Q&A with Montana Pond Hockey Classic Founder.
NOTICE: Unstable ice conditions have forced the cancellation of the Montana Pond Hockey Classic, January 19 – 21, 2018, in Kalispell.
Kalispell has the privilege of being one of only four venues in the country to host a Pond Hockey Classic tournament. Scott Crowder, the founder of PHC, answers our questions about how he’s created the largest pond hockey tournament series in North America and what’s in store for the Montana Pond Hockey Classic, January 19 – 21, 2018.
Why has pond hockey become so popular in recent years? What attracts players to the sport?
In the past few years, the hockey world has experienced a resurgence of the game being played outdoors. From pick-up games on ponds to professional league marque events like the NHL Bridgestone Winter Classic, hockey players are drawn to the game as they learned it or how the game itself started — playing their sport in its most natural form.
The reason behind this is quite simple. The sport of hockey was born from cold winters and frozen ponds. For everyone who has ever laced up a pair of skates and calls themselves a hockey player, playing the game outside, under the open sky, with the imperfections in the natural ice of a backyard rink or frozen pond is the purest, most sacred version of the sport they love. The game is free flowing, mostly unstructured and an experience not found when playing on indoor rinks.
How did you get involved with pond hockey?
I grew up in a hockey family living in New Hampshire. My father was a college hockey coach and a former professional hockey player. Hockey in our household was more than just a game, it was a livelihood for our family and even more so a way of life. Call it genetics, but through this I developed a passion for the sport, which naturally drew me to playing the game outside. Growing up I was the guy to rally my teammates and friends to find a pond, clear the snow and play countless hours of pond hockey. After finishing my playing career at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, I decided to put my passion for the sport and my education in sport management and marketing to good use and launched the New England Pond Hockey Classic in 2010. Since our first event we’ve expanded our organization of pond hockey festivals to host four tournaments across the country with events in New Hampshire, Vermont, Montana and New York City.
How does Pond Hockey Classic organize a tournament? How are games played?
Pond Hockey Classic tournaments are three-day pond hockey festivals for adult hockey players. Teams that register are guaranteed four games. Two games Friday and two games Saturday, with playoff rounds on Sunday for the teams that qualify. Our games are played on an ice surface roughly 150 feet x 75 feet cleared on the frozen waters of natural bodies of water. Games consist of two 15-minute running-time halves with a two-minute break in between. Teams play 4v4 with no goalies. Our rinks are surrounded by a plastic board system with 18-inch-high boards that keep the puck in play during the course of the games.
It’s fast, it’s fun to play and fun to watch.
This year we will see close to 400 teams and over 3,500 participants compete in our events across all four tournaments. The PHC has quickly become the largest pond hockey tournament organizer in North America.
What’s in store for the Montana Pond Hockey Classic in 2018?
The annual Montana Pond Hockey Classic returns to Foys Lake in 2018. After another epic tournament in 2017 with a record 73 teams, we are excited to come back and work with the Kalispell Convention & Visitor Bureau to create an awesome player experience and drive winter tourism numbers in the region. We have divisions for all skill levels and adult ages as well as a women’s division. And so far teams from Alberta, British Columbia, California, Connecticut, Idaho, Oregon, Washington and, of course, Montana are registered. Nothing is better than outdoor hockey in Big Sky country — cold beer, pond hockey and good old-fashioned Montana hospitality.
What’s special about playing on Foys Lake?
Just a short drive from Kalispell in Montana’s northwest corner, Foys Lake offers a unique venue and experience for everyone who comes out to the Montana PHC. The beautiful surrounding area exemplifies the Montana landscape with rolling foothills and beautiful views of the Rocky Mountains. I’m from New England and have to say I was just wowed by the beauty the first time I visited and am every time I come back.
Along the banks of the lake, players can rest and watch the games from Tamarack Brewing Company’s beer garden and refuel from local food vendors. And beyond the 4-on-4 action, players can gain additional bragging rights in skills competitions.
We welcome family members, friends and all hockey fans to the festival. There will be a free community skate rink available throughout the weekend and skate rentals and fat bike rentals provided by Wheaton’s Cycle.
Any planning tips for players traveling to Montana?
Those traveling to Montana for the PHC are in for nothing but a good time. The city of Kalispell, the small business community and the local residents know how to host an event and ensure that visitors have a very special experience. Kalispell offers several affordable and comfortable lodging options (special pond hockey packages are available), fine dining and casual restaurants, and pubs and breweries featuring locally crafted microbrews.
In addition to amenities, logistics are also key when we choose a festival site. And getting to Kalispell is easy. Both the east-west corridor of U.S. Highway 2 and north-south U.S. / Canadian Highway 93 route through the city. You can also take Amtrak to Whitefish, just a few miles to the north, or fly into Glacier Park International Airport (FCA) in Kalispell.
For returning players and those new to the PHC experience, we tell you this: Make sure you pack your smile because you will be wearing it all weekend long!
Sign up your team
Learn more about the tournament and register your team for the Montana Pond Hockey Classic, happening January 19 – 21, 2018, at pondhockeyclassic.com/montana.