PLASTER ROCK, NB (WAGM) - Go over the river and through the woods of New Brunswick and you arrive at Roulston Lake in the small village of Plaster Rock where for the last 17 years pond hockey players from around the world have come to show off their skills. Over one hundred pond squads lace em up and go at here at Plaster Rock, which started last night and goes through Sunday. Players from as far west as Arizona all the way to the Czech Republic are here to compete. Last year, was the first time a team not from the US or Canada took home first place.
"Here we are second time here, we are last year champions," Stary Pusky, which translates into English as "Old Guns," captain Ales Stocek said.
Stocek and the Stary Pusky, showed up and on their first time won it all. They've made the 36-hundred mile journey to compete here again, but it's not all about winning.
"Yeah, we want to but, it's not important for us we want to spend good time here," Stocek said.
One thing they've definitely enjoyed is the Canadian hospitality
"I am so proud of Canada people these people who lives here are very friendly, I never seen that before how friendly are people here," Stocek said.
For some cracking open an ice cold beer and competing on the ice, well that's enough here in plaster rock, but for some other teams playing takes on a bigger meaning. Dwayne Green is the Executive Director of the True North Youth Foundation, part of the Winnipeg Jets, he's playing to raise funds for Project 11, which raises awareness about youth depression.
"Project 11 is honor of Rick Rypien who was a member of our team who lost his battle with depression," Green said. "His mission was to do things for kids to through what he went through."
Project 11 is free for teachers to implement and has taken off in Manitoba.
"It's a 15 week program done online for positive mental health coping skills for youth grades K-8," Green said. "In Manitoba we've seen a really positive spin off we're in over 12-hundred classrooms across Manitoba and 40-thousand are experiencing the program."
Green and the World Pond Hockey Championship staff are partnering up this year to bring Program 11 to New Brunswick to benefit local youth.
"To bring it here is real special, this tournament, to tie our program to it which is free for teachers to use," Green said. "Just concentrating on youth and mental wellness to be able bring it to the east coast there's a real nice connection there and we're really proud as an organization to partner with Pond Hockey and have it here."
From Czech Champions to people championing mental health, there is much to love about the World Pond Hockey Championship. The action runs through this Sunday.
For more information regarding Project 11 head over to: https://www.projecteleven.ca/