The great wilderness of Montana has always been know for two things - wildlife and outdoor activity. Back in the early 1940's, while most people were taking to the slopes during the cold winter months there was a group of friends who would toss their sticks and skates over their shoulder and head down to the frozen waters of Flathead Lake. It was here were they would have epic games of pond hockey surrounded by the majestic scenery of the Mission Mountains.
It was on a beautiful Saturday afternoon when the friends were in the middle of a game of shinny that one of them noticed a bear rummaging through their hockey bags on the shoreline. Being at a far distance, the group stopped to watch, knowing better than to approach a bear. What happened next amazed the friends - the bear had found their stash of beer. Using the sharp claws on his right paw the bear poked a hole in the side of the can and began to lick the frosty liquid. He proceeded to do this to every last can before standing back up and walking casually back into the woods.
The friends were stunned at what they had witnessed, had a bear really drank all the beer they had brought down to the lake. Some were upset but most were impressed with what they had just saw. Learning from the experience, the next time the friends came down to the lake to play they brought their belongs closer to the snowbanks surrounding the rink. However, one friend decided to leave a single beer in the spot where the bear had drank the beers the time before. About halfway through their game, the bear returned, poked a hole in the can and drank the beer, while he watched the group skate out on the lake.
And so a ritual was born, every time the friends took the ice they would leave a beer for the bear they called "Monty" - each time Monty would drink the beer, watch them skate and then return into the woods. This repeated itself for over ten years, until one winter, Monty did not come to claim his beer on the shoreline. Saddened by the loss of their friend, the group decided to honor Monty by creating a trophy in his memory. This trophy was awarded to the team who won the last game of the season out on the lake. The award was nothing elaborate but each year the friends would battle in hopes of hoisting the "Monty" Cup high over their heads as champions of the winter.
As the friends grew older, and the winters grew warmer, the ice on Flathead Lake became scare. The games were no longer played and the story of Monty and his cup slipped into obscurity. Until one day in 2013, when a note was found by a young family in Kalispell, that described these epic games on Flathead Lake, told the story of the group of friends and their bear named Monty. A fire was ignited, these games must return to the frozen waters of Montana. A group was formed to bring pond hockey back and the Montana Pond Hockey Classic was born.
To honor the story and the bear named Monty - the group hired world renowed wood carver Jeff Fleming to create a trophy for the tourney. The Monty Cup will be awarded to tournament winners, their names will be carved into its base where they will remain for all eternity.
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