The great equalizer of man, is to meet winter, in her element.
The crew was exhausted having worked more than 18 hours in the day. It was all hands on deck, full speed ahead in preparation for the Pabst Colorado Pond Hockey Tournament, less than two weeks away.
The weeks leading up to the tournament, were brutal. Four continuous days of snow, meant four continues days of shoveling. The venue was a never ending hassle to keep the sidewalks clear. When we shoveled one area, 2 hours later it was piled with layers of snow, just as it was before. The onslaught of weather gave no attention to our human plans or concerns. Winter had made her mind up. She was furious as the snow continued to swell around us.
Our concern with this much snow, was the structure of the ice. How much weight can the ice bare? How thick is the ice in specific areas of the pond? What's our window of opportunity for ideal ice maintenance and preparation temperatures? These are important questions we constantly face from an operations standpoint.
What does it take to make this tournament happen? Brains, grittiness, determination and a lot of LUCK!
We are passionate about this tournament and the sport of hockey. That is the only possible reason, our crew worked day and night (literally) to pull off the BEST DAMN POND HOCKEY TOURNAMENT IN THE USA!!!
There we were. Having given of ourselves, every fiber of our energy in terms of strength and passion. Having emptied the tank of positivity and comfort. We were exhausted. Yet, our window of opportunity to fortify the ice and assure a solid base for the coming tournament, was limited. A break in the storm over night, called for a midnight immersion into the chilling breath of a winter night on the pond.
The call was made. Fuel the pumps and connect the hoses. We're flooding tonight!
Nothing breaks a man's spirit more than a midnight flood. This night was dark. An overcast lay silently in reprieve from the previous storm. Our over night crew of four, was split into two pairs. Our task was simple. Flood the entire pond, to establish a quality base layer of ice.
In an ideal situation. There would be no snow on the surface of the ice. In preferred conditions, flooding the entire pond takes no more than three hours. The water glides across the ice, spreading effortlessly. On this night however, a subtle layer of snow gently draped across the ice. In less than an hour, the ice had accumulated more than an inch of powder. This prevented the effortless spread of water across the ice. Instead, we were forced to spread slowly, inch by inch, through the dark night. The simple task, became painstaking as 3 hours, turned into 8 hours.
There comes a point in the chill of the night, when your bones begin to ache, and your hands feel as if they are broken.
The temperature had dropped to below freezing somewhere around 3 am. The air was cold enough, for steam to rise from the fresh layer of water, pumped directly from below the ice. This confusing scene, was similar to a sauna experience. Accept, we were absolutely freezing and couldn't see our hands in front of our face.
Throughout the night we worked our way across the ice, drilling new holes, sinking pumps, and flooding the surface. Our thickly layered and water resistant bibs, turned into shin guards of ice. The splash from water hitting the ice at our feet, soaked our legs and froze instantly into a thick layer of ice.
It seems that no matter how many layers we wore in the night, winter found a way to sink through our bones. The bite of winter at 4 am, is similar (one imagines) to having your hands crushed beneath a sledge hammer. Holding a hose in your hands, that pumps a continuous supply of nearly freezing water, starts to hurt. Your hands begin to throb in pain, as your body fights to pump blood to your extremities. In moments like this, you hug the hose with your arms and you bare through the throbbing pain of seemingly broken hands.
Just like that, the sun began to rise as we lay the final square footage of water across the pond.
Drained, much like the pond, we have given our souls away to the ice. The great equalizer, the unbearable cold through which we baptized our body and soul, was a necessary evil. It is nights such as these, we remember and take with us. It is these unspoken efforts, which rarely go recognized. Yet, there importance is essential to a well operating pond hockey tournament. Without the ability to react in an efficient and timely manner, the window of opportunity to produce quality ice, quickly dwindles away.