MEREDITH, NH (CBS) – The first puck dropped Friday on the annual New England Pond Hockey Classic on Lake Winnipesaukee in Meredith, New Hampshire.
“It’s a great weekend,” said Dave Sandello of Westborough, Massachusetts. “We look forward to it every single year.”
220 teams and 1400 skaters are in town for a weekend of brotherhood.
“Camaraderie,” said Jen Shadrick of Hingham, Massachusetts. “Party weekend, get away from the kids.”
Players come in from across the country–but predominantly New England. One team includes only members of the New Hampshire Air National Guard.
“Everybody here has either been to Afghanistan or Iraq in the past five years,” said Matt Holloway of Stratham, New Hampshire. “So it’s a fantastic chance for us to all get back together.”
The tournament comes as state Fish and Game officials warn that parts of the state’s larger lakes are unsafe because the ice is too inconsistent.
“The ice does always change,” said Sgt. Brad Morse, a conservation officer with New Hampshire Fish and Game. “It’s constantly moving and shifting and you just need to be cautious when you’re out there.”
But on the section of the lake where the hockey tournament takes place, organizers say the players are safe. The ice is 14 to 18 inches thick.
“The bay here in Meredith has been frozen over since before Christmas,” said tournament organizer Scott Crowder. “Our crew has been out here for about 4 weeks prepping the rinks.”
But for now the focus is on the fun, sometimes the final score, most of all the friendship.
“Guys weekend,” said Marc Stanieich of Londonderry, New Hampshire. “Heaven!”