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Pond hockey helps heal Grand Lake after East Troublesome Fire

The annual tournament draws hundreds of players from across the country.

GRAND LAKE, Colo. — Brian Blumenfeld created the Grand Lake Pond Hockey Classic in 2016, but he believes the event is needed now more than ever after the East Troublesome Fire – the second largest wildfire in Colorado history – tore through his town.

"The East Troublesome Fire came through Grand Lake two Octobers ago and devastated this area, took out hundreds of structures. It killed a couple of people," Blumenfeld said.

He is working to have his amateur hockey tournament rejuvenate an area that needs it. The games are played on the frozen surface of Grand Lake. The tournament draws hundreds of players from across the country from as far away as Alaska.

"More of a tailgate party than a sporting event kind of vibe," Blumenfeld said. "But, also a tailgate party that's not just a tailgate party. It's one that celebrates the sport of hockey. It celebrates the town of Grand Lake and the glory of this area."

Blumenfeld said he wants to bring people back to the original joy of hockey outside on a lake – skating on imperfect ice.

"Lake ice is lake ice," he said. "It's not in an arena with a Zamboni. Lake ice has it's own natural quirks, natural cracks, as well."

Hockey player Glenn Elkins said he appreciates the imperfections.

"The playing surface is much worse on the pond, but that's part of the allure, the romance behind it," Elkins said. "The bad ice almost levels the playing field for us that actually suck at the game."

But, the joy of hockey isn't the only thing that makes this special for Blumenfeld. It's the love.

"What even makes it more special is the very first annual Pond Hockey Tournament that just kind of started up out of thin air, that very day, I met my wife whom I married this past May on the ice wearing hockey skates," Blumenfeld said.

Mackenzie Brenneman said he skated up to her and introduced himself.

"It was love at first sight, truly," she said. "We fell in love on hockey skates on Grand Lake which was really special."

She said she knew what she was getting into with Blumenfeld and the annual Pond Hockey Classic.

"Every year, I mean it's kind of like re-living the first day we met, and that's really special for both of us," she said. "It's a fun day for him. It's probably something he looks forward to all year. So, I like to be a part of it."

Blumenfeld said he believes it was meant to be.

"It's out of the beauty of this tournament, the beauty of this place," he said. "My wife's also – her whole family's Canadian, and so I couldn't really think of a more true Canadian romance than that."

It' a romance and an event that Blumenfeld said brings hope to a place that is still recovering from the East Troublesome Fire.

"As big as a tragedy as that was, it didn't come anywhere to putting this town down," Blumenfeld said. "This town is as good as it ever was and will continue to be as good as it ever can be."

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