A TRADITION IS BORN: Witness the ice hockey tournament on Grand Lake
Hundreds of hockey players skated across the frozen ice of Grand Lake. In the background, Mount Craig — known as Baldy to the locals — sat snow covered in the chilly February air. As music played and beers were shared, a rowdy crowd cheered on their hockey teams.
Six rinks across the lake joined together locals and folks from all around the country for two days of hockey tournaments. Brian Blumenfeld, hockey player and commissioner of the annual Grand Lake Pond Hockey Classic, had envisioned this scene five years ago when he moved to Grand Lake and saw it freeze over.
“Wouldn’t it just be an unbelievable scene to have some hockey out on the lake here,” Blumenfeld said. “It’d really be a perfect thing.”
It was just a thought until three years ago, when he brought the idea to the Chamber of Commerce and set a date for a hockey tournament. He worked with the Fraser Valley Hockey Association, borrowed equipment from friends and businesses around town and used a water pump to create his vision.
Blumenfeld built four hockey rinks using the lake water and the Grand Lake Pond Hockey Classic was born.
The first tournament took place in early 2018 with 27 teams and over 150 participants. The second tournament had six rings and almost twice as many teams. There were hundreds of participants and even more spectators.
Blumenfeld doesn’t see the 2020 tournament getting much bigger because he doesn’t have the capacity for more than six rinks, but he expects the third annual tournament to be just as popular as last year’s.
Each team gets at least three rounds on the ice of Grand Lake. Tents are set up as well, selling refreshments, beer and merchandise while music plays through a sound system.
“It’s really quite a party,” Blumenfeld said. “There just happens to be hockey going on.”
This year’s tournament is scheduled Feb. 8 and 9, with registration closing 10 days before on Jan. 24. Feb. 8 will be the adults’ tournament, organized by Blumenfeld, and Feb. 9 will be the youth tournament, organized by the Fraser Valley Hockey Association.
There is also a sled hockey division organized by the Warrior Avs Sled Hockey team, in partnership with Parkers Platoon, a nonprofit supporting combat veterans and retired pro athletes.
Retired Colorado Avalanche player Scott Parker helped found Parkers Platoon in honor of his father. Last year he was part of a team of former NHL players that participated in the tournament.
Of course, participants less experienced in hockey don’t have to play against retired NHL players. The adults’ league is separated into three divisions based on skill level.
While cost for this year’s tournament has not yet been determined, a donation from every entry fee will go to Parkers Platoon to help veterans.
Registration is open through the Grand Lake Chamber’s website. Immediately following the tournament, there will be live music, awards and giveaways at Pancho & Lefty’s in Grand Lake.
For Blumenfeld, the community’s incredible reaction and growth of the classic was unexpected. But the best part was the vision of playing hockey set in the striking scenery of Grand Lake becoming a reality.
“That was the dream: Could you imagine a rink in the foreground and Baldy in the background?” Blumenfeld said. “Unbelievable.”
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