If you saw a quartet of guys with hockey sticks in hand scooting across the Lake Helen ice Monday and Tuesday, you didn’t take a wrong turn that took you to Minnesota.
It was actually the unofficial Lake Helen Pond Hockey Club, according to one of the skaters, Anthony Fontaine. It was a moment of living his best life.
“I live for this weather,” he said. “It reminds me of being a kid up north.”
Fontaine fondly remembered being a kid who would go skate with his dad and play hockey at The University of Connecticut. Good times also were had skating on the ice-covered stream behind his house.
Joined Monday by some friends who also are members of the Fort Sill Roller Hockey Team, Fontaine said he was partnered with like-minded and experienced ice jockeys.
“We’ve all been playing pond hockey since we were kids,” he said. “I’ve been trying to find useable ice here for years and it’s never been safe enough until this year.”
Highly conscientious of warnings about skating onto thin ice, Fontaine said one of the club members went out and tested the thickness of Lake Helen in Elmer Thomas Park by drilling into and measuring it.
“It was between 4 and 5 inches thick,” he said. “I’ve never seen these wind chills here before.”
Recognizing that warnings about venturing onto the ice are “completely understandable,” Fontaine said he’s never seen temperatures hit and stay this low in Oklahoma before. The temptation was too great.
“There’s always a risk involved, and we took every precaution,” he said. “We had people standing by with life preservers and the part of the lake we are on is only a few feet deep.”
Fontaine said there are definitely parts of the lake that won’t ever be ready to play on. Several people who pulled up after seeing what was going on tried to walk out onto another part of the lake. The club immediately warned them it wasn’t safe, he said.
As far as safety goes, Fontaine said none of the club recommend a layperson go try and find ice to walk on.
“The warnings from Lawton Fire Department and Lawton Police Department are 100 percent valid,” he said. “Someone could get hurt or even killed and we unequivocally do not recommend doing this unless you know what you’re doing.”
It’s about having fun but being safe. Fontaine said knowledge is the power to making that combination work.
“We just want everyone to be safe and have a great time, but this isn’t for everyone,” he said. “Be safe, be smart, take every precaution, and have fun.”