Pond hockey numbers drop slightySixth annual event is Jan. 29-31 at Barker's Island
By: Emily Kram, Superior Telegram
Numbers are down for this year’s pond hockey tournament in Superior, and last year’s frigid weather is not solely to blame.
When the Great Lakes Pond Hockey Classic began in 2005, the Superior Amateur Hockey Association (SAHA) fundraiser had little competition. The biggest concern for organizers was the weather: either too warm, as in 2006, or bitterly cold like 2009.
But now, as the pond hockey classic enters its sixth year, Mother Nature is just a side note. According to tournament organizer Mike McCoshen, the real concern is competition from larger, nationally publicized tournaments.
“I think it’s in a little jeopardy,” McCoshen said of Superior’s tournament. “It really depends upon how long we want to fight with the big guys.”
In 2005, the pond hockey classic near Barker’s Island was one of just a few in the Midwest. Today, Superior must contend with three rival tournaments in a 180-mile radius, McCoshen said.
The U.S. Pond Hockey Championships run today through Sunday on Lake Nokomis in Minneapolis. Registration costs almost twice that of the Great Lakes Pond Hockey Classic, and more than 200 teams are signed up to play.
The North American Pond Hockey Championships are held the same days on Lake Minnetonka, just southwest of the Twin Cities. The Lake Minnetonka tournament is only in its second year, but it has also drawn a large following with the help of its sponsors, including FSN North.
Within Wisconsin’s borders, Superior faces competition from Eagle River. It will host its fifth annual pond hockey championship, backed by USA Hockey, during the second weekend in February. Again, the contest is expected to bring in more than 200 teams.
With so many options, Superior is struggling not to get lost in the shuffle.
This year’s Great Lakes Pond Hockey Classic begins Jan. 29 at Barker’s Island and wraps up in the afternoon Jan. 31. Thirty teams are registered to play in the open and over 40 divisions, and eight mini-mite teams will also compete.
Those numbers are down from 47 total entrants in 2009, which included teams in a women’s division that was dropped this year.
McCoshen said last year’s subzero temperatures probably scared away a few teams, but he is more concerned the classic is simply being overlooked.
If teams choose to play only in the larger pond hockey tournaments, Superior’s annual event could be in trouble. McCoshen said financially, there is no way the Great Lakes Pond Hockey Classic can expect to compete.
However, the loyalty of returning teams is an advantage Superior may have over its larger pond hockey competitors.
Most players who compete in the Great Lakes Pond Hockey Classic have local ties to Superior or the Twin Ports area. Need a Fifth, which won the inaugural event in 2005, is one local team that has returned to play every year.
“Most of us are from the area,” said Chad Matushak. “Four of the five guys on our team grew up and played in Superior.”
Chad Matushak, Jay Matushak, Tim Nelson and Clayton Weiby are all from Superior. Need a Fifth’s final member, Kelly Stephens, is from Minnesota’s Iron Range. The local group won in the tournament’s first year, and has twice been the runner-up.
Two members of the Need a Fifth squad will actually be playing in a Twin Cities tournament this weekend, but Chad Matushak said they’ll all be back in the Northland next week to play at Barker’s Island.
“It’s a great time and you get a chance to see people you might not usually see,” Matushak said. “And it’s a good cause that gives back to the community.”
The annual pond hockey fundraiser has been critical to sustaining youth hockey in Superior. All proceeds from the event go to SAHA, which lost city funding in recent years.
“Dollar amounts vary from year to year, but we have raised over $55,000 to date,” McCoshen said.
This year’s games will be held outside. When volunteers began layout work for the rinks Sunday, McCoshen said the ice measured about 21 inches thick. His only concern now is getting sufficient snow to create the rink boundaries.
“We can haul in snow, but we’d prefer not to,” he said.
2005 — Need a Fifth (Tim Nelson, Chad Matushak and Jay Matushak and Kelly Stephens)
2006 — Gopher Rejects (Justin Johnson, Chris Green, Brian Delwiche, Matt Hupila)
2007 — Armadillos (Jeremy Enders, Jamie Dowson, Ryan Johnson, Ryan Sustawenko)
2008 — Lucky’s/Shenannigan’s (Ryan O’Neill, Dan Krenn, Dave Coleman, Andy Klapperick)
2009 — Heavy Metal Hockey (Steve Rodberg, Ryan Vieau, Rheese Carlson, Ben Johnson, Tony Scherber)
2007 — MHL Fab Four (Rick Eisenmann, Ken Mertz, Gary Kucharyski, Steve Sorenson, Mike Susens)
2008 — Too Old & Cold (Terry Schold, Travis Schold, Greg Kaake, Pete Hanson)
2009 — Rusty Five (Gary Gilbertson, Joel Heikes, Dane Youngblom, Russ Williams, Mike Hinaus)
2009 — Don Leigh’s Ladies (Jill Thompson, Terri Fair, Stephanie Keup, Erica VanDamme, DeeDee Kolanczyk)
2010 Schedule of Events
Friday, Jan. 29
4 p.m. — Great Lakes Classic Pond Hockey site officially opens
4-6 p.m. — Team registration. All teammates must register. Players failing to check in and sign releases will not be allowed to play.
5-11 p.m. — Food, bonfire and live music with “Fatt Chance”
5:45 p.m. — Opening ceremonies
6 p.m. — First round games begin
9 p.m. — Last games of the evening begin
Saturday, Jan. 30
10 a.m.-3:30 p.m. — Tournament play continues
11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. — Mite 1 Jamboree
Sunday, Jan. 31
10 a.m. — Medal round begins
10 a.m. — Mite 1 Jamboree continues
12 p.m. — Senior division championship game
1 p.m. — Open division championship game
KQDS, Bud Light, Benna Ford, TMNT, Belknap Liquor, Lucky Pucks, Rusty Blades, St. Paul Wolfpack, Pattison Rink Rats, Boozebags, Brent Johnson DDS, Play it Again, Gopher Rejects, Lost Tavern, Heavy Metal Hockey, Buffalo House, Twin Ports Pucksters, Young Gunz, Grumpy’s, Moorsoupials, Dodgie’s Need a 5th, Something Sweet, Bank of Barnum, Fighting Sturgeon.
DFO’s, Screen Graphics/Bachand, Columbia Bean, Too Old & Cold, Rusty Five, Landing/Bulldog Pizza.