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Why is Hay River's annual pond-hockey tournament the greatest show on ice? It's obvious: There’s 10 outdoor rinks, dozens of teams, hundreds of games, plus music, food and fun – all happening on the frozen, Zamboni-flooded surface of the Hay River in Canada's Northwest Territories.
With the arrival of warmer and longer days in March, Northerners feel the inexorable pull of the pond. In Hay River, they embrace that magnetic attraction. Since 2007, organizers have erected a giant tent beside the outdoor rinks at Fisherman’s Wharf. This becomes the centre of town for the weekend, hosting food vendors and performances by local musicians – hockey players can take their moves onto the dancefloor between games. And the town is serious about putting on a good show. Where else will you ever see actual Zambonis cleaning a pond hockey rink?
The event is all about celebrating the love of the greatest game in the world. And that’s precisely why the Polar Pond Hockey tournament, which includes women's and old-timers divisions, draws teams from all across Canada each year and remains a mecca for the territory’s hockey-lovers. And that could mean skating up to face off against an NWT premier.