2017-02-23 / Front Page

Warm-up Cancels Hockey on Lake

Battle at the Bridge Will Go On Inside Little Bear East
By Erich T. Doerr

Warm weather resulting in a lack of ice has canceled the upcoming 4- on-4 Youth Pond Hockey Championships at St. Ignace. The tournament was to be played on Chain Lake this weekend, Friday, February 24, through Sunday, February 26, but after unseasonably warm weather all but melted the rinks used for last weekend’s Labatt Blue U.P. Pond Hockey Championship, the decision to cancel the event was made by the St. Ignace Events Committee at about 12:30 p.m. Monday, February 20. The tournament could not be held inside the nearby Little Bear East Arena, as a youth tournament is already scheduled to take place there this weekend.

“It’s just too warm out,” St. Ignace Visitors Bureau Executive Director Gina Stegehuis said, adding that organizers were disappointed to cancel the event for the second year in a row.

Warm weather damaged the outdoor rinks, with more of the same forecast throughout much of the week. Even nighttime temperatures are predicted to be too warm to save the rinks, so the committee had no choice but to pull the plug.

Registration fees are being refunded to every registered team.

Both the adult and youth pond hockey tournaments are usually played on Moran Bay downtown, but when warm weather this winter prevented the formation of ice there, the two tournaments planned to move to Chain Lake, where they were played in 2012. Crews built 25 rinks for the tournaments, but as the mercury rose last week, the rinks all began to melt, with water accumulating on them throughout the adult tournament Saturday, February 18. A few rinks became so waterlogged players switched from skates to boots to keep playing and some even switched from the standard puck to a tennis ball. Mrs. Stegehuis said the players who took these steps said they had a blast splashing around as they finished their games.

With the conditions deteriorating and no way to plow or smooth the ice for the finals Sunday, February 19, the finals were moved indoors at Little Bear East Arena.

Meteorologist Mike Boguth of the National Weather Service Gaylord office confirmed the weather patterns of last year are repeating this winter. The season began with a cold and snowy December, followed by a brief thaw in January. The weather cooled off momentarily in February before these warmer temperatures moved in.

“We’ve had a very up and down winter,” Mr. Boguth said.

Mr. Boguth said the warm weather is the result of a really fast jet stream moving inland from the Pacific Ocean. The system has brought a lot of precipitation to California, causing the state’s recent heavy rain and flooding. The mild Pacific air is now lingering in the Midwest because the jet stream has forced the cold air out of Michigan into far northern areas of Canada and Siberia.

The unusual warmup is expected to continue through at least Wednesday, February 22, before cooler temperatures begin returning Thursday, February 23. Temperatures are not expected to drop below freezing, even overnight, until Thursday. Because all lakes in the area are losing ice very quickly, anyone planning to go out on it for purposes such as ice fishing is advised to be very cautious of conditions. The cool off will continue into the weekend, with highs expected in the 30s and lows in the teens and 20s. Snow also remains a possibility.

This weekend, Little Bear East Arena will host the indoor St. Ignace Battle at the Bridge Midget Showdown Youth Hockey Tournament from Friday to Sunday.

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