Each week, commenter Clarence Swamptown gives his unique perspective on Minnesota sports and life. As usual, the opinions expressed by Clarence do not necessarily reflect those of RandBall or the Star Tribune. Clarence?


I have only a handful of true loves in my life, and near the top of this list are beer and hockey.  This weekend I had the opportunity to combine these passions into one glorious bar-hopping pond-hockey extravaganza, and it was awesome. Much of the weekend is still foggy, but I will do my best to describe these vague memories through imprecise words and hazy pictures. So here we go: The participants? 6 guys, 1 Chevrolet Suburban, and 1 designated driver. Our destination? Spooner, Wisconsin.  Our objective? The 4th Annual Spooner Pond Hockey Tournament.

We left the Twin Cities at 10 am Friday morning. Typically, it takes about 2 hours to drive from St. Paul to Spooner. It took us 16 hours. On a related note, there are a lot of bars between St. Paul and Spooner, Wis.

On Saturday morning we scraped ourselves off the floor and drove over to the pond hockey tournament. The tournament was held on the Yellow River Flowage in beautiful downtown Spooner. The tourney has a few simple rules: The games are 4 on 4. There are two 10-minute halves with running time. There are no boards and there are no refs. The nets are short wooden boxes with 2 small openings. There are 9 teams. It is a double-elimination format. That’s about it.
Our first game was at 9 am. One of our players was still too drunk to play. I mean, he just couldn’t do it. So the puck hadn’t dropped yet and we were already down to 5 guys.
In our first game, we played the team that was hosting the tournament. They were 40-something business professionals who almost certainly had not been drinking until 4 a.m. While we were still holding-down our breakfasts and trying to grasp the rules of the game, they had already jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead in the first 2 minutes.
OKAY REGROUP GUYS. It was quickly becoming obvious that we needed a strategy for this thing. This wasn’t a shinny game at the muni rink in town. We needed formal positions. We needed a scheme. After some quick on-the-fly deliberations, we decided to establish a simple 1-2-1 diamond-shaped strategy. One guy would serve as the all-time forechecker, floating behind the other team’s defense and cherry-picking like a modern day Dave Spehar. Two guys would clog up the middle of the ice in a modified trap. The last guy (our tallest player) would serve as the all-time defenseman - waving his stick back and forth like Zdeno Chara. Our strategy was working and we started to come back, but it was too-little-too-late and we lost our first game 11-9. It was 9:30 am and we were already in the loser’s bracket.
In our second game, we faced a bunch of high school players.  How do I know they were high school players? Because when I said, “I WILL BUY YOU EACH A CASE OF BEER IF YOU STOP SKATING SO FAST,” they said, “Sir we’re in high school,” as they glanced nervously to their parents on the sidelines. Our teams were evenly matched, buy ultimately their young stamina overtook our grizzled hungover-ness and we lost 10-9. And that was it. Our tournament run was over. Two and out.
Our tournament was over, but the day was still young. What should we do? The tournament also sponsored other contests that were held on the ice. For example, there was Turkey Bowling:
[{Redacted} it, Dude. Let’s go bowling.]
There was something called “Toilet Golf”:
[Toilet golf.]
Ultimately, we decided to skip the contests and continue our bar-hopping adventures across northwestern Wisconsin. There was a lot of weekend left. We visited a lot of bars, and we played a lot of cards. We built our own bloody Marys at Big Dick’s Buckhorn Inn:
We also watched a lot of playoff football. Have you ever spent an entire weekend in Wisconsin listening to Packer fans tell you how bad the Vikings are? It’s miserable. Have you ever watched a heavily favored Packers team lose a playoff game in a Wisconsin bar in front of those same Packer fans? It was glorious. It was a whole new level of schadenfreude. It was awesome and hilarious and awesome.
So that was our trip. It was a blast. Thank you for taking this pictorial tour. As far as the pond hockey tournament goes, we will be back next year. We will have a formal game plan. We will have extra guys. We will pace ourselves Friday night. We will impose the 1-2-1 forecheck. And our rock-solid strategy will work if you little {redacteds} stop skating so fast.

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