Twin Cities Mom Collective

The U.S. Pond Hockey Championship is a Must-Do Minnesota Winter Experience

us pond hockey championship

Everyone has their must-do winter festivals in Minnesota. For some, it’s the St Paul Winter Fest. For others, it’s the City of Lakes Loppet. For our family, it’s the U.S. Pond Hockey Championship that happens just down the street from our house on Lake Nokomis in South Minneapolis. The event happens over 10 days: January 18th – 28th, 2024.  

We’re not the only ones attracted to this annual event. The U.S. Pond Hockey Championship is often listed on Winter Sport Bucket Lists for a can’t-miss experience. And for good reason. Nothing is more Minnesota than a pick-up hockey game on the frozen lakes and ponds of our great state. Is it the shoveling required to clear last night’s snow dump? Is it the magic of skating on water you swam in 6 months ago? Is it the simple joy of skating under a wide open sky? 

us pond hockey championship
US Pond Hockey Championship – Lake Nokomis | photo via Us Pond Hockey Championship

It’s probably all of that. And that’s why we love taking our family to Lake Nokomis every January to witness this true Minnesota experience. 

The U.S. Pond Hockey Championships are an annual pond hockey event on Lake Nokomis in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Though an amateur tournament, the competition draws hockey enthusiasts from all over North America, many of whom have pro and college hockey experience. The teams compete for a trophy called the Golden Shovel. Each year, the winners of each division get to engrave their names into the Golden Shovel in a tradition reminiscent of the NHL’s Stanley Cup.

us pond hockey championship
photo: Rachel Nevergall

I’ll admit, I know very little about hockey. I love to skate but I still can’t figure out how to hold a stick, let alone put it anywhere near a puck. But even I get caught up in the energy of more than two dozen rinks filled with wild cheers all against the backdrop of our lovely lake tucked into an urban setting. And the best part of all of this is it’s a hundred percent free (that is until your six-year-old begs to start playing hockey and then good luck with that bill!)

If you are new to the U.S. Pond Hockey Championship, let me leave you with a few tips to make your experience one you’ll want to return to every year.

Check out Youth Night!

Each year, dozens of area youth hockey teams take advantage of evening “youth ice-time” on a USPHC rink to conduct friendly pick-up games under the lights! It’s a great chance to experience hockey purity — no referees, no rigid rules, and competition among friends and teammates. This year Youth Night is on Wednesday, January 24 and games run 5:30-9 PM.

us pond hockey championship
photo: Rachel Nevergall

Bring your own skates!

That skating bug is contagious when you’re surrounded by all that great hockey! Nestled among the many rinks are some designated for community skating so bring your own skates and experience the energy for yourself! 

us pond hockey championship
photo: Rachel Nevergall

Watch a game!

Of course, a visit to the U.S. Pond Hockey Championship is not complete without actually watching some hockey! Thankfully, it’s impossible to miss. This year the Championship runs January 18-28 and games are both weekends Friday- Sunday until 6 PM. The final championship game is always last but really any game is exciting.

Walk across the lake!

Parking for this event can be tricky. One-way traffic runs clockwise around Lake Nokomis Parkway starting at Cedar and Lake Nokomis Parkway. You can parallel park around the lake or in surrounding neighborhoods and then look for orange shuttle signs to catch the shuttle to the lake. But our family’s favorite way of arriving at the tournament is by walking across the lake. Look for Nokomis Beach Coffee Shop on the east side of the lake, grab a coffee, tea, or hot chocolate, and trek across the lake to get the full magical experience!

us pond hockey championship
photo: Rachel Nevergall

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