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Northwoods Spotlight: Eagle River Pond Hockey Submitted: 02/13/2013
Story By Joe Dufek


EAGLE RIVER - The population of Eagle River is just shy of 1400. But last weekend, over 2400 pond hockey players, and fans were in town. The annual Pond Hockey National Championships were a Big hit on a little lake.

The first year of the Pond Hockey Championships featured 42 teams - that was 8 years ago. This year it was 346 teams, 18 divisions, playing 612 games.

Add to that 28 rinks, and 3 days of action. The result - another successful weekend for everyone involved.


"I'm here playing with my nephew and also seeing former high school opponents," says Tom Kuklinski - a member "We're with Mugsy" out of Eagle River.

Scott Aldrich is the Manager of adult hockey for USA Hockey. "To see hockey played in its purest form, its great to see," adds Aldrich.

With temps at times reaching near 30s a few weak spots formed on the ice. But extra work by the Eagle River Fire Department helped keep ice conditions safe and ready for play.

"Every night we have to flood the rinks to fill in the cracks caused by playing games," says Pat Weber - Cheif of the Eagle River Fire Department. He also had a team called "Frozen Seven" which has played every year since the tourney began.

Players from 27 States as well as Canada played on Dollar Lake. It was a chance to relive childhood memories.

Visting fans and Northwoods folks all gathered to see how this special weekend has grown.

The Chamber of Commerece estimates lodging for the players brought in over $1-million dollars into the Eagle River economy.


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CRANDON - Pounding rain, howling winds, and flashing lightning�"not the most ideal conditions for camping on Saturday night.

In fact, Saturday night's bad weather couldn't have picked a worse time for thousands of people to set up camp at the Crandon Race Track.

"We were holding onto the awning last night," said Keegan Kincaid, a racer from Crandon. ."It was pouring."

"Our canopy [got] rained [on] so much we had to keep pushing it up so it wouldn't collapse," said Paul Posbrig, a fan from Green Bay.

"It was coming in all over," said Jessie Braden, a fan from Richfield.

But for Crandon fans, the rain certainly didn't dampen the weekend.

"But we made the best of it," said Braden, who comes to Crandon every summer for the Brush Run.

"We had a canopy at one point and put up tarps on the walls as we got downpoured on and it was all windy," Braden said. "If we're going camping, it's going to rain!"

The fans also got their fair share of noise because the rain didn't really affect the race schedule.

"We just had to wait a little bit longer before we could put crews out on the track," said the raceway's announcer, Dave Mullins. "So needed it to dry off a little bit first. But really it was only about a half hour."

But it certainly changed the racers' strategy.

"And so you'll see a lot of changes in trucks and driving styles," Kincaid said.
"Figure out the track, sort out where the grip is, where it's wet, where it's dry," said Arie Luyendyk, Jr., a racer from Arizona.

But Crandon's track is pretty resilient.

"Most tracks we wouldn't be able to race on it the next day, but Crandon has a lot of clay," Kincaid said.

"Because this is a clay track, it doesn't absorb the water as much, it makes it more like a mud pit," Mullins said.

Sunday's nice weather quickly brought the track's conditions back to normal.

"I thought we were going to be racing in the mud, but turns out because of the sun and wind we're actually going back to our setup we had yesterday," Luyendyk, Jr., said. 

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MINOCQUA - Things don't always go well out on the water. That's why Oneida County has a specialized dive team ready to respond whenever there's an emergency.

But funding the dive team is expensive. Saturday, community groups came together to help raise money for the team at the Minocqua Swim Challenge.

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PRICE COUNTY - A truck versus train crash killed a woman late Saturday morning.

According to the Price County Sheriff's Office, it happened at the intersection of County Road D and the Canadian National Railroad tracks in the Township of Knox.

Police think a 76-year-old man was driving the truck with a 76-year-old woman in the passenger seat, and the truck and the train collided.

Several different agencies responded, including Canadian National Railroad investigators.

Crews took the man to St. Joseph's Hospital in Marshfield, and they took the woman to Aspirus Hospital in Wausau where she later died.

Police are still investigating and will not yet release the names.

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"There's a lot of people who have had interest in loon research," said DNR wildlife biologist John Olson.

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Patrick J. Eppolite Jr., 22; Michael A. Beck, 27; Jeremy J. Hess, 36; and Amanda M. Bender, 32, are currently in jail on probation holds, but investigators believe they're connected to some counterfeit $20 bills in the area, according to the Wausau Police Department.

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"Oh yeah, he likes to show them off," David's son Dan said.

The recently turned 82-year-old spends his days in the Portage County Skilled Nursing Facility. His family often spends their weekly visit admiring the oil paintings he once crafted.

"I wouldn't call it a shock, but I didn't know he had that artistic skill," Dan Appel said.

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