One of the best football venues in the state of Michigan will transform into an outdoor hockey facility this winter.
The PoHo Classic Pond Hockey Tournament will be held Jan. 29, 30 and 31 at Memorial Stadium in Port Huron, as a football field will give way to seven ice rinks.
“They had the pond hockey tournament at (Palmer Park) last year, and I was there because I wanted to be able to get Scotty Nichols’ boys on the ice, because Scotty would have, and we had a blast – it was nice,” said Kris Pettengill, one of the organizers of the event. “There was just something about that day, I thought the perfect place for this was Memorial Stadium. We have the room, we have the lights, we have the bleachers.”
This tournament is not taking the place of last year’s tournament. That one will be back in February at a new venue, giving Port Huron two pond hockey tournaments in 2016.
The Memorial Stadium tournament is a collaborative effort between the Port Huron Area School District and the Port Huron Recreation Dept. Pettengill, Whitney Trentacosta from the Recreation Dept. and PHASD Athletics Facility Manager Brian McDougal are the three main organizers of the event.
Putting sheets of ice over top of a football field sounds like a groundskeeper’s worst nightmare, but McDougal is excited about the event.
“The important thing with hosting an event like this, just like with Volleygrass – and when I was an assistant at Michigan State, we hosted a U2 concert – is just planning for the worst-case scenario, and having a process in place in case that happens,” McDougal said. “The first priority is that any first level of profits will go toward preparing the field.
“There’s not a whole lot of grass on the field at the end of the season anyway. Last year, it rained during the entire (Thumb Area Football League) Rumble in the Thumb event. I think from the 20-yard line to the 20-yard line was completely dirt.”
A website with more information on the event, including how to register, will be up and running soon, Pettengill said. For now, the event has a Facebook page which can be found by searching “PoHo Pond Hockey Classic.”
Each of the seven rinks will host an age division, as there will be men’s open, 18-and-under, 14-and-under, 12-and-under, 10-and-under, 7-and-under, coed and open family divisions. The coed and open family divisions will play on the same rink.
Games will begin under the lights on Jan. 29 and continue through the weekend with finals on Jan. 31.
McDougal said he plans to put some ice into the stadium on Dec. 1 if the weather cooperates, as a sort of trial run. Having weekly Friday night open skates under the lights is something he sees as a possibility.
There is also opportunity after the tournament to bring some area students to the stadium and introduce them to skating and the game of hockey. It’s something PHASD executive director of Operations and Innovation Theo Kerhoulas presented to the tournament organizers. McDougal said donations of skates and other equipment could be accepted to help with those possible field trips.
“We ask for all donations for sticks, skates, helmets and the day of the tournament set out a big box and say we’re taking donations,” McDougal said. “If the (Port Huron Prowlers) are in town, maybe they can come out and teach these kids how to skate. At least it generates that spark. If we could somehow fund those kids to start playing organized hockey, it not only helps the Minor Hockey Association, but their lives, as well.”
Sponsorships and volunteers will also be needed to help with the tournament. Those interested should visit the page on PoHo Pond Hockey Classic page on Facebook to inquire about those opportunities.
Contact Paul Costanzo at (810) 989-6251 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @PaulCostanzo.