Ice hockey on a frozen Lake Watauga shut down by Metro Park Police

Posted at 5:08 PM, Feb 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-17 19:51:47-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — In a park that celebrates Nashville's history, a group of hockey players are confident they're making a little of their own.

"Yea it’s just the thrill of it," said Clayton Wood, a die-hard hockey player. "I have been a resident here for 24 years and this has never happened."

By mid-morning, what started as a few passionate hockey players turned into a frozen outdoor scrimmage on top of a frozen Lake Watauga at Centennial Park. While the clean sheet of ice may be a dream for skating enthusiasts, on the far end of the pond where the water was deeper, the ice had already melted. There were wet pockets on the end where skaters were too. "Definitely some spots out there that are kind of sketchy," said Wood.

Metro Nashville's Emergency Diving Instructor says that's all it might take. "Everybody wants to have fun but things can turn in an instant," said David Crane with Metro's Office of Emergency Management.

He would know. About five years ago, Crane took part in a rescue operation for one of his own men out on Lake Watauga. The entire team of divers are volunteers, providing this service for free for Metro's Office of Emergency Management.

"In a training environment, we went one of our technicians out across the ice and he got out fair enough that the ice broke. Unfortunately for him, the water was so deep he was not able to self-rescue," said Crane.

Plus, it's not just skaters putting themselves at risk. Rescuers often have to brave the dangerous waters too, all on borrowed time.

"Getting to the scene and setting up a rescue involves time that the victim hopefully has," said Crane.

The clock ran out on the Centennial Park skaters just before noon Wednesday. NewsChannel 5 was there when the officer told skaters to leave. The officer told Wood he could write them a citation for breaking a Metro ordinance.

As you might expect, Wood was disappointed their effort to make history was put on ice.

"I understand from their perspective they’re just trying to do a job. It does kind of suck that it has to end a little early," said Wood.

In reality, law enforcement was just trying to make sure history wasn't repeated.

NewsChannel 5 reached out to Metro Parks for comment about kicking the skaters out. They sent us this statement:

We have four signs up around the lake that state, “Warning! Unsafe Ice.” While we recognize that people are looking for viable recreational options - skating, hockey, and other ice activities on Lake Watauga are extremely dangerous and obviously carry the very serious consequence of endangering the violator as well as those having to execute potential rescue activities. We urge people to exercise good judgement and not attempt to walk across or play on frozen ponds. The consequences could be disastrous. Look for and enjoy other recreational options.