Pavilion Cup (Alex Cook/The East)

Lily Lake’s Pavilion Cup ‘Nothing Better Than Playing Hockey On The Ice’

Canada’s love for hockey is so widely accepted that many will say it borders on cultural cliché. From coast to coast and abroad, even the most uninitiated non-hockey fan has probably found themselves gathered in a pub, or huddled around a television, to watch an Olympic or World Junior final. There are also those of us who spend many years sitting in freezing rinks to watch sons, daughters, nieces, or nephews skate their way through pee-wee, to bantam, and beyond! I’d bet a nickel that many of these people found themselves overcome with so much national pride and fervor of competition that any passer-by would mistake them for a seasoned hockey expert.

There is a joy that comes from being the first person to skate on the blank canvas that is a fresh patch of ice. The bumping and crunching of your blades carve long, curving lines as you float around the frozen pond, feeling the sharpness of the cold wind on your face. The pinch of the extra pair of wool socks that causes your toes to be just a little too snug. One by one, and then in pairs, friends trickle onto the ice surface behind you, while the clap of their pucks and sticks resonates on the surface of the ice. The volume steadily rises as laughter and cheers for every goal overtake the quiet of your winter surrounding. There you stand, in the middle of this dark frozen expanse of marble, snow on all sides, while your breath puffs out like clouds. Could anything be more Canadian or perfect? You then look over to the snowbank and see what makes it even more ideal: waiting for you, nestled next to your boots, is a thermos full of hot chocolate, and that’s when you realize how inextricably linked, as a nation, to our DNA hockey or shinny, as it’s often known, truly is; it is the quintessential Canadian sport and, in fact, not a cliché.

(Alex Cook/The East)
City crews preparing the ice (Alex Cook/The East)

It is no different here in Saint John. This weekend, you will find the spirit of that youthful winter scene and the joy that comes from good natured competition as teams gather at Rockwood Park’s Lily Lake for the Tim Horton’s Pavilion Cup pond hockey tournament (Sponsored by Tim Horton’s and The City of Saint John). It’s an opportunity for all levels of hockey players to gather for a two day tournament that takes them back to the days of skating outside on pond ice. Players need to be at least 19 years of age for the Friday/Saturday tournament, with Sunday set aside for the Tim Horton’s Youth Pavilion Cup Tournament. Games are four-on-four, on one of sixteen rinks cleared off on Lily Lake, in front of the historic Hatheway Pavilion building, where the tournament draws its name.

As you might expect, the ice surfaces are much smaller than your standard hockey rink, with only piled snow for boards! All games are played without a goalie; instead, the nets are six feet wide and only six inches high, and there is a maximum of 10 points per team to be scored. Each game runs 35 minutes or until the first team reaches 10 points. Over Friday and Saturday, each team is guaranteed to play four games, including one under the lights.  As with the spirit of a group of friends coming together for a game of shinny, the emphasis of the Tim Horton’s Pavilion Cup is on having good, clean fun, celebrating sportsmanship and a community coming together in support of funding the many programs available at Rockwood Park. Typical for our modest city, many of its residents don’t realize that since Rockwood Park’s founding in 1894, Saint John has had the largest urban park in Canada and it is conveniently located just minutes away from the uptown core. The current Hatheway Pavilion was constructed on its site in the early 1950s and was then restored to its more modern state, starting in the year 2000. It operates under the mission statement “to be a shining example of a modern facility that gives back to the community it serves.  The Pavilion itself, and funds generated from its work, provides memorable, rewarding recreational experiences for all the people of Saint John.“

As with every year this tournament takes place, the weekend always proves to live up to that mission statement. What would a hockey tournament be without the fans? The public is encouraged to come out and enjoy the games, public skating, Swamp Bear Art, live music (in both the banquet room and Lily’s Café), and finally, weather permitting, a fireworks display on Saturday evening at 6:45pm. A full schedule of games and entertainment events can be found online at the tournament website, or Facebook and Twitter. Regardless of whether you live and breathe hockey on a daily basis, or just want an opportunity to support your local community by enjoying a day or two outside in our beautiful winter wonderland, pack up the family, a thermos full of hot chocolate, and head for Rockwood Park this weekend!

Editor’s Note: The 7th annual Lily Lake Pavilion Cup, after being postponed the first day, was later cancelled after Saint John received 26cm of snow in 48 hours, more than could be cleared away in time for the games.

Graham MacKenney is a Saint John writer who loves to write about the subjects that impassion him: Beer, Food & Whisky. You can follow him on twitter @GrahamMacKenney.