More than 160 teams have taken to the ice in St. Ignace for the largest adult pond hockey tournament in Michigan.
But not everyone has the time and money needed to compete in events like the Labatt Blue UP Pond Hockey Championship.
A ragtag group of hockey heroes are trying to change all that with a brand new league of their own.
Years before the sport moved indoors to the confines of a rink, hockey was played out in the elements on ponds frozen over by Father Time and Mother Nature.
But in cold weather climates like the U.P., the venue doesn’t really matter; just as long as they can play the sport they love.
“I love playing inside, I love playing outside,” said Brad Brownell. “I played two years as a kid at a Squirt level, and about three years ago when my son started playing, I got out there, and I started skating again.”
Soon after, his buddy Ryan joined in.
Then the itch for competition turned into a full on scratch.
“I go to my boy’s tournaments all the time. It’s our turn, let’s give something a shot,” Brownell said.
“We went down to Wasau to play a Pond tournament and instantly fell in love with it. We played one game as a team. We [were] never a team before that. We all played, had fun, we lost every game – but we had an awesome time playing,” said Purely Pond co-founder Ryan Campell.
“When we came back, we still wanted to keep going,” said Brownell.
So they looked around for a patch of their own, and found the perfect spot right smack dab in the middle of Marquette.
It started out small with a few guys here and there, but then the interest among their friends started to pick up to the point where they could field two teams of four, playing 15 minute halfs, with no goalies or nets for that matter – just a homemade pond hockey box.
And their shift changes and attire are just as laid back as their snowbound boundaries. “Just take a break when you gotta take a break. Sit down when you gotta sit down,” said Brownell. “If the team’s short of a shift or two, oh well.”
Now that they have a system in place, Bradley and Ryan want to expand their scope into a full blown league, for any all takers. “Anybody,” added Campbell. “Any skill level, it doesn’t matter who. Just bodies who want to play hockey.”
“If it gets too fast, there’s a lot more ice here,” said Brad. “Ideally, if more people started coming we’d put together a couple more goals, and we’d run two games… We have great ice, and too many times I come down and see it’s just not used.”
In the meantime you can find out if and when the puck will drop on their Facebook page Purely Pond MQT.
“It’s free. Anybody can come. We got these goals, and it’s relatively safe,” said Brad.