With the Olympics taking place during this year’s USA Hockey/Labatt Blue Pond Hockey National Championships, organizers added a different twist.
On Thursday evening when teams came in for check-in, there was a social gathering where players could mingle with other teams. There was a cornhole tournament and the U.S. Olympic Men’s and Women’s Hockey Teams games from earlier that day were shown on replay.
“We had a cornhole tournament going on that was in front of the screen. We had donations to that going to the USA Hockey Foundation,” said Brian Hartman, USA hockey manager, adult hockey. “It was a good time. It was a big party.”
Check-in for the 16th annual USA Hockey/Labatt Blue Pond Hockey National Championships was held at the World Championship Derby Complex in Eagle River, Wisconsin. The tournament was played at picturesque Dollar Lake just east in the small Northwoods town.
“It was an opportunity at the big building inside where people could actually gather and talk to teams from California to New York and Florida to Washington,” said USA Hockey Adult Council Vice President Don Mulder.
“It was just to show the camaraderie, and we wanted to celebrate the Olympic teams even though it was the reruns. They won that morning and we had all known they had won, but we saw it on the big screen that evening.”
The games were shown on a projector screen that spanned an entire wall.
“Obviously, it being the Olympics and us being a USA Hockey tournament, might as well have the big teams on the screen, if we can,” Hartman said.
The social gathering was well received by the players that came through at check-in. Adding the replays of the men’s and women’s games were a nice touch, noted some pond hockey players.
“It helps get you in the mood,” said Jason Cobb, who played for the second time in the event for the Cincinnati Mohawks. “We’re up here for three, four days and we want to play some hockey, so seeing hockey on TV definitely helps with getting you in the mood, that’s for sure.”
Drew Deuster, member of the McGillycuddy’s team out of Milwaukee, agreed.
“It gets you pumped up and ready to start skating,” he said.
Every year, USA Hockey hosts a social gathering where players can have fun and meet other like-minded individuals from throughout the country. However, the event was generally held on Saturday night.
“We didn’t want to interfere because it’s one of the biggest events going for the Eagle River Falcons, who are a full-check adult team,” Mulder said. “We want to make sure we send 1,200 or 1,500 people there to fill the place,” said Mulder, who helped found the USA Hockey Pond Hockey National Championships in 2005.
It’s become tradition for the Falcons to play on Friday and Saturday at the Eagle River Stadium and for pond hockey participants to attend the games.
Deuster likes having the social event on Thursday evening before the actual pond hockey games get underway.
“It’s perfect,” he said. “I think for us, a big part of this is just being up here to have fun, so it’s nice to get up here for an extra night and either relax or go out a little bit and have some fun. Registration the day before is great for us.”
Mulder and the USA Hockey want to continue having fun off-the-ice activities during the USA Hockey/Labatt Blue Pond Hockey National Championships.
The Stanley Cup has appeared twice at the event with the last time being in 2015.
“I want to bring it back again,” the 79-year-old Mulder said. “Hopefully, I can do that before I’m done with my term here.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.