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Pond hockey tourneys return sport to outdoor roots

By USPHC Office of the Commissioner, 01/27/11, 9:12AM CST


Fueled by nostalgia for skating in fresh air and on fast black ice, hockey is returning to its outdoor roots.

Guided by a teacher who had seen the sport in Canada, students at St. Paul's School played the nation's first organized hockey game in 1883 on a frozen pond in the middle of the prep school's campus. Hockey became so popular that later administrators were known to declare "black ice holidays" that sent students scurrying for their skates.

Now, decades after the sport moved inside to climate-controlled rinks with machine-smoothed ice, interest in outdoor hockey is growing, with high-profile matches and tournaments across the country.

The NHL has brought back outdoor hockey with its Winter Classics, including a rain-soaked Jan. 1 game in Pittsburgh that highlighted the perils of outdoor play. In December, more than 100,000 people showed up for an outdoor game between Michigan and Michigan State, easily breaking the previous world attendance record for a hockey game.

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