Archive for February, 2016

Eagle River

February 9, 2016

I was asked by a friend if I wanted to participate in an outdoor tournament in the northern town of Eagle River, Wisconsin.  The trip took over eight hours for us to arrive at the rental home which was being occupied by two teams of 14 players.

If you don’t mind the cold and really poor ice conditions, it is ice hockey unlike what you’re used to indoors.  You dress like a mite at home, park several blocks away and are picked up by locals with open bed trucks.  You jump on the back of the open air transport and marvel at the dense spruce forest around you.  In the clearing is a lake where dozens of snow banked rinks are sectioned off for matches.  You look for a bench to slip your skates on out in the open.  You slip on a jersey with the name of your weekend team.   Female teams tended to name their teams after their female parts and many male teams had various plays on words related to male genitalia.  Others had sponsors or just cute names.  I played for a team called the Elsinore Hosers which was taken from the 1980’s movie called Strange Brew.  The housemates from the other team, took on nicknames from the movie, The Big Lebowski- The Jesus, Donny, Walter, The Dude and so on.

You get on the ice and have a net that is three feet wide and about a foot high.  No slapshots, no high passes, no checking or other infractions.  Four players where one sort of has to play goalie and then you have variations of a triangle formation.  Firing the puck often is key.  Our team adapted to the conditions of the ice and weather and won our first two games.  We then went on to lose our next two which were good, close scoring games.  What do you do when you’re not playing?  Walk around in half your gear making conversation with people from all over the country while drinking donated beer from Labatt’s.  If you haven’t had enough hockey, there is a local team with an antique barn of a rink that holds about 2,000.  We watched Eagle River play Fond du Lac.  Some sloppy play, some solid play, some fights and some idiocy in the crowd.  Some tool from Ohio who played in drag the entire weekend put on a show at the minor league game.  This over served player, hung from the scorer’s booth which was some twenty feet in the air.  After swinging back and forth for a minute, his fingers gave way and landed back first onto a patron.  There was an over abundance of men who needed chaperones- moms or wives.  Maybe they were once frat boys and maybe they never experienced that sort of fraternal bonding upon gaining adulthood.  Cheap beer and fraternizing with fellow lovers of the sport of ice hockey on the eve of the Super Bowl is what you would have found in Eagle River last weekend.  If you love the sport, respect the sport and enjoy the sport more than most things in life, a pond hockey tournament should be Mecca for those who hold ice hockey in high regard.

The photo was taken at sunset Saturday night after two games in the tournament.  We went to our own backyard behind our rental home and played amongst ourselves.  Hosers against The Puck Abides until the sun set over the forest.  It was worth the time and effort for me.

eagle river