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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NEKOOSA - People in Nekoosa could go back in time this weekend.

Volunteers at Pointe Basse recreated a historical camp portraying lives of people from the 1700s and early 1800s.

Volunteers from all across the U.S. all had a piece of history to share.

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EAGLE RIVER - Eagle River hosted its 36th annual Cranberry Fest during October's first weekend.

Organizers say the weather this year brought in many more visitors.

"People come to this whether there's good weather of bad weather," said Executive Director of the Eagle River Chamber Kim Emerson. "And with this year being great weather, we had above-average crowds and it was just spectacular. We're so happy about that."

By 3 p.m. Saturday, the World's Largest Cranberry Cheesecake had already been devoured. Sales of slices go towards the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Wisconsin. 

Organizers said they also almost sold out of cranberries, but they said they would still have more to sell on Sunday. 

There were also dozens of craft vendors, food and wine and cranberry marsh tours.

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RHINELANDER - Harvest Hoedown started Saturday at noon at the Woodpecker Bar and Grill in Rhinelander.

The event had a hay maze, horse drawn carriage rides, food, and live music all afternoon.

"I think it's going great. We got a little sunshine right now. We got probably a couple hundred people here. People are buying food, spending money. It's what we're after," said Rhinelander Area Food Pantry Executive Director Guy Hanson.

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WOOD COUNTY - Two people who stole a UTV led police on a wild chase early Friday morning. Friday night, those suspects were still on the run.

The Wood County Sheriff's Office tells us a sporting goods store owner walked in as the burglary was happening, just before 7 a.m. The suspects took off in a red Dodge pickup truck pulling a trailer with the stolen UTV. They crashed through several gates to get out.

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MERRILL - One Northwoods farm wants to give all families the full Fall experience.

Grampa's Farm in Merrill has been a popular fall destination in Wisconsin since 2010.

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RHINELANDER - A Wisconsin brewing company executive wants businesses to hire more veterans.

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ACROSS WISCONSIN - Abbotsford 62, Thorp 6

Algoma 24, Sturgeon Bay 8

Almond-Bancroft 61, Tigerton/Marion 6

Amherst 56, Manawa 6

Antigo 42, Lakeland 28

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