The annual four-on-four Polar Pond Hockey is now less than two weeks away as the Town of Hay River council got an update on its development to date during the Feb. 21 regular meeting.
Terry Rowe, president of Polar Pond Hockey and Melissa Harris of the Toronto-based Climate and Sport Initiative provided more specifics to the much anticipated March 11 to 13 tournament weekend which will place a special emphasis on climate change awareness.
The big feature of the event this year will be the involvement of international organization Save Pond Hockey, which has been arranged for professional hockey players to showcase how climate change is impacting pond hockey.
Harris said that to date, the confirmed list of athletes in attendance will be former Edmonton Oilers Paul Coffey, Craig MacTavish, Andrew Terrance and Women’s Olympic hockey champion Meghan Agosta.
ESPN is to be present covering the event for international audiences and organizers are partnering with the Edmonton Oilers Hockey Alumni Association to showcase the event to its followers on social media.
Other partners that will be helping to ensure the tournament is a success will include Hockey Canada, Spectacular NWT, Hockey North and the Town of Hay River.
Rowe said that registration for the tournament has been open for nearly a month and 20 teams – many of them from outside of Hay River – have signed up to participate.
The aim is to have 47 teams involved.
“We’ve welcomed teams from all over the Northwest Territories all over Canada and I think the last four or five years we’ve actually hosted them from Iqaluit, who I think are coming again this year, which is pretty exciting.”
Rowe and Harris said that the main aim of the tournament, as in past years, has been to serve as a fundraiser.
This year organizers are aiming to raise money toward buying an electric ice resurfacer.
“We want to leave a project that’s going to continue to reduce emissions in a real and meaningful way in the community,” Harris said.
The tournament structure won’t change much from past years, Rowe said. On Friday, the Fisherman’s Wharf will open and there will be some rounds of pond hockey games played.
The Friday night gala, to be held at the pavilion will go forward this year but will have, pending to change, a 200 person capacity.
Band 5/3 Mad will be performing.
On Saturday, along with tournament play throughout the day, Arctic Energy Alliance is hosting a community tour which will take place between 3 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.
It will focus on showing the public energy efficient places around town.
AEA will also be holding a Climate Change Energy Fair on Sunday featuring booths from organizations in town wishing to share how they contribute to energy efficiency.
An electric Mach-E Mustang will be among the highlights for residents to see.
Later in the day, the honoured guests and athletes will be arriving in Hay River.
There will be an alumni dinner and auction on Saturday night which is one of the bigger fundraisers from the weekend where proceeds will go to the resurfacer legacy project.
“This will give us the opportunity and the public to meet with athletes for the first time and have some food with them,” Rowe said. “It will also give our community a chance to discuss climate change a little bit.”
Delegates from K’atlodeeche First Nation as well as Environment and Natural Resources Minister Shane Thompso, and Mark Heyck, Arctic Energy Alliance executive director are expected to be in attendance.
Rowe said that on Sunday he is hoping to have a strong youth hockey presence with minor hockey teams showing up to play. The day will also include playoffs for the tournament and an all-star game featuring alumni versus tournament all-star players.