By Darren Lum
“Pondimonium” is back and the hope is it serves as another step towards life before the pandemic, said John Teljeur, organizer of the Canadian National Pond Hockey Championships.
After a two-year hiatus, the pond hockey tournament is returning to the Pinestone Resort and Conference Centre in Haliburton.
It starts with the Jan. 28 to 29 weekend and then finishes with the Feb. 4 to 5 weekend. The event has drawn upwards of 1,000 men and women organized into 10 divisions, playing close to 300 games on the 14-acre pond over two weekends in front of the hotel located beside County Road 21.
Teljeur, who doesn’t expect as many players this year, is excited about holding the event, but is cautiously optimistic. He believes this event is what the community needs.
“Let’s just give this a shot and see what happens. The players were driving us crazy. They were like, ‘Are we doing it? Are we doing?’ If we can, yeah,” he said.
He adds volunteers had also been inquiring about the event, which was primarily uncertain because of the ever-changing landscape regarding health recommendations pertaining to COVID-19.
“You couldn’t go through the grocery store [when] people that know me they would say, ‘John, I keep getting asked about pond hockey.’ I wish I knew. So, it was like, OK, guys. We got to get back to some sort of normalcy and maybe this is what some of us need, so let’s just give it a shot and if we can’t do it, we can’t, but right now we can. So, let’s give it our best shot,” he said.
“It would be a really huge step to getting back our lives. We’ve been apart for almost two years. Because the event is so much fun I think a lot of people really need that more than they probably had. It’s one of those things. You get to bond with people and have some fun and be yourselves for a weekend. It’s a nice way to get back into things,” he said.
Teljeur said he welcomes volunteers to help him run the event, which makes a donation to the Heat Bank Haliburton County, particularly with game management.
With a minimum of a four-hour shift, volunteers are not only permitted access to indoor venues where live entertainment is expected, but will be given swag, as provided by sponsors, and fed meals during their time helping. He adds individuals under 18 are welcome, but need to have adult supervision by a parent or guardian. If interested register online with the event’s website (canadapondhockey.ca) or contact organizers.
Masking will be required when entering facilities and players must be double-vaccinated to participate in the closed event. Players, volunteers and resort staff will be permitted to go inside to eat or watch the planned live entertainment. Teljeur wasn’t sure about indoor events because of capacity limits related to COVID-19 protocols, but is considering an outdoor option with a tent.
“I just don’t know which way it’s going to go, so we have to keep all our options open,” he said.
Typically, the event’s organization starts in June with previous year’s teams being contacted first, but this year’s start occurred just a few weeks ago with registration.
Now, it’s all about waiting for any changes to provincial guidelines pertaining to health measures to prevent the transmission of COVID-19.
“Pray that we’re on the right side of this thing so we can do this because I think this can be a nice distraction, including myself who has just about had enough of this stuff. It’s exhausting. This is not going to be a picnic, but it’s worth the effort, if we can just get back to a little bit of normalcy,” he said.