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Lake Bemidji Pond Hockey Classic: New venture is successful festival

The warming tent has been folded away, but the glow from the weekend's Lake Bemidji Pond Hockey Classic remains strong.

"It was a great first year," said Derek Leach, manager of the sponsoring Hampton Inn & Suites and Green Mill Restaurant and one of the pond hockey organizers.

Ken Pankow, another member of the organizing committee, said the second tournament will be scheduled for the third or fourth weekend of February 2011.

Twenty-two teams competed in the pond hockey tournament, and on Sunday all seven rinks were in play at the same time.

Winners in the open division were Edward Jones, first; Bagley Black Sheep, second; Hampton, third; and Ice Holes, fourth. In the elite division, the winners were Acme, first; Beehive Liquor, second; Beltrami Lakers, third; and Play It Again Sports, fourth.

"The coolest thing was that both of the teams that took first place were local," said Dave Cermak, ice manager.

"And no spectators got hurt by flying pucks," said Pankow. "Really, no issues came up. Everything went as smoothly as it could. It exceeded my expectations."

"What I didn't expect was how fun it is to watch," said Cermak. "So up close and personal. So fast. You could see every play."

Leach said he plans to leave the boards up for the rest of the week so anyone who wants to play can use the rinks.

Other highlights of the pond hockey weekend were the entertainment and the fireworks by Zambelli of Pequot Lakes. Pankow said organizers lined up 50 or so chairs on the ice so the audience could watch in comfort. And because night closes in early at this time of year, the 7:15 p.m. fireworks display fit children's schedules.

"They were phenomenal," he said.

He said the only woman who signed up to play was Bre Bian, a Pond Star player who recently graduated from Concordia College and played on the women's hockey team there.

"We would like to see a women's division next year.

After the bills are paid, the proceeds from the pond hockey entry fees will be donated to youth hockey, figure skating and speed skating clubs.