By Darren Lum
Published Nov. 8 2016
After a one year absence the Canadian National Pond Hockey Championships is returning to Haliburton with a local owner hoping for a long and prosperous existence here.
This will be the third year for Haliburton to host several hundred hockey players who will descend on the Pinestone Resort and Conference Centre over two weekends this winter for a sporting event like no other.
New president and owner John Teljeur is happy to bring it back calling this a natural fit for the area and its people.
“Every kid who has grown up in this place I would say 99 per cent of them have strapped a pair of skates on and skated on a pond … even if it was for 10 minutes. It’s in our DNA. This is a return back to our roots” he said. “I don’t remember getting all dressed up in tuxedos or dressing up as a pylon or whatever like some of these guys do but the whole thing about it is they’re going back to a time when they were kids. It’s a combination of Halloween and the Stanley Cup. They’re going out and having fun. You can’t buy that kind stuff. It’s awesome.”
Teljeur who was the leading local advocate for the event being here in 2013 is a former employee of the Pinestone Resort and will be dedicating his time to this business venture and says he has been looking at special projects for the resort in the future. He bought the business weeks ago after having several conversations led by an informal discussion with his friend past president and co-founder Neil Lumsden who had just accepted the director athletics and recreation position with Brock University.
Haliburton hosted the event most recently in 2014. It moved to Huntsville in 2015 and 2016. In 2016 however it was cancelled due to weather.
With nine divisions the event is scheduled over two weekends Jan. 27 to 29 and Feb. 3 to 5 weekends.
The first weekend will feature the younger set: men’s open 25 plus; men’s rec 25 plus; women’s open 19 plus and men’s young bloods 20 plus – a recent addition. It is followed up by the older set of players: men’s master’s champs 35 plus; men’s master’s rec 35 plus; women’s master’s 35 plus; women’s rec 19 plus and Greybeards 50 plus.
Teljeur said this first year will prove to be far less profitable than other years.
Half of his profits this year will be eaten up by the 50 per cent discount given to every team that enters the 2017 event. One hundred and sixty teams registered for 2016 but did not play because of the cancellation. He expects at least 140 of these teams to return for the 2017 instalment. There are teams that have contacted him who are from the West Coast and East Coast of Canada the U.S. and The Netherlands.
Haliburton will have its warm spells this winter but overall winter here has enough cold weather for good ice conditions Teljeur said. Unlike snowmobiling skiing and cross-country skiing pond hockey doesn’t need snow – just the cold.
“The two years we were here in Haliburton the snowmobile trails were closed and the ski trails were closed so it’s a nice insurance policy for the community to have something else in addition to downhill skiing because all we need is cold and cold brings ice. That’s generally what we have lots of” he said.
Volunteers figured prominently into the plans and the success of the event when it was held here and they will be needed again. Teljeur has not officially heard a commitment made by the Haliburton ATV Association but “a number” of its members have expressed interest in helping as have others.
“Without them this … event doesn’t exist and I talked to a bunch of them. I was really thrilled to hear how excited they were to get this thing back here again. That took a lot of stress off me because without them it doesn’t matter what I do” he said.
Games have two 15-minute halves and are monitored by an off-ice official. Without any off-sides and icings the game is a free-flowing affair (with no body-checking) involving four players a side sans goalies. Teams are allowed two substitutes that can be switched on the fly. Equipment is at a minimum with just skates sticks hockey gloves shin guards helmets and sometimes elbow pads. Goals can only be scored from within the attacking zone.
Part of the draw for the players is the activities and socializing outside of playing.
Similar to the other years this event will offer sponsored “Pond Parties” where players will get a chance to relax and socialize at various venues at the resort or in town. Teljeur has compressed the schedule to fit with what players want.
“We’re going to shorten the event by a couple games so all the games will be done and the champions will be known by Saturday night so the guys and gals can have fun Saturday night” he said.
All games will be between Friday at noon until Saturday night.
“The teams don’t seem to mind. They want to play some hockey but it’s that off ice experience they want as well” he said.
Other changes includes new branding and marketing for the event which is in the process. The charitable component of past events is something he wants to continue. He’s working with a clothier to produce and sell Canadian National Pond Hockey apparel online with a portion of proceeds being donated to local not-for-profit organizations. He wants to allow sponsors to perform online auctions during the event so 100 per cent of the money raised can be donated locally.
“I really want to get that community thing going. This is a great event to bring in new money into Haliburton that will leave some of that money behind” he said.
Although he loved it when the event was played on Head Lake near town he recognizes this won’t happen this year because of the estimated $12000 cost related to transporting players to and from the lake and fees to renting a tent for shelter.
Teljeur sees the event growing to include Head Lake and possibly provide an outdoor public concert in future years.
He can see a scene where “the whole lakefront is busy with players and community members doing stuff and having some fun” he said. “I’d love to look at it for 2018. If all things make sense.”