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Chestermere Lake pond hockey tournament still a go despite thin ice

The annual Tim Horton’s Western Canada Pond Hockey Championship dropped the puck in Chestermere on Wednesday for the annual four-on-four tournament with thousands in attendance.

But with the balmy winter weather, it was touch and go on whether it would take place.

“We get the call last Monday from the City of Chestermere and the fire department, that the event was a go,” said organizer Alex Halat.

“It was a huge relief. At that point, nerves kick in, because we had three days to build the rinks.”

Halat says nine rinks were built in short order to accommodate the teams this year, but there were tough decisions to make, as the lake’s ice thickness wasn’t able to accommodate large equipment and additional teams just yet.

“Being that we’re only at about eight inches of ice, which is a lot of ice, it didn’t give us the ability to bring machines out, which we normally use to build the ice,” said Halat.

“So typically we’d have 16 rinks out here. This year we had to go with nine just because we’re manually building all the rinks.”

Halat says 28 teams were cut because there was not enough space to accommodate everyone this year due to the warmer-than-usual winter conditions.

But thousands are still expected over the event that goes until New Year’s Eve.

For grandparents Tina and Roy Spanko, the pond hockey tournament was about spending time with family and watching their grandson take part for another year.

“We participate absolutely, as spectators,” said Roy.

Alberta Blue Cross says that ice thickness can vary across all bodies of water.

With Chestermere Lake being between 20-30 centimetres, one car or small pickup would be able to go on the ice, but not multiple pieces of equipment.

According to Blue Cross, the recommended minimum depth for activities on new, clear, hard ice is as follows:

  • Seven centimetres (three inches) or less – stay off;
  • 10 centimetres (four inches) – ice fishing, walking, cross-country skiing;
  • 12 centimetres (five inches) – one snowmobile or ATV;
  • 20 to 30 centimetres (eight-12 inches) – one car or small pickup; and
  • 30 to 38 centimetres (12-15 inches) – one medium truck (pickup or van).

“Ice thickness can be affected by many factors including currents, fluctuations in water levels, changing air temperature and even shock waves from vehicles travelling across the ice,” said Brian Geislinger, senior vice president of corporate relations and community engagement with Alberta Blue Cross.

Low levels of water are flowing on Calgary’s Bow River, which has not frozen.

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