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Couple says Lake Chipican like a ‘frozen Field of Dreams’

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Cathy Dobson

Brian DeWagner wants to be perfectly clear about the stories he writes and posts for the Lake Chipican Hockey Co.

They’re mostly fiction.

There might be a smattering of truth to some of them, but most are just for fun and based on a simple premise – having a good time with the time-honoured tradition of pond hockey.

DeWagner’s story about the crates of booze dumped into the lake during Prohibition? Not true.

The yarn he wrote about a toddler named Emma Manning who became the seventh member of a 1924 Chip Lake women’s team and the first two-year-old to score a goal in league play? Pure malarkey.

So why bother?

“We do it because we’ve built a community of sorts with these pond stories. Getting out on the ice is something so simple and brings us together when everything else seems to be tearing us apart,” explains DeWagner, a counsellor for at-risk students with the Lambton Kent District School Board.

Prior to the pandemic, he and wife June Partridge developed a reputation for creating local fun for kids, first with a girls’ field lacrosse league called Janie Lax, and later by introducing non-hockey girls to Canada’s game at the Janie Puck Sauce Academy.

With so many limitations on organized sports over the past two years, the couple turned to their love of pond hockey culture to keep the family active.

The focus of their Instagram and Facebook posts is Lake Chipican in Canatara Park. Hockey ponds at Twin Lakes, Heritage Park, Logan Pond, Marthaville, Petrolia, Blue Point, and Mitchell’s Bay also get attention.

As well, there’s feature posts about favourite backyard and neighbourhood rinks, like the one groomed by residents of McMillen Parkway.

The Lake Chipican Hockey Co. formed last spring but really took off this winter when arenas shut down and frozen ponds turned into recreational hubs all over Sarnia-Lambton.

“Like a lot of people, Canatara Park is a big part of our lives,” said DeWagner who has two daughters, Zoey, 13, and Maggie, 9. “When Chipican freezes over, we’re on it every day.”

Figure skaters, hockey players, families and friends have been getting out on ponds all over the region, no matter how cold it gets.

“It’s such a pandemic release for people,” he said.

“The way pond hockey and skating pull people together and give them community is inspiring. We have a lot of local people who respond, but also people from all over the U.S. and Canada who have stories about Lake Chipican.”

His Lake Chipican Hockey Co. posts not only celebrate pond time, they rely heavily on historic photos and the stories they evoke about characters with epic names like the Chip League’s Sean Schmershinch and the Mooretown Lady Ramblers’ Charity Harse.

The endeavor began almost by accident when DeWagner and Partridge made some sweatshirts for themselves using heat press equipment they have at home.

Others asked for them and before long they started an Instagram account.

“We feel so lucky to live in Sarnia,” said DeWagner who grew up near Wallaceburg. “We knew that we needed a way to come together when so many of us are so busy drifting apart,” he wrote in a post this month.

“Lake Chipican has become its own frozen Field of Dreams.”







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