The annual tournament introduces new warming house with cold outdoor hockey
The 11th annual Anthony Ford Pond Hockey Classic, created in the spirit of a little boy who dreamed of playing hockey someday, was played once again Saturday, Jan. 26 at Spring Lake Park, in North Mankato
The tournament was played on 12 expanded ice rinks on the grounds of Spring Lake Park, andplayed host to a two-day long tournament for local adult and youth teams.
The tournament was initially created in the spirit of nine-year-old Anthony Ford, who had lost his battle to cancer following an 18-month fight years ago.
In 2007, the Anthony Ford committee was founded to establish a fund to find a cure for childhood leukemia, and to help other children with a dream of playing hockey to become the next great play.
In the spirit of Anthony’s dream of one day becoming the next “Great One” the Anthony Ford Fund was created in 2007 by friends and family of Anthony Ford and has since donated more than $100,000 to Pediatric Cancer Research and United Way’s Connecting Kids.
In January 2009, the pond hockey tradition began on Lake Washington about 10 miles outside Mankato, Minnesota. The journey slowly started by building rinks of snow and has since evolved into 12 new rinks with NiceRink boards.
In 2016, the event was moved to Spring Lake Park in beautiful lower North Mankato which has proven to be a wonderful setting for pond hockey.
Now, after city officials recently celebrated a brand-new warming house Thursday, Jan. 24 just in time for the upcoming Anthony Ford Pond Hockey Classic this past weekend, the weekend tournament now looks to be a mainstay in Spring Lake Park for year to come.
The new warming house was more than a year in the making after North Mankato officials had hoped to build a $450,000 warming house in 2017 as part of a larger project to renovate the Spring Lake Park Swim Facility.
Later on, the North Mankato City Council accepted a $567,000 bid from DeMars construction for the project in late 2017, but construction waited until last fall to coincide with the nearby outdoor pool renovations.
The Anthony Ford Fund and the Mankato Area Foundation contributed $100,000 toward the project, to build the huge facility.
The new warming house, which stands at an astounding 4,000-square feet, is roughly four times as large as the previous warming house. It contains bathrooms, a storage area, a kitchen for concessions and a community viewing area where residents can look out on nearby hockey activities, the outdoor pool and other parts of Spring Lake Park.
One of the nearby ice sheets was named in honor of Ford, and now all skaters, young and old, will get to live out his dream of being able to play hockey on the ice.
As the foundation embarks on 12 years next year, the tournament committee looks to see the classic game grow with the tournament seemingly getting bigger every year.
Feature photo courtesy of Brittany Linder.