The Duluth-Superior area in northeastern Minnesota and northwestern Wisconsin has produced numerous notable hockey players over the years.
Some of those talented skaters decided to band together to form a team that competes in adult leagues and pond hockey tournaments around the Midwest. The guys are sponsored by Anchor Bar out of Superior and play under that name in adult leagues.
“We grew up playing together,” said team member Kellen McCoshen. “It’s guys from the Northland that started playing hockey at 7, 8 years old, and just kind of grew up and continued to play together.”
Anchor Bar will drop into the weekly Thursday night game at the Superior Ice Arena. They’ll take on random teams that show up.
“It’s a little bit like ‘Mystery, Alaska’ where you just show up and everybody pays, I don’t know what it is, $5 or $10,” Anchor Bar player Tom Paine said. “You never know if you’re going to have a bench of 10 or a bench of 20 or a bench of three. But it’s always pretty competitive.”
The team members also compete in pond hockey tournaments — they’ve played in three this year — under a different name, Great Lakes Pond Hockey. The guys, who range in age from 24-27 with the majority of them playing college hockey, skated in the Keith Gilbertson Memorial Tournament in Superior in April; their own hometown tournament, the Great Lakes Pond Hockey Classic in January; and the annual Labatt Blue/USA Hockey Pond Hockey National Championships in Eagle River, Wisconsin.
Playing on the pond is something the guys grew up doing, so it brings back a lot of childhood memories.
“There’s not as many kids nowadays, I think since I’ve been coaching and whatnot, just go to the rink and play as much as they should,” McCoshen said. “It’s a different game than when you’ve got boards, you’ve got offsides, you’ve got icing. There’s a difference between a guy that’s a good five-on-five, offsides, icing player and one that’s a good pond hockey player.”
It was the guys’ first time competing in the pond hockey national championships in 2017. It was an experience they loved. Great Lakes Pond Hockey finished 1-2 in the Gold Division and fell short of making the playoffs.
“It’s a learning experience; it’s a different game,” McCoshen said. “In the tournaments we’ve played in the past, you can’t play goalie. We have a lot of guys with a lot of skill, so we like to pass the puck. We like to move the puck and give-and-gos. The combination of having a goaltender and having the ice conditions the way they are, it makes it hard for our game.”
Added Paine: “We need to find somebody that’s going to be able to play goalie. Our best player played at [University of Minnesota-Duluth], Tim Smith, and we had him between the pipes, and that’s not really where he’s efficient. We need him with the puck on his stick.”
The big tournament the guys play in every year is the Great Lakes Pond Hockey Classic held at Barkers Island on Lake Superior, the largest freshwater “pond” in the U.S. The 14th annual event will take place Jan. 26-28, 2018.
Whether it’s on the pond or at an inside rink, the guys love playing together. They aren’t too many years removed from playing high school hockey and know one another’s games pretty well.
“We all have a chemistry on the ice,” McCoshen said. “You’re going up the ice, you know where guys are going to be. You kind of know the style of the play — everybody has their own style when it comes to hockey. Hockey’s a great sport where it’s not like anything else as far as understanding your teammates and understanding the flow and the give-and-gos and the systems and the situations. That’s nice because we’ve been playing together for 10-plus years, we know how we play.”
Playing hockey with some of his closest friends is always the ideal scenario for Paine.
“It’s a blast,” he said. “You always try to surround yourself with good people, and for me this team is the best of the best.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.