A decade of pure hockey

LAKE PLACID – Ice hockey players shuffle through the hallways of the Golden Arrow hotel with bulky duffle bags full of gear and hockey sticks in hand. They’ve come from across this country and Canada for the CAN/AM pond hockey tournament.

It’s a cold but sunny day, and a windy breeze kicks up across Mirror Lake. The sound of pucks slapping against sticks and skates cutting into ice can be heard from a distance. Fans are cheering from the sidelines. There are 23 rinks, and most of them are full with teams battling to win the tournament.

It’s the 10th year the tournament has come to Lake Placid. CAN/AM runs events from coast to coast, but the director of CAN/AM, Eric Chapman, said the Lake Placid event is one of the best he has seen.

“For us, Lake Placid is our premier event,” Chapman said. “The venue here, the town, size of the town, the amenities-you can’t beat it.”

There are 77 teams playing from places as far as Texas, Ontario, to Nevada and Montreal. The players are mostly in it for the fun, Chapman said. That much is clear from some of the team names, like the Wu Tang Clams, Backdoor Bandits and Moose Slayers.

“Pond hockey is really one of those kinds of back-to-your-roots kind of things,” Chapman said. “It’s the spirit-of-the-game type of event.”

“They love coming out; they love playing,” he added. “You’ll even see a lot of teams get eliminated tomorrow, and they’ll keep playing. It’s nostalgia for the guys.”

Danny Dunn is slightly out of breath as he drinks a beer inside the hotel. The Turkeys just finished two back-to-back games and won them both. The team is celebrating.

“We love to drink, and we love to play hockey,” Dunn said.

Dunn, 38, is team captain of the Turkeys a six man team from Chicago. Dunn said that his team is pretty good compared to the competition.

“Some of our guys played college hockey,” he said

For Dunn and the team, it’s the second year they’ve traveled to Lake Placid to play at CAN/AM. They are a tight-knit group of guys who all went to Loyola Academy together, a Catholic high school in Chicago.

Back on the ice, Donal Buckley, 50, sits on the bench after a line change. It’s the second season his team, Chaos #3, from New York City, is playing at CAN/AM.

“We’re not doing so bad. We won our first game and are in the process of winning our second game,” Buckley said. “It’s a good time. You can’t ask for anything better than this.”

Phil Leger, from Canada, is playing his third year at CAN/AM with his team, McNab’s Islanders.

“Our name comes from an island in Halifax harbor; it’s kind of like a Canadian Alcatraz,” Leger said.

“So far, we lost our first game. The team that beat us last year for the bronze beat us again,” he continued. “We’re having a great time, having a lot of fun, playing as solid as we can.”

The teams are broken up into age groups of 21, 30, 40, 50 and a co-ed division. They play a four-game round robin with a winner chosen from each age division.

The playoff games are scheduled for Sunday morning. After the tournament is over a ceremony will take place for the champions, who will recieve CAN/AM trophies.

“Starting about 10 o clock, we will have our final games.” Chapman said. “Our winners will be out here with plaques, standing on the podiums.” Chapman said.

Contact Matt Turner at 518-891-2600 ext. 25 or mturner@adirondackdailyenterprise.com.