Bryan Banser knows how key it is for the players on his adult hockey team to hang out together for more than just their weekly games.
Banser tries to get his Cobra Kai teammates signed up for hockey tournaments, golf outings and so much more.
“I think you’re crazy not to skate in a hockey tournament,” Banser said. “You can almost get into a doldrum in the regular season because you’re always skating with same teams, similar teams. You get out to a hockey tournament, everything changes. Different game, different dynamic, different buddies, different friends. Being [there], this is what it’s about. This is what really brings us together.”
“There” refers to Cobra Kai traveling up north from Chicago to take part in the annual Labatt Blue/USA Hockey Pond Hockey National Championships in Eagle River, Wisconsin. It’s a tournament Banser makes sure he attends every year.
“We talked about going to pond for a long time and we finally got enough guys to go probably six years ago, we’ve been coming ever since,” Banser said.
Usually different Cobra Kai players compete in the tournament. Mike Dailly has been a constant for four years and has also been on the adult league team for over a decade.
“The tournaments are awesome,” Dailly said. “It’s so much fun and it’s so different. This is not playing in the adult league when out on the pond there’s all the little bumps and cracks. It’s gives you something else to be going out and doing.”
At the pond hockey tournament, the guys have made it a tradition to play every year. Cobra Kai took home a championship in its first year and placed runner-up in the Novice Division in 2018, falling to Kung Fu Treachery, 7-6, in the title game.
The team was started 13 years ago by Banser and has about nine original members still playing weekly.
“We know each other pretty well,” Banser said. “It’s awesome.”
Dailly feels it’s important to have the core members back every year to keep the team’s original identity intact.
“It’s really good, because we know that they’re coming back,” Dailly said. “We know we can rely on them. It’s like a given, oh yeah, they’ll be back. A couple guys drop off here and there, but then we pick up other guys that have been playing on the team for years now.”
The team ranges in age from the low 30s to the mid-40s. It’s a balanced group of experienced hockey players.
Cobra Kai has had some success in the adult league, taking home two or three titles along the way. However, winning isn’t the most important aspect of playing together.
“Whether you win or lose doesn’t matter, you have so much fun playing with the guys,” said the 46-year-old Banser. “You know where they’re going to be, you like passing to them. I think hockey’s important, but to be a team is probably the most important — be friends and hang out. Once you’re like a team, then hockey comes second and then you start winning games.”
Cobra Kai is known as a fun group of guys who enjoy each other’s company and competing on the ice.
“They’re a bunch of jokers. You talked to Bryan, he’s just all over the place,” joked Dailly, who is 32. “We’ve just been playing together for so long, it’s just a really good time.”
Said Banser: “You’re at the rink and you’re joking around before you go on the ice. Sometimes you have some late games, so joking around in the locker room is kind of what it’s all about and hanging out afterwards. Hockey really brings everyone together.”