brakes, and send a tidal wave splashing over the spectators. Anyway, we kept the first half close at 5-2, but the Rustlers managed to beat the HurriKanes 17-5. He was such a nice guy that I almost forgave him for game 2 of the 1986 Stanley Cup Final. (Actually, no I didn’t.)

Our trips to Plaster Rock were two great experiences on outdoor ice, as anyone who has played there will tell you.

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