ST. AGATHA, Maine – The fifth annual Acadian Pond Hockey Classic is coming back this year with a slightly earlier date after last year’s tournament was canceled.
The event features three-man teams competing against each other on Long Lake in St. Agatha, and it includes players from throughout Maine and across the border in New Brunswick.
Tournament Committee Chairman Dean Collins said they had to cancel last year’s event due to warmer temperatures and uncertainties regarding ice stability. The committee voted to instead hold the tournament this year on Feb. 24 and 25, as opposed to mid-March, to avoid a similar situation.
Collins said that the outlook is positive for this year’s tournament.
“The ice looks great,” he said. “We’ve got anywhere from 12 to 14 inches of ice, and we drilled in several locations. There’s plenty of ice for player safety and also for the equipment we put on the ice to plow and maintain it. There’s plenty of ice; that’s why we’re optimistic this year.”
Collins and organizers have been planning the upcoming tournament since last fall.
“We’ve got some good interest so far and have teams already registered for the event,” Collins said. “We hope to get the number of teams to 15 before the weekend of the event.”
Since the very first event, proceeds have benefited local minor hockey programs in both Maine and New Brunswick. Last year, donations were made to minor league programs in Madawaska, Presque Isle, and Edmundston, NB.
Some new additions this year include Barry Larry’s food truck from Portland, Maine, which specializes in Asian cuisine. Sandwiches will also be available at a concession stand and there will be a beer garden, courtesy of Northern Maine Brewing Company.
“We’ve already had a lot of chatter about the food truck,” said Collins. “People are excited to try something new.”
Pond Hockey Classic participants can register for either the competitive open division or a recreational division.
Collins said the recreational division is less competitive and more about coming out to have fun and support a good cause, while the open league is for people who play consistently.
So far, he said seven teams have signed up for each division. Some are coming from as far away as Fairfield. He said people are quickly signing up, and that the weather this year looks to be promising.
The first place team will receive a $500 cash prize, with $250 and $100 prizes for second and third place, respectively.
Teams can register online at www.acadianpondhockey.com and learn more information about the tournament. It costs $125 USD, or $150 CAD, for each team to register.
The games start at 9 a.m. each day, with Saturday’s games going until 2 p.m. and allowing each team to play at least three times. The teams on Sunday will compete in a playoff bracket.
“It’s definitely going to be a rebuild year because of last year’s cancellation,” Collins said, “but I’m hearing on the streets that everyone is pretty excited. It’s going to be fun for spectators, players, and their families.”