201 Teams Bring Their Game to Moran Bay

Published in 2015 by The St. Ignace News

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“It’s pretty wicked weather, but you can’t beat a weekend on the ice with the boys,” said Max Bluestein of Highland, who played hockey with the Fighting Mullets in the U.P. Pond Hockey Tournament this past weekend. “You just can’t beat this,” he repeated, gesturing at the frozen landscape of Moran Bay, the St. Ignace shoreline, and the backdrop of Mackinac Island, before rejoining his team.

They were one of 201 hockey teams, joined by spectators and community volunteers, who took to the ice in St. Ignace for the ninth annual tournament Friday, February 13, through Sunday, February 15. Teams from across Michigan and the nation gathered to compete on Lake Huron. The tournament not only offers hockey players a chance to play a game they love in an incredible setting, but it also gives them a chance to come together and share a special experience with friends and family. Spectators find themselves caught up in the event, as well, and also have memorable experiences worth sharing.

Players watch their teammates on the ice of Moran Bay Sunday, February 15. Downtown St. Ignace is visible in the distance.Bobbie and Tim Glon came to St. Ignace and Mackinac Island for their honeymoon eight years ago and saw a poster advertising the second year of the event. The hockey-loving couple wanted to attend, but because of work conflicts, were unable to do so until this year. To reach St. Ignace, they faced a 10-hour drive from Lima, Ohio, blinding snowstorms, interstate closures, and mixed-up room reservations.

“The stories we have to tell!” Mrs. Glon said. “Despite it all, this weekend has just been incredible. We love the cold, we love St. Ignace, and we love hockey.”

“I’m only surprised there aren’t more people here just to watch!” Mr. Glon added.

Jackson Stocking attended the tournament with his aunt and uncle. In between watching matches with them, the eight-year-old collected pucks sent flying out of the rinks. He gathered and returned 22 during the division finals alone. Beyond getting to watch a sport he enjoys, Jackson also got to see through the ice to the bottom of the lake. On the drive to St. Ignace, he crossed the Mackinac Bridge for the first time, said his aunt, Courtney Guy.

“It was also his first time visiting the U.P., so it was a weekend full of firsts for him. We’ve all had a great time,” she said. “We love hockey and there’s so many teams to watch. You’re never bored.”

A group of seven women calling themselves The Dangerous Divas began playing together as young girls in St. Ignace. Their all-girls team, Kewadin Storm, won the state championship in 2000, 2001, and 2003. The women now live throughout Michigan as well as in North Carolina and Florida, and the St. Ignace tournament gives them a chance to come together and play again.

“It doesn’t matter if we win or lose. It’s just about being back together and playing the game,” said team member Missy Rickley-LaCoy, originally of St. Ignace. “I love pond hockey. I learned how to skate on the outdoor rink in St. Ignace and I think all kids should grow up playing on a pond. There’s no one yelling, just you and the ice and you can develop your skills.”

The Canadian Jumping Beavers of Grayling are all members of or affiliated with the Curriston family. None are Canadian, and the team time derives from a long-standing family joke that they don’t even attempt explaining anymore.

“It’s much, much too long a story,” said father Larry Curriston, who has built an ice rink in his back yard every winter for the last 26 years. That’s where all of his children learned to skate and where all learned the basics of hockey.

“But we never played anywhere except the backyard before this,” said his daughter, Peggy Curriston. The Pond Hockey competition is fun and they enjoy the challenge of playing against other teams, she said.

The Jumping Beavers lost every game their first year at the tournament four years ago, but have added one victory each year. This year, they competed against Depth Charge in the Novice Bronze championship. If the trend continues, they’re bound to win next year, Miss Curriston said, but even if they don’t, they’ll still have fun.

The Chidester family came from three states to meet in St. Ignace for the tournament. Curran and Liza Chidester play on a team from Kentucky, where Mr. Chidester is stationed at Fort Knox. Mr. Chidester’s brother, niece, and mother came from Michigan and Ohio to meet the couple here and share the once-in-alifetime experience, said his mother, Robin Chidester.

“It’s been wonderful. We don’t get to see him often since he’s in the military, so this is good,” she said. “It’s cold, but it’s fun. This is a beautiful place.”

The members of Dangle Snipe Celly of Metro Detroit played hockey together in high school and come together again to prepare for and play at Pond Hockey in St. Ignace.

“Just look around you! Look at all of this,” said team member Chris Clement of the scenic setting. “This is the best weekend of the year. If I could do this every day, I would.”

The hockey players and their families and friends fill downtown St. Ignace and the town’s restaurants and motels. Community volunteers put more than a thousand hours into organizing and carrying out the annual event.

Many volunteers and St. Ignace business owners have befriended Pond Hockey participants over the years and the visitors and their hosts are glad to see each other again. Even at the concession stands, returning players recognize some of the longtime volunteers and greet them warmly, St. Ignace Hockey Association volunteer Amy Metz said.

“You meet some nice people here,” she said. “It’s amazing to think this started with four teams. I was volunteering then, too. It’s kind of fun to see how it’s grown.”

The sprawl of the tournament even evokes memories of long-past winters when Moran Bay was crowded with ice fishing shanties, St. Ignace Kiwanis Club volunteer Jim North said. “It’s different, but similar in that there’s this whole community out there on the ice,” he said.

Players and spectators dispersed after the division finals Sunday, February 15, when the activity on windswept Moran Bay dwindled to a few young local skaters eager to take advantage of the still-smooth ice.