True, we might all long for a sunny sojourn as the mid-winter blahs envelope northern Ontario at this time of year. But there is still something to be said for those lovely scenes of frosty, wintery, snow-white wonder (think Hallmark movies galore) that can only be captured in regions where temperatures might well hit below freezing double digit levels for days on end.
Thankfully, the Pond Hockey Festival on the Rock is here, once again, to remind us of all that is good, outdoors, in Sudbury, in late January and early February.
Is there anything that is truly more Canadian than a lake transformed into a multi-pad hockey facility that indoor venues simply cannot rival?
That is exactly the type of sentiment that organization volunteer Diane Ikonen and her co-horts will tap into as they prepare for the 12th year of the local tradition, one that has now raised in excess of $120,000 in support of local charities.
Set for the weekend of January 31st to February 2nd, the Festival on the Rock will proceed, come rain, shine or blizzard. "We cancelled one year due to weather - we don't cancel anymore," said Ikonen. "We either do ice hockey or boot hockey. The teams that sign up and pay to play are guaranteed they are having their tournament, one way or another."
Well acquainted with the world of volunteerism, Ikonen's primary mandate these days is to help assemble the workforce, 150 or so strong, that will handle the set-up of everything ranging from fences, benches, tables, chairs, fire barrels and wood for 12 separate ice surfaces.
"We visit 14 different high schools to recruit volunteers, because they need community service hours, and we need them," said Ikonen. "When I go into high schools, very few students have heard of Pond Hockey on the Rock, they don't know where the Northern Water Sports Centre (central hub for the event) is."
"You're starting from scratch, just to engage them. But we really do get a great reception within the schools. One thing about this younger generation is that they love to support charity." (anyone interested in volunteer for the 2020 Festival can register at www.pondhockeyontherock.ca)
Like most who have been involved with the event, almost since the beginning, Dave Arnold takes a great deal of pride in the winter wonderland that he and his group will assemble, one that simply cannot happen without a huge helping hand from the local business community.
"Twelve large rinks on Lake Ramsey will be created, fenced in, lit up by 14 light towers, fuel provided, outfitted with nets, shovels, benches and chairs, cubes provided for storage and skate changing, firewood - and the list goes on," said Arnold. "All donated."
"How can we not be proud to live in Sudbury, where the city itself, the business community, and so many volunteers, give so generously to a worthy cause?"
Few understand the specifics of the cause better than Festival chairman Dan Denoble. Blessed with a lengthy involvement in the Sudbury sports scene, Denoble came to the Pond Hockey group via his previous endeavours with the 2020 beneficiary of the fundraising efforts.
"As a long-time volunteer with Camp Quality Northern Ontario, I know the positive impact the organization makes on local children affected by cancer," he said. "This Festival will go a long way in helping the Camp in 2020."
"As a city, we should be very proud to see a festival of this size, in the heart of our city, run entirely by volunteers, all for charity," Denoble added.