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‘El Nino’ plays havoc with Pond Hockey Classic

The Anchor Bar/Belknap Lounge team (black) plays Riches Bitches in pool play Saturday afternoon at the Superior Ice Arena. Action continues through Sunday. (Jed Carlson/ / 4
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After a week of biting cold and sub-zero temperatures, Irv Mossberger had just one thought Thursday:

If only it had come sooner.

“That El Nino,” said Mossberger, president of the Superior Curling Club. “We didn’t hit zero until two weeks ago.”

The stretch of warm weather that lasted through December has derailed the curling club’s efforts to host a bonspiel on Lake Superior.


Last year marked the inaugural Big Pond Bonspiel, but warm weather forced the curlers indoors on the first day of the event. Temperatures cooled for the second day, and Mossberger said the lake ice was “perfect” for the brief time they were able to play on it.

But organizers have no hope the ice will be playable this year.

“The lake is just too warm right now to form any ice,” Mossberger said.

Surface ice has formed, but it’s not nearly as substantial as organizers would like. Ice depth was measured at about 7 inches at the start of last week. Mossberger said 12 inches is the minimum needed to play, with 18 inches needed for heavy equipment like ice resurfacing machines.

“So we’re not even close,” Mossberger said.

Organizers made the decision last week to cancel the Big Pond Bonspiel this year.

The 12th annual Great Lakes Pond Hockey Classic, however, will go on.

“We’re not indoors yet, but we are moving to the outside (rinks) at SAHA,” said Jason Rauner, tournament organizer.

The pond hockey games will run Friday through Sunday on the outdoor rinks behind the Superior Ice Arena. The two rinks will be divided in half, and games will be played four at a time.

If temperatures rise above freezing Saturday, as predicted, play would be restricted to the morning and evening to preserve the ice.

 “Worst case scenario, we end up inside,” Rauner said.

As of Monday, 19 teams were signed up to play in this year’s Great Lakes Pond Hockey Classic. None of the teams backed out after learning of the change of venue.

“We’ve had to move it three times out of 12 back to SAHA,” Rauner said. “This is the first time that it’s due to ice.”

In the past, the pond hockey tournament was relocated due to lack of snow and warm weather. The games were previously moved off the lake in 2006, when warm weather created poor ice conditions, and in 2012, when snow was in short supply.

“It’s something different every single year,” Rauner said. “You just have to move with what Mother Nature throws at you.”

Aside from the location change, Rauner said the pond hockey event will go on just as it has in the past, with food for sale by Upper Lakes Foods and a tent set up for spectators.

The Big Pond Bonspiel planners, meanwhile, are undaunted by their streak of bad luck.

The weather has been uncooperative the past two years, Mossberger said, but they will not give up on the idea of a Lake Superior bonspiel.

“We’ll be back,” he said. “Some of us are going to go down there (to the pond hockey games) to check it out and cheer them on.”

NOTES: Mites and mini-mite players will compete this weekend, but those games have been moved indoors to the Superior Ice Arena. … Bud Light/Dugout Lounge will be going for its sixth consecutive open division title this year. No other team has ever won back-to-back open division titles. Members of last year’s Bud Light/Dugout Lounge team were Rheese Carlson, Dustin Cosgrove, Kevin Kuklinski, Dustin LaValley, Derek Miller and Kyle Nosan. All are former UW-Superior Yellowjackets but Kuklinski, who played at St. Scholastica. … The Superior Curling Club will host the 83rd annual Northwest Bonspiel Feb. 26-28.  More information can be found on the club’s website (

Past Winners

Great Lakes Pond Hockey Classic

Open Division

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 — Bug 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)

Senior Division

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)

2010 — Too Old & Cold (Terry Schold, Travis Schold, Gary Kucharyski, Pete Hanson)

2013 — Too Old & Cold (Ryan Schold, Terry Schold, Travis Schold, Gary Kucharyski, Ken Mertz)

Women’s Division

2009 — Don Leigh’s Ladies (Jill Thompson, Terri Fair, Stephanie Keup, Erica VanDamme, DeeDee Kolanczyk)

Big Pond Bonspiel

2015 — A Event: Seitz (Superior); B Event: King (La Crosse); C Event: Button Up (Duluth)