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Windsor's Long Pond, where hockey began, is up for sale

Registered hockey teams hit the ice for three games during the Long Pond Hockey Heritage Classic on Jan. 27, 2018.
Two unidentified men skate on Long Pond during the Long Pond Hockey Heritage Classic on Jan. 27, 2018. - Carole Morris-Underhill

The pond at the heart of Windsor’s claim to fame as the birthplace of hockey is up for grabs.

Long Pond, situated on a three-hectare parcel, is being sold as part of a package that includes an adjacent 6.6-hectare lot. The College Road properties are listed through Halifax-based Avison Young senior commercial advisor Dave Kerr for $1.38 million. 

Windsor’s Dill family, well known for the late Howard Dill’s world-renowned giant pumpkins, have long been the stewards of Long Pond and synonymous with hockey history in the community. 

The family has made international headlines sharing stories of historic finds in and around Long Pond, and by hosting big names at the site dubbed the cradle of hockey. 

Danny Dill continues to grow giant pumpkins on the famed farm where his father toiled, not far from the iconic pond at the back of the family’s property.

“It’s taking its toll over the years when you’re dealing with the legacies of dad,” he said Monday.

Dill hopes to devote more time and attention to building on the family’s farming legacy once Long Pond sells.

“We love the game of hockey… but we’ve been at this gig since basically 1988 and it’s just time to move ahead,” he said, noting that the pond regularly draws visitors from near and far.

“It’s just a lot to look after and you’re basically kind of here 24/7, 365 days a year.”

Danny Dill, left, has managed a farming operation and Long Pond for years now, but has begun to feel the weight of managing both. Here he's shown pouring a Long Pond ale at a fundraising event at a downtown Windsor bar in June. - Colin Chisholm
Danny Dill, left, has managed a farming operation and Long Pond for years now, but has begun to feel the weight of managing both. Here he's shown pouring a Long Pond ale at a fundraising event at a downtown Windsor bar in June. - Colin Chisholm

Dill believes Long Pond, with its name trademarked in 2005, could be built into an attraction akin to Cavendish’s Green Gables Heritage Place on Prince Edward Island, or New York State’s baseball mecca, Cooperstown. 

“I’ve just been thinking about this a lot in the last few months and you’d just like to see somebody hopefully take it on and… really do wonders with it,” Dill said.

His family has opened the site up to filming activity and community events throughout the years, but proudly preserved the natural setting.

The inaugural Long Pond Heritage Classic tournament was hosted in 2012, creating an opportunity for hockey enthusiasts to face off against players who rose to the ranks of the NHL.

The Dills will continue to showcase hockey artifacts, including treasures plucked from the grounds of Long Pond.

“I’d love to do something with the hockey collection someday. I only have about five per cent of it – if that – out on display in that building,” said Dill, referring to a museum located on the neighbouring farm and homestead that will remain in the family.

“The rest of it is in the house. I’d like to find a home for that someday.”

A news release Avison Young circulated to announce the listing alludes to the property’s rich history.

“Historians have unearthed evidence of hockey being played on Long Pond since the early 1800s, including an account by Sam Slick author Thomas Haliburton, who wrote about boys on Long Pond playing a spirited game of hurley, believed to be the first account of a hockey game as we know it today,” it states.

“The family has assembled one of the largest private collections of hockey memorabilia in Canada, started by Howard Dill in the 1940s.”

Danny Dill said his father had the College Road property subdivided before he passed away in 2008.

“He knew the day was going to come,” he said. 

The family, he said, is moving forward with gratitude for plenty of highlight reel moments linked to Long Pond. In addition to hosting many legendary hockey greats at the site, the Dills also welcomed Don Cherry and Ron MacLean to Long Pond for a filming of CBC’s Hockey Day in Canada in 2002.

“How many people have the Stanley Cup come knocking at your door?”

Andrew Dill, owner of Need A Stick? Ltd., tries to prevent retired NHLer Wendel Clark from scoring during the Long Pond tournament in 2018. - Carole Morris-Underhill
Andrew Dill, owner of Need A Stick? Ltd., tries to prevent retired NHLer Wendel Clark from scoring during the Long Pond tournament in 2018. - Carole Morris-Underhill

Dill hopes someone with the means to transform Long Pond into what he always thought it could be will step forward.

“It’s time to pass the torch,” he said. 

Mayor Anna Allen called a special meeting of council upon hearing the news that Long Pond is on the market. 

“Long Pond certainly has a significant value to our town,” she said. 

Town of Windsor officials continue to view hockey heritage as a vital part of the community’s identity, Allen said. 

“We have great respect for the decision of the Dill family and… we will continue to support Long Pond in its future.”

Editor's note: The 2020 Long Pond heritage Classic is planned for Jan. 25.

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