Sheffield — The story of the first-ever Berkshire Pond Hockey Classic is a true sports story of perseverance and tenacity.
The event was initially scheduled to be held on January 28 at Lake Buel, but was postponed to Saturday, February 11 and moved to Benedict Pond in Beartown State Forest. On Wednesday, Feb. 8, organizer Alex Regen announced that, due to less than conducive ice hockey playing conditions, the event had to be moved once again from Benedict Pond over to the Stewart Athletic Center at The Berkshire School. Despite the postponement from the original date and the multiple relocation moves, Regen pulled off the event.
Regen said that the event was originally going to have 16 teams of six players. Due to the relocation to The Berkshire School, however, the event included eight teams instead.
Despite the cutback on teams, in an interview before the event, Regen said that he and the other players were all excited to play and were thankful that The Berkshire School stepped in to donate the use of the ice rink for the event. “The school has been so generous to donate the ice rink for us to support the event,” Regen said. “We’re thankful. This event is about finding something that brings love and the community together. We had people step up when we were in need, including The Berkshire School. Also, we lost our original coffee vendor a day before the event. But Barrington Coffee Roasting Company swooped in to donate four urns of coffee that Ruby’s Coffee Roasters brewed this morning.”
Regen said that community support is a major part of the reason why the first-ever event was successful. “It just seems like, despite all the setbacks, the community wanted this to happen,” Regen said. “So many people were willing to step up and problem-solve any issues with me. A great example of this is Chris Weld, the CEO of The Pass, who is our main sponsor, who was able to help us organize this tournament.”
The eight teams included teams with Berkshire Bank employees, The Pittsfield Police Department, along with teams that included residents from throughout Berkshire County. With the ice divided in half, the rink hosted two games simultaneously. As per the rules, there were no goalies, and the “goal boxes” were wooden boxes that were six feet wide and six inches high.
“It’s too bad that we couldn’t get this on the pond, but at least we’re going to have some fun,” co-organizer Jim Thomas said. “We’re going to have a lot of old friends reconnect through this tournament. What’s the strategy to win this tournament? To me, the strategy should be to have some fun.”
“This is technically a pond hockey game, even though we are playing in the rinks,” Amherst resident and participant Nolan Anaya said. “We have to use pond hockey strategy instead of rink strategy.”
Player Dave Fraser from Lee called getting the tournament together a feat, despite the changes in the event. “I found out about the tournament pretty late via word of mouth, and I did some online research and noticed that the event had been canceled several times,” Fraser said. “I emailed [Regen] looking to see if he was going to sell t-shirts, and he called me the next day and said ‘Hey! We need a team!’”
Fraser brought several friends with him, along with his son and his girlfriend. “This is a pretty neat event, and it’s great that The Berkshire School is letting us use the ice rink for us to play on,” Fraser said. “I love playing hockey. I’m a little disappointed we’re not playing on a pond, but I’m happy that we’re playing today.”
By the end of the day, the Pittsfield Police Department team came away victorious and won the event.
In an email to The Berkshire Edge after the event, Regen wrote that there would be a second tournament held next year. “I think we’re going to try for Benedict Pond again and 16 teams, but Berkshire School offered up their facility again next year if needed,” Regen wrote. “The school did save the day by [allowing us] to hold this condensed tournament.”