The women from Six Pack on Ice know what it takes to be champions.
In their fifth season competing in the Labatt Blue/USA Hockey Pond Hockey National Championships in Eagle River, Wisconsin, Six Pack on Ice won the Bronze 21+ Women’s Division. Now, every year since 2012, they are looking to accomplish that same feat.
Six Pack on Ice wrapped up their 10th year in 2017 at the 12th annual pond hockey event.
“It always adds more to the weekend if you can win,” said team captain Iris Luoto, who has played in 10 tournaments. “But we have a great time regardless winning or losing, so that’s what it’s about really.”
“The benefit is, we know we want to make it to Sunday, but if we don’t we’re not mad at each other about it,” 10th-year team member Maureen Sanderson said. “It’s like, ‘All right, we had fun.’ It’s always nice to make it to Sunday and obviously winning it was such a highlight — that year was a blast. But every game is just another opportunity to play hockey.”
When the team started attending the tournament in 2008, all of its players lived in Rochester, Minnesota. Now, the team members are sprinkled throughout the country in Minnesota, Tennessee and Michigan.
“Just to come back here and see these friends makes it worth it,” Sanderson said. “The hockey’s great fun, too, but we’ve been coming every year and see other teams that we know and just having fun with them as well. Just the camaraderie and the competition is fun. It’s our favorite weekend of the year.”
A core group of five athletes has been traveling up north to Eagle River for a good eight years. Everyone on the team makes a concerted effort to make it back year after year.
“No matter where I am, I’m back for this,” said Luoto, now a Nashville resident.
“It would not be the same without this group of women, let’s just put it that way,” Sanderson said. “We’ve had other girls join us for a year or so, but we know whoever we bring in we know they’re going to fit with our culture. That’s just about having fun and playing lots of good hockey. Fun first.”
Over the decade of playing in the tournament, Six Pack on Ice had competed in the playoffs “two or three” times prior to 2017. This year, the team lost in the semifinals to the eventual champions, MsDemeanors.
Playing for so long in the pond hockey format has taught the Six Pack on Ice players what the best general rules of thumb are during competition.
“We learned in our first game that … it’s a lot of running on the ice,” Sanderson said. “It’s a different kind of cardio experience. It’s pretty humbling, too. The rink is pretty small and it’s a small net, but sometimes it’s really hard to play the game.”
Competing in the third ever pond hockey tournament in 2008, the Six Pack on Ice players recall there were only four women’s teams in the field. This past year, that number ballooned to 34 teams in five divisions.
“To see the growth on the women’s side has also been really fun,” Sanderson said.
Added Luoto: “It seems like it gets better every year.”
The Six Pack on Ice players range in age from 34 to 54. That creates an interesting dynamic on the ice.
“It honestly works really well,” Luoto said. “We all skated together when we were all living in the same spot, so it really doesn’t seem to be that much of an issue.”
After nine years competing in the Bronze 21+ Women’s Division, Six Pack on Ice is looking to bump up to Bronze 35+ in 2018.
“We’re all young at heart,” Sanderson said. “We play teams and some teams have a lot of young women on their team and sometimes they’re a little better than us. But I feel like we have good team chemistry and sometimes that can make up for lack of youth, I guess, all across our team. I still feel like a 20-year-old.”
“I think it might just balance it out a little bit more,” Luoto said. “When you’re playing these teams that are like 22, they’re going to have more energy, more speed. I think it would make it a little bit more competitive for us or more evenly matched.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.