By Alexander Baker
Freezing rain is falling on a frigid Ottawa evening, coating the streets and sidewalks in another layer of slick ice and making things very uncomfortable for the few skaters on the Rideau Canal. Despite his nickname, no one is happier than “Angry” Kris Carter.
The cold weather should provide the perfect conditions for the first annual Canadian Pond Hockey Championships. Carter and his team, “The Naked Arts,” will be making the trip to Hunstville, Ontario on the weekend of January 27-29 to participate. “I’m glad it’s cold again, otherwise we would have got up to Huntsville and there’d be no ice,” says the 35-year-old Canadian Forces corporal. “Then there would have been a lot of unhappy sponsors.”
Carter and his military mates will be competing against more than 600 men and women on 124 teams.
The competition has drawn players from across Canada, the United States, Japan, and even Botswana, all in a quest to have their names engraved on the Maple Cup. But Carter says that’s not really why they are playing.
“We’re all excited to do this, it’s gonna be a good time,” says Carter. “We play two games on the first day then two later on. If we lose those first two games, you can bet we’ll have 15 or 20 beers before the next game, that’s for sure.”
Centretown resident “Dirty” Sean Deprés agrees that winning is not important to the success of the trip. The team also includes Marc “Ninja” Gibbon, James “Aquaman” Newell and recent addition Jason Kralt, a linebacker for the Ottawa Renegades.
Kralt is standing in for another Centretown resident and original member of the team. “Tomato Can” Dan Blackwell — so called because he always ends up bloody after hockey games — would have competed in the tournament had he not been deployed to Afghanistan before Christmas.
“Our uniforms are pretty good,” says Deprés. “Marc got white jerseys with white t-shirts on top that say ‘We support single mothers’,” referring to one of the team’s inside jokes.
Hence the team name, which Deprés explains comes from when the guys used to go out to strip clubs and didn’t want to announce it to their girlfriends or wives. They would slyly say they were going to a “naked art show.”
As for the nicknames, Carter says his comes from their men’s league hockey, where he “gets angry a lot.”
“I’m the Darcy Tucker to the Ottawa Senators. I’m a jerk,” he says. “But it’s OK if I take a shot to the face because I’m not that good looking anyway.”
Deprés says his nickname, “Dirty,” doesn’t come from anywhere. But after years of being taunted by Gibbon, the team member with the highest military rank, the moniker has stuck.
“I didn’t even know Sean’s real name for about four months after we met, everyone just called him ‘Dirty’,” says Carter.
Despite the last minute roster change, Deprés says the team doesn’t plan to do much practicing together. The players all know each other and their on-ice habits from the army and men’s leagues.
“Some of the teams have hardcore guys who want to win, like the Steve Bauer team,” says Carter of the former Canadian cyclist whose shinny team is called ‘Bauer’s Bandits’. “But I shouldn’t talk because we have a professional athlete too,” he says, referring to Kralt.
Thankfully for “The Naked Arts,” this tournament isn’t necessarily designed for the die hard hockey player.
“We’re trying to bring back the essence of hockey, where it began, its roots,” says Conrad Galambos, a spokesman for the tournament. “This is a celebration of hockey, on a frozen lake. It’s a winter wonderland.”