On the same day 105,491 hockey fans gathered in Ann Arbor, Mich., for the National Hockey League’s popular Winter Classic game, Oneonta hockey enthusiasts held their own version of the New Year’s Day game, thanks to a local man’s pond.
Dr. Carlton Rule said Oneonta’s lack of an ice rink almost kept him from moving to the area 20 years ago. Today, a regulation-size, indoor community rink still remains to be seen. But Rule, who grew up playing hockey in Rochester, said that hasn’t stopped him from enjoying his favorite pastime.
For the past 10 years, Rule said, he has invited friends and family to his home in Laurens, where a 200-foot-by-100-foot pond on his property serves as home base for the unofficial “Oneonta Hockey Association,” as they call themselves.
Rule said there is a lot of interest in ice hockey in the area, but the closest rink is the Chenango Ice Arena in Chenango Bridge. That’s why, he said, in the months of January and February, Rule invites friends and hockey enthusiasts to his pond every Saturday and Sunday to play, weather permitting.
The tight-knit group of hockey lovers includes high schoolers, college students and older individuals. Rule said the games spread through word of mouth, and a typical game could have anywhere from six to 18 participants.
More than 18 people gathered to play at the pond for “Oneonta’s Winter Classic” on Jan. 1. Rule said this is when the ice is ready to be played on.
Conditions have to be “just right” to play on the ice, according to Rule. If there is too much snow or it’s too warm out, he said, games are a no-go.
Rule said he has collected more than 40 pairs of skates for his guests to borrow or buy.