Skating in the great outdoors1/29/09

CVU carves out a new club with pond hockey

Jan. 29, 2009

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

Last Wednesday afternoon, as the high temperatures of the day barely hit 10 degrees, a group of Champlain Valley Union High School students donned hats, gloves, thick winter coats and ice skates for an informal, pick-up game of hockey. The ice was frozen solid on the fire department’s emergency pond behind the high school, perfect for a fast game.


    Observer photo by Tim Simard
Pond Hockey Club organizer and Champlain Valley Union High senior Thomas Eddy passes the puck to Sam Schneider as Marcy Webster looks on during a game at the school last Wednesday. 


    Observer photo by Tim Simard
Thomas Eddy gets ready to start last Wednesday’s game with the drop of a puck, as fellow club organizers Mike Toof (left) and Carl Lozon (right) square off.


    Observer photo by Tim Simard
Sam Schneider, a senior from Williston, laces up his skates in preparation for an afternoon of pond hockey.

As Hinesburg senior Thomas Eddy dropped the puck in the middle of the pond and two players started slashing their sticks, the familiar sound of blades on ice signaled the beginning of a spirited game.

Started this winter by Eddy and seniors Mike Toof and Carl Lozon, CVU’s new Pond Hockey Club is giving students a chance to play hockey as it was meant to be played — outdoors and in the fresh air, according to the club’s organizers.

Generally, the club meets on Wednesday afternoons around 3 p.m. and plays until dark. On this day, the members met early since the school had a half-day for final exams.

The Pond Hockey Club is open to all students who want to join, even members of CVU’s hockey team. Lozon said none had shown up yet since practice coincides with the club’s games on Wednesdays.

Eddy, who only took up skating and hockey last year, thought it would be fun to get a group together to play weekly without the pressure of team practices and regimented games. He envisioned it as an extended neighborhood get together.

“I really loved playing for the first time last year,” Eddy said.

Eddy, Toof and Lozon peppered the high school with posters in December, hoping to get a decent turnout at their first club meeting.

“We weren’t quite sure how many people would actually want to do it,” Eddy said.

They guessed about 10 students would turn out. Instead, they had more than 40 students stop by their meeting.

Toof, a Shelburne native, had been playing hockey since he was little and competed in some informal leagues in the area. Lozon, from Williston, has been skating for a couple years, but playing hockey for a little less.

Toof said there’s a lot of appeal in playing hockey on a pond. First, it’s free, unlike ice time at a local rink. Second, you get to be outside, even if it’s seriously cold, like a few weeks ago when the temperature didn’t get above zero degrees.

“Once you get playing, though, you warm up pretty quickly,” Toof said.

Last Wednesday could have been considered a heat wave compared to the previous week. Sam Schneider, a Williston senior, didn’t seem to mind as he laced up his skates on the ice. Schneider said the club gave him an opportunity to reconnect with a sport he used to play frequently. In fact, he hadn’t strapped on skates in six years until joining the club.

“I think it’s good to take a break before going back to study,” Schneider said.

Shelburne sophomore Leigh Johnson said he’d been skating for five years and wanted to find more people to play hockey with. The club gave him the break he was looking for. It also gives him a chance to practice and hone his skills.

“I’m not good enough to play on a team … yet,” Johnson said.

While the turnout last Wednesday was primarily young men, two senior girls also came out to play. Charlotte residents Marcy Webster and Amanda Russell, who competed on separate teams that day playing defense, said they’re already familiar with pond hockey. Each girl has a pond on her family’s property and likes to frequent the town pond.

“We’re not competitive, we’re just here for fun,” said Webster, who used to figure skate when she was little.

Math teacher Olaf Verdonk, who used to play pick-up hockey on the same pond with faculty and staff more than 10 years ago, advises the club. He helped shovel the pond with Lozon and Eddy while others skated and knocked pucks around.

“I might as well get my skates, everyone else is having fun,” Verdonk said, putting down the shovel.

Once enough of the ice was cleared off, the players set up makeshift wooden goals and split into even teams. There were about nine players to a team — a little less than in previous weeks, most likely due to exams, Eddy said.

The game was fast and furious, but all in good fun. A few players just learning the ropes of hockey got tripped up by the cracks in the ice and found themselves struggling to get out of snow banks. Others took serious slap shots at the goals, narrowly missing. The scores were low, but nobody cared. Besides the swishing of blades on ice, laughter was the most common sound of the afternoon.