77 teams vie for pond hockey title in Gravenhurst

Mark Clairmont | MuskokaTODAY

GRAVENHURST — Darrell Matchett and Justin McDonald have been up at 5 a.m. and on the ice at the Muskoka Wharf clearing snow on Lake Muskoka this weekend.

Pond hockey players faced off this weekend at the Muskoka Wharf for the 12 annual North American Cup championship.

They’re the icekeepers for on Lake Muskoka for the 12th annual North American Cup Pond Hockey Tournament.

Organizer Rob Carleton signed up 77 teams for the outdoor competition Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 9-11.

Matchett and McDonald, and their boss, have been working on the 21 rinks (two more than last year) for the past two weeks.

While taking a break Saturday afternoon for a coffee, and sitting next to their plow and snowblower, they lamented the recent snowfall.

Last week the lake was beautifully snow-free with a clear sheet of ice out past Greavette’s Island.

But what a difference a few days of snow make.

Clearing the 80×100-foot rinks and putting in boards and mini nets is long, hard, cold work.

But they got it done.

And while the players are tasked with brining their own shovels and clearing between the 20-minute games, Matchett and McDonald were out at night with their new Dakota truck and plow and snowblower giving them a good scrape and going over.

Still, the players chew up the soft ice pretty fast and the puck can get bogged down and the passes can be tricky.

Meanwhile, Carleton was holding down court in the Boston Pizza, where players and supporters shared the busy restaurant with lots of snowmobilers who were taking advantage of the winter weekend for a break from the Muskoka Trails system.

An electronic scoreboard kept track of the dozens of games.

Sunday morning the four final division championship games take place, winding up at noon with the presentation of the North American Cup.

Seventy-seven teams competed on 21 rinks over three days.