The U.S. Pond Hockey Championships are held annually on Lake Nokomis in South Minneapolis. Yes, on the frozen lake. ESPN.com listed the tournament in their “101 Things Sports Fans Must Experience Before They Die.”
It’s a strictly amateur, just-for-fun tournament (the players themselves shovel the rinks before games), though some teams have ringers with pro and college hockey experience. In 2017, 307 teams, representing 42 states, competed on 25 rinks, playing 601 games in three days. It’s good-natured chaos, with team names like the Mighty Drunks and The Little Lebowskis, with a persistent, underlying concern that the beer will run out before the end of the day. Not a chance.
But it’s undeniably cold out there and you may want to take a break from standing on a frozen lake with no protection from the wind. Here are some suggestions.
If keeping the party going is your goal, you have several options. The 5-8 Club, just south of the lake and one of the disputed inventors of the renowned Juicy Lucy hamburger, is a good place to retreat, especially if you’re still wearing hockey clothes and don’t want be judged. The Cedar Inn (divvy), Bull’s Horn (revitalized divvy) and Busters (not divvy), on the north side of the lake are popular, comfortable neighborhood hangouts. Farther north are Matt’s Bar, the other home of the “Jucy Lucy,” and Pat’s Tap gastropub, both of which may require some patience to get a table - but it's totally worth it.
If it’s a restorative meal you’re looking for, nearby Hot Plate, with interior decorating that defies description, is a breakfast place open till 2pm. Fat Lorenzo’s, a legendary neighborhood pizza joint, is perfect for families. Closer to the rinks is Carbone’s Pizza & Pub, also a good family option. Across the street from Carbone’s, ie Italian Eatery is the place to go for classy pasta and wine or go farther afield for traditional, upscale Italian at Al Vento. Xavi Restaurant serves upscale, New American cuisine. If all you need is a sugary pick-me-up, Mel-O-Glaze Bakery is only a minute or so away from the rinks by car.
If the outdoors are still calling to you, Minnehaha Park is only a few minutes down the parkway to the east. Winter activities in the park include cross-country skiing, ice fishing, sledding/tubing, snowboard lessons and off-road winter cycling.
There’s limited shopping in the neighborhood, such as Vintage Music Co. (vinyl and turntable accessories), Candy Jar (candy store), Flamingo’s Divine Finds (vintage furniture and home accessories) and Southside Vintage & Quality Goods (antiques). Head to Bill St Mane Sporting Goods to fix/replace broken gear, or just pack it in for the day at Cork Dork Wine Co., McDonald’s Liquor and Wine and Elevated Beer, Wine & Spirits to stockpile supplies for the evening.