The tiny town of Plaster Rock – population: 1,200 – up in eastern Canada's province of New Brunswick will soon be overrun by thousands of strangers from around the world, as it's been each year about this time since 2002.
Sparking the annual occupation of the little hamlet will be the 2014 World Pond Hockey Championship, expected to draw 120 teams with some 8,000 players and fans. Set for Feb. 13-16, the matches will feature "four-on-four" play (no goaltenders) between 40 teams competing simultaneously on 20 rinks.
This year every Canadian province but one is competing. The U.S. will be well represented with 25 teams from Arizona, California, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Virginia and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.
Among other international invaders will be teams from Australia, the Cayman Islands, England and The Netherlands.
Debuted in 2002 as a fund-raiser for a recreation center serving the local Tobique Valley, the first competition drew just 40 teams from three Canadian provinces and Maine. “It's all about camaraderie and rekindling childhood memories," said World Pond Hockey Championship President and CEO Danny Braun. "When the lights go on at night and the snow is falling, you can hear the laughter. We're celebrating our love of hockey … our love of hockey on the ponds, places and rivers of our childhood."
This project is backed by the Atlantic Canada Tourism Partnership, a nine member pan-Atlantic organization. Members include the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, the four Atlantic Canada tourism industry associations and the four provincial departments responsible for tourism.