Warm weather forced a change of venue last year, but the Great Lakes Pond Hockey Classic is staying put for 2017.
Organizers are confident the ice at Barker’s Island will be up to the test this weekend, despite a recent string of above-average daily temperatures.
Dave Johnson, dubbed the tournament’s “ice king,” was smoothing out cracks in the ice Thursday and planned to finish preparation today with an ice-resurfacing machine.
“I think we have good ice,” Johnson said. “We’ve had better ice, but I think we’ll be OK.”
As of Thursday, the ice depth near Barker’s Island measured 16 inches. Johnson said the ice was at 20 inches earlier in the month, but the recent warm-up created a setback.
“We didn’t need that melt,” he said. “Everybody else loved it, but it didn’t help us.”
A thin layer of slush covered the ice earlier this week, but even then tournament organizer Mike McCoshen felt confident the pond hockey games would be held on the ice near Barker’s Island as planned.
“I’m pretty confident. I would say 85 percent confident we’re going to stay,” McCoshen said Tuesday. “I think that weeklong — or two weekslong — cold snap be had before will allow us to weather this weeklong warm-up.”
The 13th annual Great Lakes Pond Hockey Classic begins today and this year is part of a larger celebration: the Lake Superior Ice Festival.
McCoshen, one of the founders of the pond hockey tournament, was excited about the new partnership. He organized the tournament for its first eight years before handing off duties in 2013.
“We hope it will draw more people,” McCoshen said. “It’s just a good community event.”
Twenty teams registered for this year’s pond hockey tournament. That number is up one from last year but still down from the 13-year average of 30 teams, McCoshen said.
Among the teams returning are the 2016 open division champions, Anchor Bar/Belknap Lounge, and last year’s runner-up, Bud Light/Dugout Lounge. Anchor Bar/Belknap Lounge defeated Bud Light/Dugout Lounge 31-30 in the championship game.
Before last year’s loss, Bud Light/Dugout Lounge had won the open division title a record five times, from 2011 to 2015.
Other favorites returning are the Wet Bandits and the Gopher Rejects, who won the title in 2006 and will be playing in their 13th tournament.
The 2017 pond hockey games begin today at 7 p.m. and run through the weekend, ending with the championship game at 1:30 p.m. Sunday. Saturday’s game will start later than in previous years. The Mini Mites will play from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., and adult pond hockey games will run from 1:30 to 6:30 p.m.
Fireworks will follow the last game at 7:30 p.m.
The Great Lakes Pond Hockey Classic serves as a fundraiser for the Superior Amateur Hockey Association. All proceeds go toward youth hockey.
NOTES: The 2016 pond hockey games were moved to the outside rinks by Superior Ice Arena due to poor ice conditions near Barker’s Island. The tournament was also relocated in 2006 and 2012. … Plans to hold an outdoors bonspiel in conjunction with the pond hockey tournament were put on hold this year after two unsuccessful attempts in 2015 and 2016. Curlers were able to play a limited schedule in 2015, but the bonspiel was canceled entirely in 2016. “We feel bad,” McCoshen said. “We’re all under the same deal — the single biggest factor in an outdoor event is weather.”
Members of the police and fire departments will face off against each other at 6 p.m. today at Barker’s Island to kick off the Lake Superior Ice Festival, which runs through Sunday.
Ice sculptures and the Orb 365 art installation will be available for viewing all weekend on Barker’s Island, with an ice sculpting demo for kids from 11 a.m. to noon Saturday. The Superior Business Improvement District trolley will shuttle visitors to and from the festival in a constant loop between Barker’s Island; Vintage Italian Pizza, 1201 Tower Ave.; and Belknap Plaza, 130 Belknap St.
Saturday events include a local arts and crafts fair from 9 a.m. to noon, kids’ zone activities from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., the Enbridge half-pipe snow slide from 9 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., open ice skating from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., a bonfire with s’mores from 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. and a tiny diva princess party from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Visit the Barker’s Island Inn’s ice bar, take advantage of the hay bale shuttle and watch a trio of sporting events. In addition to pond hockey, Barker’s Island will be the site of Frozen Fore Golf from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Lake Superior Ice Racing Association stock car action from noon to 5 p.m. The Midwest Ice Racing Association was initially scheduled to host races, but those have been rescheduled for Feb. 4
Open ice skating will be available from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday, as well.
For more information, visit superioricefestival.com or the Lake Superior Ice Festival Facebook page.
Great Lakes Pond Hockey Classic
2005 — Need a Fifth (Tim Nelson, Chad Matushak, Jay Matushak, 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)
2010 — Dodgie’s/Need a Fifth (Chad Matushak, Tim Nelson, Clayton Weiby, Kelly Stephens, Chris Sislo)
2011 — Bud Light/Dugout Lounge (Kyle Nosan, Kevin Kuklinski, Eric Bausano, Dustin LaValley, Eric Dahlberg)
2012 — Bud Light/Dugout Lounge (Rheese Carlson, Eric Dahlberg, Kyle Nosan, Kevin Kuklinski, Dustin LaValley)
2013 — Bud Light/Dugout Lounge (Rhesse Carlson, Eric Dahlberg, Kyle Nosan, Kevin Kuklinski, Dustin LaValley)
2014 — Bud Light/Dugout Lounge (Rheese Carlson, Dustin Cosgrove, Eric Dahlberg, Kevin Kuklinski, Dustin LaValley, Kyle Nosan)
2015 — Bud Light/Dugout Lounge (Rheese Carlson, Dustin Cosgrove, Kevin Kuklinski, Dustin LaValley, Derek Miller, Kyle Nosan)
2016 — Anchor Bar/Belknap Lounge (Chris Bishop, Pat Dalbec, Kellen McCoshen, Dane Morin, Tom Paine, Tim Smith)