Tuesday, March 13, 2012
US Airways Credits St. Paul's to bring the Canadian Sport South of the Border
Pond ice gave rise to this rugged sport, long before the advent of refrigeration or Zambonis. It’s pond ice that courses through the veins of any player who squeezes on a pair of skates while sitting on a rickety bench, desperately trying to thaw numb fingertips, breath heavy with frost. Players can’t wait to get on the ice for the sole purpose of pursuing a puck — and perhaps, in a moment of unrivaled joy, corralling it long enough to score a goal.
“People are coming back to enjoying being outside, just the pure pleasure of being out there, in a game, where you can lace them up and skate forever,” says Bill Matthews, former rector at the St. Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire. The school is believed to be the site of the first organized hockey game played south of the Canadian border, in 1883.
The pond game is much more primitive, more instinctive, than its indoor cousin. The conditions are unpredictable, which results in an unpredictable game. The weather, and the ice, can change without notice. Pucks that slide straight and true one moment will bounce and dart the next. There’s no clock, no face-off circles or blue lines, no boards or Plexiglas, and no monstrously padded goalie. Actually, there’s usually no goalie at all, and rarely a regulation hockey goal. More often than not, two spare boots suffice.