The great game of hockey meets the great outdoors as part of the 2014 WinterBites Festival, running Jan. 16-31 in Courtenay.
As part of the fun, an outdoor skating rink is being erected at Simms Millennium Park and the Comox Valley Minor Hockey Association is sponsoring three Pond Hockey Jamborees on the synthetic surface.
Kicking things off will be an Initiation (ages 5 to 6) jamboree on Jan. 18-19. This will be a 4-on-4 format event with 10 out-of-town teams (118 players) joining two local teams (48 players).
Enjoying the pond hockey experience will be three teams from Oceanside and one each from Saanich, Lake Cowichan, Port McNeill, Kerry Park, Nanaimo, Campbell River and Port Alberni.
Next up will be a Novice (ages 7 and 8) jamboree on Jan. 24-16 with a 3-on-3 format. Six visiting teams (72 players) and six home teams (97 players) will be participating.
Coming for the fun are three teams from Nanaimo and one each from Sooke, Campbell River and Kerry Park.
The Atom tourney (ages 9 and 10) on Jan. 31 to Feb. 2 is a 3-on-3 format and will feature four visiting teams (64 players) from Lake Cowichan, Fuller Lake, Port Alberni and Kerry Park along with six home teams (87 players).
CVMHA Atom division manager Melissa Berrigan says pond hockey organizers wanted to let out-of-town teams know how unique the event was and the great deals they could get by staying at local hotels.
Judging by the number of players and their families coming to Courtenay, the message was well received.
As for the local teams, Berrigan says, “All our kids are completely pumped. They’re really looking forward to it. They think it’ll be a blast skating outdoors.”
Berrigan notes the jamborees will be sharing outdoor ice time with public skating, so some of the games will be played at the three local arenas.
Derek Kwan, marketing director of BH Skating, says the synthetic ice surface that is coming to Courtenay will be one of the largest the company has put together.
The panels are dovetailed (like a giant puzzle) together, and Kwan says it should take a two- or three-person crew about eight hours to assemble the one in Simms Park.
Kwan notes BH Skating was standing by as a back-up to the outdoor ice rink at Robson Square during the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.