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Freezing temperatures see pond hockey return to MSU campus

January 22, 2024

With East Lansing temperatures remaining sub-freezing for a week, students took the opportunity to play hockey on frozen ponds behind the Brody Neighborhood on Jan. 20, 2024. The students, who have been playing on the ponds every day for the past week, seized their final opportunity as temperatures are expected to rise above freezing shortly. Photos by Jack Williams

The setup is less than ideal. Moving bins taken from Brody neighborhood serve as nets; the ice is maintained by a single borrowed shovel; teams are decided at random and their games often don't keep score. But to the MSU students who brave the cold to play pond hockey, they might as well be playing at Lake Placid or Munn Ice Arena. 

For the past two weeks, as MSU's campus has been strained by sub-freezing temperatures and a winter storm last weekend, hockey players and figure skaters alike have taken advantage of the natural ice sheet tucked behind Armstrong and Bryan Halls. 

For kinesiology senior Jasper Najar, who spent his winters throughout high school playing outdoor hockey with his friends, finding a frozen pond to play on at MSU serves as the perfect wintertime activity.

"It's just something to do in the wintertime," Najar said. "You get active. You don't get too cold because you're skating around. And you get with the guys and have some fun."

Many of the skaters, including statistics sophomore Jake Pelton, arrived at the pond with friends and joined ongoing games, making acquaintances with other skaters along the way. Pelton added that although conditions weren't excellent, people were still finding ways to enjoy themselves.

"Every single kid on this ice grew up playing hockey. I mean, it's Michigan, it's a hockey state," Pelton said. "Whenever you get the chance to play hockey outdoors with a couple of buddies, you'll figure out anything."

Compared to its organized counterpart, pond hockey is a more chaotic, free-flowing form of the sport that emphasizes quick hands, creative playmaking and just the right amount of trash-talk. Snow build-up and a rough ice texture mean pucks consistently take odd jumps that add to the challenge of playing. 

"When you're playing in an intramural or drop-in game, you're trying to win. You want to be competitive," supply chain management junior Hal Schnell said. "This has nothing to do with scoring goals. It's just about making fun plays, picking each other up, and talking a little smack."

With temperatures expected to rise above freezing in the coming week, it's unlikely the Brody pond will remain frozen for much longer. Despite pond hockey only being possible for a few weeks out of the year, Schnell said, the memories made on the ice make it worthwhile. 

"I mean, to me, it means everything," Schnell said. "Just the fact that we can come out, enjoy the time together, get outside, get active. It's great for my exercise. It's definitely sad when it starts to unfreeze but it makes the time that you do get a little more special."

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