August 31, 2018 - After five years of operating the Montana Pond Hockey Classic in Kalispell, MT, the Pond Hockey Classic will not return in 2019. In 2013, the PHC partnered with the Kalispell Convention and Visitors Bureau to bring a pond hockey style tournament to the Flathead Valley. The vision for the event was to bring a successful tournament, similar to the ones hosted by the PHC in the Northeast, to the region during the winter months. The event grew from 50 teams the first year to over 75 registered for the 2018 tournament. Unfortunately, over the five-year existence of the tournament, the PHC was forced to cancel the event twice and move locations once due to mild temperatures and unsafe ice conditions.
“This was a very hard decision for us to make,” said Scott Crowder, PHC Commissioner, “we have fallen in love with Northwestern Montana, the teams who competed in our events and the community who welcomed and supported us since 2014. When we were able to host the tournament at Foys Lake, the experience was amazing, unfortunately, three of the five years we weren’t able too.”
The Pond Hockey Classic and the Kalispell CVB have been committed to the success of the tournament, having moved the event from the third weekend in February to earlier in January after the relocation and cancellation of the tournaments in 2015 & 2016. This looked to be the proper move, with the 2017 tournament being played, as scheduled on Foys Lake, however, 2018’s inconsistent temperatures forced another cancellation this past January.
“We applied a great deal of creativity trying to determine a safe, enjoyable way to hold the Classic. But there was no way to ensure that weather wouldn’t again undermine the event,” said Diane Medler, Director, Kalispell Convention & Visitor Bureau, “While everyone understands the unpredictability of weather, we decided not to continue an event that could possibly give people negative feelings about planning a trip to Kalispell.”
The Pond Hockey Classic and the Kalispell CVB spent the last six months searching for alternative locations and potential options to continue the tournament into 2019. Smaller bodies of water were identified, the construction of manmade ponds and backyard rinks were researched, even the acquisition of land in the Flathead Valley was pursued. All options had various pros and cons and financial requirements, however, all options still posed the weather variable.
“Given the historical weather data for the region and what we have experienced the last five years, it is a big roll of the dice for us to commit given these variables. We take great pride in hosting outdoor pond hockey festivals for our participants, spectators and host communities. When we have to cancel an event, it truly kills us. We want to thank the Kalispell CVB, Tamarack Brewery, the participants and the community for embracing this event. When it worked, we all experienced something special.”
The Pond Hockey Classic will host it’s 10th Annual New England Pond Hockey Classic in Meredith, NH from February 1-3 and it’s 8th Annual Lake Champlain Pond Hockey Classic in Colchester, VT from February 7-10. For more information please visit www.pondhockeyclassic.com.