‘Grassroots hockey at its finest’ bringing close to 1,000 kids to the Trent Canal

Annual Under The Lock Hockey Tournament returns February 4 and 5 for a ninth year

Under The Lock founder and chair Dave Smith, Mayor Daryl Bennett, and Peterborough Petes general manager Mike Oke (photo: Paul Rellinger / kawarthaNOW)
Under The Lock founder and chair Dave Smith, Mayor Daryl Bennett, and Peterborough Petes general manager Mike Oke (photo: Paul Rellinger / kawarthaNOW)

When Richard Birdsall Rogers first sketched, in the late 1800s, his vision for what would rise as the Peterborough Lift Lock, missing were the people who, over the ensuing 120-plus years, would give life to the landmark.

That trend will continue in a very big way February 4 and 5 as the Under The Lock Hockey Tournament returns for a ninth year to the Trent Canal in the huge shadow of its namesake. On Wednesday (January 25), tournament organizers provided details of the event which, this year, will see 62 teams lace ’em up to, according to tournament founder and chair Dave Smith, play the game the way it’s clearly meant to be played.

“This represents everything that’s good about hockey … there’s nothing more Canadian than playing shinny on the pond or playing ball hockey on the street,” said Smith, noting teams will face off in three divisions — boys, girls and sledge hockey, from novice age through to bantam.

“It represents the best parts of hockey. Boy, girls, physically challenged … they’re all equal. We have 977 players registered. That’s 977 families that will be coming into Peterborough. The economic impact of that is going to be in the neighbourhood of $1.2 to $1.5 million. That’s a great thing for our community.”

Smith adds the long-range weather forecast is calling for ideal ice conditions come tournament weekend but a contingency plan, which would see ball hockey take the place of its ice cousin on the courts at the Quaker Tennis Club.

Among the event’s partners is the Peterborough Petes, who will do battle with the Oshawa Generals on Saturday, February 4th at 7:05 p.m. at the Peterborough Memorial Centre.

That’s also the annual Pink In The Rink game which sees funds raised at the game through various initiatives given to women’s cancer research through the local Canadian Cancer Society office. Pink In The Rink has raised more than $450,000 since its inception in 2010.

Under The Lock participants can visit www.underthelock.com to order discounted tickets for the game.

In addition, every player is entered into a draw for signed Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens jerseys, donated by NHL legends George Armstrong and Ken Dryden respectively.

Other partners are Lansdowne Place and Downtown Business Improvement Area (DBIA), each of which is providing shopping passports to be included in players’ packages. When the passports are handed in February 5th, an extra draw ballot will be awarded for each store stamp collected.

The Under the Lock Hockey Tournament is held on the Trent Canal by the Peterborough Lift Lock (photo: Under the Lock / Facebook)
The Under the Lock Hockey Tournament is held on the Trent Canal by the Peterborough Lift Lock (photo: Under the Lock / Facebook)

Smith later pointed to the unique opportunity Under The Lock provides participants.

“A number of these kids have never skated on natural ice before,” he said.

“When you combine that with the style of game it is on the canal, it’s a lot more creative. Kids don’t get the opportunity to go out and just play. Practices are very structured, the games are very structured. When you’re on the canal, you don’t have the boards on the side, so it changes the whole dynamic. It’s no longer about one or two players who make an exceptional difference. It really does become a team game. Those teams that under the advantage of a five- to eight-foot pass do very well.”

Smith says the continuing strong response of Under The Clock hasn’t surprised him…with one exception.

“Where we’re at today, this is what the plan was, to get to this size. Exceeding my expectations was 2013 when Hockey Day In Canada came. I don’t think anyone imagined we were going to have that kind of exposure.”

Over the years, Smith notes he has fielded calls from minor hockey associations in Toronto and Ottawa looking to host a similar tournament in their areas.

“Hockey Canada agreed to sanction our tournament because there’s only eight inches of water underneath the ice. If you play in the Toronto harbour, there’s definitely more than eight inches of water. Even the Ottawa canal, there’s a number of feet of water below. If a child ever went through the ice here, which they’re not going to because we have a foot of ice, the top of their boot would get wet.”

For his part, Petes general manager Mike Oke say the hockey club’s involvement is as close to a no-brainer as there is.

“We value the relationships we have with local minor hockey associations; these participants are our future fans,” said Oke, who coached a team at a previous Under The Lock tournament.

“Even our players take time out of their weekend to go down and see firsthand what it’s all about. They’re in awe of the event. It’s grassroots hockey at its finest.”

On-ice action begins at 7:30 a.m. February 4 and continues into Sunday afternoon with a full slate of non-stop games scheduled both days.

For the full schedule and other information, visit www.underthelock.com.