Last summer, the ice was melting at a rink in Champaign, Illinois. So some adult hockey players made the 50-mile drive every week to Bloomington, Illinois, to skate.
Julian Scheirer and his teammates from Champaign met Nick Vogt. The guys hit it off right away.
Vogt had always wanted to play in the annual Labatt Blue/USA Hockey Pond Hockey National Championships in Eagle River, Wisconsin, so when it came time to register, Vogt knew who he wanted to join him.
Six Champaign guys were all about teaming up with Vogt. The Hairiest Tub Men were born.
“It’s been a lifelong dream of mine, the last 10 years that this has been going on, I love to see this,” said Vogt, who is a self-described “drifter,” living in Colorado Springs, Colorado, before transplanting to Bloomington. “I’m glad to be here.”
The Hairiest Tub Men built a great team dynamic. A number of the players were really close coming into the tournament, but they added friendships along the way.
“We couldn’t field a full roster basically because it’s an expensive thing to do. We couldn’t get all our friends on board, so we had to open it up to other people we don’t know as well,” Scheirer said. “But we’ve gotten to know everyone really well and it’s turned out really well.”
The guys had a great first year playing in the tournament.
“This is an incredible experience,” Scheirer said. “Everything here is awesome.”
Added Vogt: “It’s been a blast. This is a party weekend with a little bit of hockey.”
The Hairiest Tub Men had a fun time despite taking their lumps on the ice. The team finished 0-3 in the Silver 21+ Division and were outscored 61-14.
“This is nothing like arena hockey,” Vogt said. “Pond is a totally different game. We’ve got some stuff to work on. We learned a lot of good lessons, though. All the teams we played were all really nice. We played teams that have been here like five years, but they all had the same message, ‘When we were here for our first year we got our [butts] kicked, too. We’ve learned some good lessons, we’ll be back.”
In the first game of the tournament, The Hairiest Tub Men didn’t use a goalie and found out the hard way that wasn’t the best idea.
“After about 20 goals, we learned our lesson,” joked Vogt. “Every game we improved, though.”
The guys are used to dishing out soft, crisp passes tape to tape and using the boards to their advantage. On the pond, crisp passes aren’t possible with the ice conditions and boards are also known as snowbanks.
“We definitely didn’t understand pond hockey strategy going into it, so we have been playing like we’ve been playing on rinks, and that just doesn’t work,” Scheirer said. “We’ll know better next year. We’ll strategize better when we drop a division because clearly these guys are better than us. But regardless of the results of the game, we’re having a ton of fun.”
The guys range in age from 27-32, but they aren’t sure they belong in the Silver 21+ Division. The Hairiest Tub Men might drop down to Bronze 21+ next year to be more competitive.
Away from the ice, the Hairiest Tub Men were a hit with their fellow hockey junkies. Their jerseys attracted a lot of interest, featuring a picture of a hairy-chested man holding the Stanley Cup while sitting in a tub of bubbly water.
“We’ve gotten a lot of pictures,” joked 31-year-old Vogt. “We’ve been pretty popular with the jerseys.”
Heading into next year, The Hairiest Tub Men would love to notch a victory, but that’s not completely necessary.
“Honestly, the best thing about this is the atmosphere,” Scheirer said. “We just had so much more fun just like goofing around with people, meeting other teams.”
The Hairiest Tub Men used the tournament to have fun and bond with their teammates.
“There’s no way we would miss this tournament,” Vogt said.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.