skip navigation

The Northstars Never Miss a Trip To Eagle River

By Greg Bates - Special to, 08/29/15, 11:00AM MDT


The Bloomington, Ill., team played their in fifth straight Pond Hockey Championships in 2015

Every year, there are a number of teams from Bloomington, Ill., that head up to Eagle River, Wis., for the Labatt Blue/USA Hockey Pond Hockey Championships.

One team that makes it a point to never miss the tournament is the Northstars. The 2015 event was their fifth straight year competing.

“It’s probably one of the most fun weekends we have all year,” said Northstars team member Darren Burns, who has played in the Pond Hockey Championships the past nine years after missing the inaugural event. “We’re all adults, have kids, jobs, and this is a weekend just to kind of get away. Most of us grew up playing hockey on the ponds as a kid, throwing our shoes in the snowbanks and playing a game after school or whatever.”

Team member Brian Olson first laced up his skates at the tournament in 2011.

“I kept hearing about it and I thought, ‘Gosh, that sounds like fun.’ Finally, Darren was like, ‘We should get a team together,’” Olson said. “Some of their guys dropped out and we formed this team five years ago, and it’s been truly fun.”

Olson loves being able to spend time with his friends and share a few laughs.

“It’s just coming up here, being with the guys for three straight days,” Olson said. “Most of the fun times we have are off the ice. Being out on the pond is truly, truly going back to when you were a kid, getting on the ice and just having fun. I think that’s what brings us back every year.

“It’s not like adult league where you’re out competing against guys you know all the time. It’s so nice coming up here; you get to see guys from all over. The majority are out here to have fun, and we enjoy it.”

The Northstars compete annually in the Bronze 30+ Division, even though the majority of their players are over 40 years old.

The guys seem to like the competition in the division and fared well this past winter. The team finished 3-1 and just missed out on the playoffs, getting narrowly beaten out with a +27 goal differential (58-31).

The Northstars players, who now have kids playing hockey, have gotten to know one another after competing for more than a decade in an adult hockey league in Bloomington. It’s a little different in Eagle River when they play on the same team, since when they play at home they’re usually on opposite teams.

“Some of us will be on the same team throughout the year and sometimes we won’t — it’s all over the place,” Burns said. “But we’re all close friends, so when we come up here it’s awesome.”

The Northstars have a core group of four or five guys who have to head up north every year to get to the Pond Hockey Championships.

With good, intense games on the ice and no shortage of laughs and bonding opportunities afterward, it’s easy for them to keep coming back.

“Everybody’s a decent skill level and everybody truly loves the sport of hockey,” Burns said.

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

Adult Hockey News

Popular Articles & Features

The Healthy Hockey Lifestyle

By Aaron Paitich 03/17/2013, 7:15pm MDT

Playing hockey can play a big role in staying healthy as an adult

Adult hockey not only promotes a healthy and active lifestyle, it requires it. As adults get older, they increasingly need to emphasize regular exercise and a nutritious diet. There’s no easy way to go about it—but there is a fun, challenging and rewarding option that sticks with you for life:


That’s right. Hockey is part of the perfect prescription for an adults’ health regiment. Just ask Olympian and former NHL player Steve Jensen.

“Physical fitness is something we should all be thinking about as we get older,” says Jensen, a longtime certified USA Hockey coach/official. “There’s no better activity than hockey to stay in shape.”

Dr. Michael Stuart, chief medical officer for USA Hockey, says the positives of playing hockey are contagious.

“Participation in ice hockey provides all the benefits of exercise while building friendships and ensuring a fun time,” says Stuart, who is also the vice-chair of Orthopedic Surgery and the co-director of the Sports Medicine Center at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

Dr. Stuart and colleague Dr. Edward Laskowski of the Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine Center sketch out specific benefits for hockey players:

  • Prevents excess weight gain and/or maintain weight loss.
  • Boosts high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or “good” cholesterol, and decreases unhealthy triglycerides, a cominbination that lowers your risk of cardiovascular diseases.
  • Stimulates various brain chemicals that may leave you feeling happier and more relaxed.
  • Improves muscle strength and boosts your endurance.
  • Relieves stress by helping you have fun and unwind, connect with friends and family, and be part of a team.
  • Involves physical activity that can help you fall asleep faster and deepen your sleep.

“Playing adult hockey is a great way to feel better, gain health benefits and have fun,” says Stuart, who also emphasizes maintaining a balanced diet. As for safety concerns, he adds: “The risk of injury is small in no-check, adult hockey games, but players should wear high-quality, well-fitting equipment, including a helmet and facial protection.”

The Minnesota-based Adult Hockey Association is starting to see employers embrace hockey as a health and performance benefit for its workforce. Some businesses are beginning to subsidize hockey registration fees for employees because they feel the activity fits the policy of their wellness programs.

“It’s not a lot, but we’re starting to see more and more trickle in,” says Dave Swenson, the AHA’s secretary treasurer who also serves on USA Hockey’s Adult Council and Minnesota Hockey’s Board of Directors.

Swenson wants this trend to continue growing, not just to see the number of players rise, but to reward players for committing to a healthy lifestyle.

“I’m hoping employers think about that a little more,” Swenson adds. “It’s not just softball leagues anymore. There are recreational hockey opportunities out there for adults.”

Hilary McNeish, a longtime player, ambassador, and current executive director of the Women’s Association of Colorado Hockey, says she sees the positive results in women’s hockey every day.

“There are so many benefits,” says McNeish, “but the quote I hear most from ladies is: ‘It’s like working out a lot, but it’s so fun, it doesn’t feel like working out!’”

Aside from the physical health gains, there’s also a mental side to the story that’s special to hockey players.

“There are so many positive experiences that come with it,” adds McNeish. “Being able to play a sport that so many deem difficult is also great for the mind and wonderful for your personal attitude.

“It’s great to see the looks from people when you can say, ‘I play hockey’”

5 Stickhandling Drills to Step Up Your Game

By Michael Rand 09/13/2017, 11:00am MDT

One of the most elemental aspects of hockey is stickhandling

An Olympic Old-Timer's Wisdom

By Jessi Pierce 06/07/2016, 10:30am MDT

Age is just a number for the 2016 USA Hockey Adult Player of the Year