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Lake Bemidji Pond Hockey Classic: Puck to drop for weekend competitions

On Wednesday, Henry Knoblauch, right, and his crew of volunteers set up boards for this weekend's Lake Bemidji Pond Hockey Classic. Thirty teams have pre-registered for the two day 4-on-4 pond hockey tournament. One team is coming from California. Eight rinks were constructed. Each rink is larger than last year. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

The boards are up, the ice is shaved and the flooding of rinks will begin today.

The second Lake Bemidji Pond Hockey Classic is ready to get under way on the ice near the Hampton Inn & Suites.

"The biggest thing is we are having it," said David Cermak, volunteer ice expert.

He said Bemidji lost the National Long Track Marathons planned for Lake Bemidji's east side because a February thaw caused poor surface conditions. The weather has since cooled down making the Pond Hockey possible.

Cermak's job is to keep a watchful eye on the ice. He will begin camping out in a fish house near the rinks today. He said the accommodation is more deluxe than some shacks. It has bunks and TV.

"It's pretty nice," he said. "It's not like a tent."

He said the ice for the tournament has to be built up in layers to make the skating smooth.

The schedule for the weekend will begin at 6 p.m. Friday with team check-ins, speakers and a social at the Hampton. Team registration will continue through Friday night. About 30 teams are expected, said Brett Leach, Pond Hockey volunteer. The entry fee is $350 per team.

At 9 a.m. Saturday, the puck will drop and play will begin. Derek Leach, Pond Hockey volunteer with his brother, Brett, said he expects Saturday's competition to continue until about 5 p.m.

At 8 p.m. Saturday, organizers will light a huge bonfire on the ice, and at 8:30 the fireworks will start. From 9 p.m. to midnight there will be live music by Rize, a Twin Cities band, in the main tent.

The single elimination play will begin at 9 a.m. Sunday. There will be a $500 prize for teams in each bracket.

The organizers have cleared several parking lots on the ice, which they said is safe for driving at 3 feet thick. They also encourage anyone interested to volunteer for score relay, parking direction, post-play ice clean-up and other chores.

"There are plenty of jobs," Brett said. "No experience needed."