The New England Pond Hockey Festival will take place this weekend in Rangeley no matter what the weather is, because that is the nature of pond hockey.

“The players all agree, when playing pond hockey, if need be they will scrape the ice with the shovel so that each time a game begins they are skating as close to ice as possible,” said Linda Sikes, the director of the 5-year-old festival.

“One of the things I say to the players, whenever anyone says anything: ‘It is pond hockey. That’s one of the differences.’“

The outdoor event will bring together 35 teams (27 men’s, eight women’s) and players from as far away as Indiana.

And if the Rangeley region sees snowfall like the 3 to 10 inches that fell statewide Wednesday, Sikes said players will pick up the 60 shovels and shovel off 11 outdoor rinks.

“We may shorten the amount of games but the games will go on. And we have the capability of doing night games,” Sikes said.

Games begin at 9:15 a.m. Saturday and continue until the championship rounds. The rinks stretch across six acres on Hadley Pond, where spectators can watch the action.

But the true beauty of the game, Sikes said, is the devotion of the players.

The tournament has grown from one division played on four rinks to four divisions on 11 rinks that are cleared and maintained by local hockey fans.

And the trophy is displayed year-round in town at Sarge’s Pub.

In short, Rangeley pond hockey enthusiasts take the tournament seriously.

The awards podium displays a Maine flag, an American flag, a Canadian flag and one from The Netherlands.

Registration is now closed, but spectators are welcome.

“There has been a revival in pond hockey in the last five years because everyone has a little pond on a family farm or place where they learned to skate,” Sikes said.

“They did it in high school and then in college. But getting back to the pond is going back to their childhood memories.”

Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at:

[email protected]