The World Pond Hockey Championship event began, and continues to this day to be a fundraising activity for a new arena facility for the people of the Tobique River Valley. From humble beginnings in 2002, the first annual event featured forty participating teams from New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Maine, USA.
Since that time the event has caught the imagination and triggered the emotions of hockey enthusiasts worldwide. Annual growth has seen the number of teams grow to 64, then 80, 96 and now 120 teams world wide. We now have teams representing every province in Canada; 35 U.S states and a total of 15 countries from around the globe that have skated in Plaster Rock. Media personnel from television, radio and print have traveled from afar to experience the same enthusiasm.
The early days of plowing the lake and river with a couple of pick-up trucks and establishing rinks with a measuring tape have evolved as well - many more trucks, skid steer loaders, snow blowers and a host of other equipment to help prepare Roulston Lake. A G.P.S system now locates the rinks in their exact location year after year. Sponsors go out of their way to make every possibility become reality
The "game" seems to bring out the best in people and develops a strong sense of pride. We Canadians speak of the 1972 Summit Series between Canada and Russia. Almost every Canadian over 40 can tell you where they were when Paul Henderson scored that memorable goal for Canada. I am sure our friends and neighbors in the United States have similar memories about the 1980 Olympics and the Herb Brooks lead Americans who did the unexpected and won gold - The Miracle on Ice.
The World Pond Hockey event continues to manufacture similar memories, if not for the adults that participate, then for the children of the Tobique Valley region. A new indoor arena is currently being constructed, not far from Roulston Lake. The World Pond Hockey event has contributed over a quarter of a million dollars towards the project. Events into the future will help pay to operate the facility. It is in this arena that these same children will unknowingly (at this stage of their lives) live some of their greatest moments - the same moments that bring participants from around the globe to Plaster Rock each February. It is these times that create the passion we have for the game.
Participation in the World Pond Hockey event is not a "win at all costs" environment. The beauty of the format is that it seems to meet the needs of players at a variety of competitive levels. It is more about camaraderie, trading stories and hockey jerseys. The evening games under the lights with a light snowfall rekindle childhood memories and allow participants to recapture their youth if even for only a few short moments. The entire weekend fulfills the hopes and expectations of the hockey purist - Thursday through Saturday you hear almost as much laughing as you do the sounds of skates, sticks and pucks. Sunday is the elimination round for the "title" and brings with a more competitive feel to the day - and so it should. The hockey is fast, skilled and well executed. Outdoor "pond hockey" at it’s finest. A local team, the Tobique Puckers emerged as the first ever World Pond Hockey Champions (Dave Myles; Ryan Porter, Shawn Davis and Scott McNabb). Year 2 saw a team from Fredericton, NB claim the title. Progressive Planning (David Deap, Sean Smith, Troy Small and Brad Tremblay) took home the 2003 hardware. Since 2004 one team, the Boston Danglers have emerged victorious each of the past 4 years. Rob Atkinson, Mark Goble, Mark Cornforth and Cooper Naylor (replaced in 2007 by Rob Beck) have consistently been the best team on the pond.
Interest for future events will grow the event geographically even more. This phenomenal growth is a tribute to the persistence and dedication of a community and its legion of volunteers who have embraced the challenge of bringing the world to this small rural village. Over 200 passionate individuals are critical to the success of the event and they take tremendous pride in the contributions they make. They are the true champions of pond hockey!
"The people that make the biggest impact on life are those who care little about their rights and privileges but feel strongly about their duties and obligations. It is amazing what can be accomplished when no one cares who gets the credit."
Lou Holtz, long time football coach at Notre Dame