Sue Bishop has been competing in the Labatt Blue/USA Hockey Pond Hockey Championships for five years.
Prior to this year’s event, she asked four newcomers to join her team in Eagle River, Wis.
One of those Bishop approached was Amy Skalinder. The two play together for the Tigers in a women’s adult league in Chicago, but Skalinder had never competed in the Pond Hockey Championships.
“I looked at the list of people that she invited to play, and I was like, ‘This is a really good group of women. If I’m ever going to give this a shot, this is the group to do it with,’” Skalinder said. “I knew everybody was really nice and we had some good, solid players, and I knew that even though it was my first time, the people were going to be supportive and fun.”
Skalinder and three other teammates quickly joined in on the action.
“I’ve talked about it and how much fun it is and invited them to see if they wanted to do it, and several of the women had wanted to do it,” said Bishop, the team’s founder and captain. “They just right on board with it, ‘Let’s do it. I’m in.’”
Skalinder is happy she agreed to partake in the event.
“It’s like the most fun ever,” she said. “I really didn’t know what to expect, because I’m not the biggest fan of cold. I could obviously see it was a really fun social time, but I was worried I was going to be freezing the whole time, but I’m not.”
The 45-year-old Skalinder didn’t start playing hockey until nine years ago and hadn’t experienced the outside game before.
“When I came out for my first game, I was like, ‘I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I’m just going to try and get the puck and try and score and try and keep them from scoring.’ And that’s kind of it,” Skalinder said. “I wasn’t sure necessarily how that was going to happen.”
The Tigers started out strong in the Women’s Bronze Division, winning their opening game. However, the team dropped its final three contests and was eliminated.
“It’s just great fun,” said Bishop, whose husband also brings a team to the Pond Hockey Championships every year. “Everyone’s really relaxed, and it’s a great environment.
“It’s hockey outdoors, you can’t beat it.”
It took a couple games for the Tigers newcomers to get adjusted to the pond style of play. The women had to figure out how to fish the puck out of the snowbanks and play on a smaller sheet of ice without boards.
The women on the Tigers range in age from early to mid-30s to mid-40s, and five of the seven members play regularly on the adult team back home.
“We’ve known each other for a long time, so we know where everyone’s at, so it makes it easier to play together,” Bishop said. “We just enjoy each other’s company.”
The women also have great camaraderie with the other two players on the pond hockey team.
“We don’t all skate together all the time, but we’ve all skated together with each other at some point,” Skalinder said.
Skalinder is already looking forward to competing in the Pond Hockey Championships again. She loves playing hockey and the social aspect of the entire tournament.
“The camaraderie is great, even with people not on your team,” Skalinder said. “Everyone is nice and friendly and wanting to cheer you on. It’s way more fun than I ever anticipated.”