By Sean Giggy
EAGLE RIVER (WAOW)- The weather is colder, the ice is rougher and the rink is smaller, but that hasn't stopped a record crowd from turning out for the 2010 USA Pond Hockey Championships in Eagle River. 224 teams, 30 more than last year's total, helped kick off the three day tournament with opening round games Friday.
"We've probably got, in excess, of 1,600 players alone," said tournament offical Pat Weber. "There's a lot of family members. It seems like every year we see more and more family. It's a plus for everything."
The tournament is sponsored by USA Hockey and teams from 27 states made the trek to Dollar Lake to play on one of 24 specially designed rinks and battle for outdoor hockey bragging rights.
"The quality of hockey at this event is just fantastic. All the way from the gold level to the really low beginner leve," said Ashley Bevan with USA Hockey. "These guys and gals are out here to have a great time and they do just that, but the quality of hockey is just fantastic and we actually had to increase the number of divisions from 13 to 15 this year to accomodate all the teams."
Eagle River is hosting the event for the fifth straight year and several teams are making a return trip after an enjoyable experience in the past.
"It's always been a friendly atmosphere, but it seems to compound itself every year," said player Dan Broersma. "The people around here are awesome, the players that come are just phenomenal. It's just a great experience. It's what brings us back every year. In fact, we start talking about this in August."
Other players are enjoying the chance to get away from work and enjoy a weekend of pond hockey.
"It's Friday. I'd be at work today," said player Tim Andersen. "It's a beautiful day, what a great location. You just can't beat it. It's a great day of fun."
Online Reporter- Russ Owens