Organizers have begun a week's worth of preparation work to allow about 2,000 hockey players on 300 teams to compete in this year's U.S. Pond Hockey Championships.
Lake Nokomis in Minneapolis will host the event again this year, and organizers say they have the 12 inches of ice needed to safely set up the boards on 26 rinks using trucks. Last year temperatures were too mild, and crews set everything up by hand.
While temperatures have been consistent enough to create a fairly smooth surface, crews will drill holes to pump water on the rinks to make them extra smooth, event commissioner Justin Kaufenberg said.
For the first time, this year's event will feature some night games. Generator-equipped light towers will be brought onto the lake to make an expanded rink rat division for less skilled players possible, Kaufenberg said.
"That'll be a big change. We're going to have to light the entire rink surface, the entire lake surface. We'll have games going across this multi-acre surface across 26 different rinks, so the lighting infrastructure is pretty significant," he said.
The event takes place Jan. 18-20, but the lights will allow for a new youth night on Thursday for area youth teams.
Kaufenberg said the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships are the biggest event of their kind in the country. The event attracts players from across the country, many of whom formerly played for the NHL and Division I college teams.