Affordable North: 3rd Annual U.P. Pond Hockey Championship

Head to St. Ignace this weekend to see 103 teams vie for the title of pond hockey champion. The sport celebrates a return to hockey’s roots, where 4-man teams (no goalie) play outdoors on 14 rinks on Moran Bay. No checking is allowed, and the puck must stay on the ice, so "it’s much more of a passing game, more finesse," says tournament coordinator Mark Sposito. The 24-30 inches of ice on the bay assures safety and good play. (Volunteers groom the rinks with a Zamboni.)

And the price is right: free.

The only event with a ticket price is Friday night’s game between an alumni Red Wings team and last year’s pond hockey champion and runner-up teams. Tickets are $10 each, limited number available and going fast for the indoor game. Call 800-338-6660.

Pond hockey is seeing a resurgence across the Upper Midwest, Sposito says. Minneapolis started a pond hockey championship three years ago and this year had to cut off registration at 248 teams; Eagle River, Wisconsin, signed up 160 teams this year. And St. Ignace registration doubled from the 50 signed up in 2008.

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