Each year for the past two, we have partnered with a handful of pond hockey tournaments from all over North America in an attempt to help grow their event, and subsequently, grow the game of pond hockey. In the coming weeks and months, we’ll be sharing information on these events with you by way of the “Meet Your Tournament” sponsored series. Please help us raise the stature of our partner tournaments by checking them out on Facebook or Twitter, and if you’re local to them, signing up to play or volunteer!
Midwest Freeze Leinenkugel’s Classic Pond Hockey Tournament
Sunnyvale Lake, Wausau, Wisconsin, USA
2013 Tournament Dates
January 11-13, 2013
Who’s in charge?
Jim Brown started playing hockey in Wausau in 1967, before the indoor rink was built. Now in his 45th year of hockey in Wausau, he is still officiating (youth through D3 college) and is on the board of directors for Marathon County Youth Hockey.
Dick Barrett, of the Wausau Convention and Visitors Bureauâ€™s Sports Authority, is also heavily involved in the event.
How did the tournament come to be?
The opportunity to host a pond hockey tournament became a possibility when the Wausau 525 snowmobile race decided to build their own track and not use Sunnyvale Lake for the race. The foundation of the tournament began when Mr Brown attended a meeting for the Badger State Games and began talking to Dick Barrett. Barrett asked Brown about bringing adult hockey to Wausau, a conversation that evolved to a discussion about an adult pond hockey tournament. Barrett recalled that Ken Kreuger, an employee of the Parks Department, had laid out a plan for Sunnyvale Lake a couple of years prior, and so the three men formulated a plan to get a tournament organized for early 2012. With the support of the community, the Parks Department, and area businesses they were off and running.
How many teams where there in the first year, and how many are expected in 2013?
14 teams took to the Lake in 3 divisions in 2012, with close to 100 teams expected for 2013. The event had more teams registered by August this year than by December last year, though team slots are still available at the moment.
Does the event support any charities?
All proceeds will go to Marathon County Youth hockey to help keep registration costs down allowing more kids the opportunity to play hockey. Event organizers are also setting up three of the rinks on Sunday for local youth teams to get a chance to play some good ole fashion pond hockey, at no cost to them.
Any special events taking place during tournament weekend?
New for this year is a “Battle of the Badges” division for firefighters and law enforcement officers. The original Hanson Brothers (from the movie Slapshot) will be playing in an exhibition game on the Saturday of tournament weekend, and players will be able to enter a raffle for the chance to play against them. There will also be a party, free to all tournament participants, on Saturday night. The party runs from 6-10pm and will feature the band Tuscan Roads.
Favorite tournament memory?
Brown: “It could be said that the Leinenkugelâ€™s Classic Pond Hockey tournament got its start in 1967, when my Dad and my uncle John got me started in hockey. They were on the original board of directors for what is now known as Marathon County Youth Hockey Association. We played on the outdoor rinks around Wausau, my first team was the Thom Field Black Hawks. I remember coming to the rink to find my Uncle John firing up the warming house coal stove. My Uncle John was the coach, equipment, facilities, and rink manager. Those days of playing on the outdoor rinks really made me fall in love with game of hockey in its purest form. From my Dad and my Uncle John I not only learned the game of hockey, and the love of the game, I learned to share it with others. My Uncle passed away the summer of 2010, before the first pond hockey tournament, but I thought of him often that weekend out on the lake as I wore my Chicago Blackhawks jersey. In the evening when we got the hoses out and flooded the rinks, I could see my Uncle John flooding once again.”
Where do you hope to take your tournament in the future?
The most the event could ever have would be 200 teams, as 20 rinks can be carved into Sunnyvale Lake. Directors are aiming to keep it a manageable and fun tournament to be a part of.
To sign up to be a part of this event, head over to their website at http://www.classicpondhockey.com. You can also keep abreast of any tournament updates and check out pictures from last year’s tournament on the event’s Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/LeinenkugelsClassicPondHockey. Finally, you can reach out directly via their Twitter page, https://twitter.com/Jokinen_.