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Pond Hockey Tournament

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The Ogdensburg Hockey League (OHL) will host the First Annual St. Lawrence River Pond Hockey Classic on Feb. 22 and 23 at the City Marina in Ogdensburg. The marina sits adjacent to the Ed Dobisky Visitor Center which will be part of the tournament’s venue. The center’s restaurant facilities will be open with Wade Morrill operating a concession stand and Hosmer’s Marina will provide a beer garden. The tournament will be presented by Coors Light as the OHL has teamed up with corporate sponsors A.J. Missert, Hosmer’s Marina, and the Ogdensburg Chamber of Commerce.

The tournament will have three divisions: 21+ Open, 21+ Recreational, and 35+ Recreational.

The format will be 3 on 3 games with teams consisting of no more than 5 players; goalies are not allowed. The tournament fee is $100 per team and all proceeds will benefit the Ogdensburg Boys and Girls Club, Ogdensburg Minor Hockey, and the Ogdensburg Chamber of Commerce.

Ogdensburg Minor Hockey will kick off the tournament by playing three short games with teams from their youth leagues.

The tournament will have vendors along with an outdoor skating area for families and is intended to be an event that the entire community can enjoy even for people who do not play hockey.

Three hockey rinks will be used in the tournament and one rink will be available for people to come down and enjoy the experience of skating on the St. Lawrence River. Next to the rinks will be fire pits where players and spectators can warm up.

“When we were growing up there were outdoor hockey rinks all over the city and kids everywhere in town played hockey outdoors just for fun. We want to bring that back to Ogdensburg and encourage families and children to enjoy the winter and play outside” said Mike Fennessy of the Ogdensburg Hockey League and one of the event organizers.

The tournament’s organizers are hopeful that the tournament can become a step toward bringing back something which once was very important.

Recollections of a time when spontaneous sports was an integral part of the culture of American youth. Last winter, Fennessy hosted an outdoor tournament for former high school and Ogdensburg Minor Hockey teammates and their friends.

“When I grew up there were a lot of backyard rinks and my dad used to help out at Minor Hockey’s Park Street Rink. But we also used to drag our nets and equipment to a low spot in Lions Park which turned into a large frozen pond in the winter,” says Fennessy.“We used to play there for hours and hours. That is how kids can develop their stick skills. By playing outside on their own to go along with team practices. And in the warmer months we played street hockey, we just loved it.”

One of the friends who Fennessy played with for hours and hours outdoors was Olympian Jimmy Howard, Ogdensburg’s NHL All-Star goalie with the Detroit Red Wings.

Fennessy’s concerns about the demise of pickup games are shared by some of the biggest names in hockey.

In the documentary movie “Pond Hockey” NHL greats like Wayne Gretzky, Sidney Crosby and Patrick Kane reflected on their earliest days of endless outdoor pickup games and how they developed their stick skills in those impromptu competitions. Gretzky fondly recalled turning over a picnic table on the backyard rink his dad created and shooting for hours and hours.

The movie also chronicled the founding of a 138-team U.S. Pond Hockey Championships which became a tribute to not only hockey but also for sport in its purest form.

“The movie really inspired me. It brought me back to a time when my brother (Jay) and I, Jon Shaver, Jimmy Howard, Andy Morley and other guys would find any piece of wood and just shoot hundreds of pucks,” says Fennessy.

“And it wasn’t all about hockey. We formed bonds, became friends for life. I just want to do something to help kids get outside and do things on their own. I think doing that develops character, self confidence and people skills.”

The hockey tournament is the latest project in ongoing efforts which Ogdensburg City Council member Bill Hosmer has become involved intended to get the city and its citizens of all ages on the move.

“Ogdensburg’s biggest asset is our waterfront and this event will help us showcase the St. Lawrence River in the winter. This event will be a great way to end the week-long River Shiver that the Chamber of Commerce puts on. We are expecting teams from all over the North Country and Canada and we hope this event grows year after year,” says Hosmer who is also one the tourney’s organizers.

“The support that we received from the community and the City has been so incredibly positive, and we hope to raise a lot of money for our charities. I hope everyone in the community stops to check out the event or comes down to enjoy some skating on the river, even if they are not hockey players,” said Hosmer.

More information can be obtained on the Facebook Page at www.facebook.com/ogdensburgpondhockey or by calling Mike Fennessy at 315-408-7546 or Bill Hosmer at 315-323-6037. Teams may register for the event at Hosmer’s Marina (54 East River St, Ogdensburg), by email at billyhosmer@gmail.com, or by calling Mike Fennessy or Bill Hosmer.

“Billy Hosmer is all about the community and I feel the same way. I was so happy when he asked me to help organize the tournament” says Fennessy.

“My wife and I moved back here to raise our kids. It bothers me when I drive around the city and I don’t see a lot of kids on rinks or playing baseball or football in a park. I have to try and see if I can help that to happen again”.

Fennessy and Hosmer are hopeful that the tournament could also lead to the creation of an outdoor rink in the city patterned after the Park Street Rink which was built by the founders of Ogdensburg Minor Hockey.

“Back at the Park Street Rink people donated skates and equipment that weren’t being used so kids could just come and skate and see if they liked hockey,” said Fennessy.

“We want to see that happen again.”

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