When it comes to the Walleye Chop adult hockey tournament, the staff at the Schwan Super Rink doesn't back away from a little playful boasting.
"We're the biggest adult hockey tournament in Minnesota," says Pete Carlson, Operations and Program Director at the Schwan Super Rink. "So why not claim that we're the 'Stanley Cup of Adult Hockey?'"
Carlson knows it's all in good fun. And that's what has made this tournament so successful – the fun factor.
The tournament started 13 years ago as a challenge from Carlson to his ice programming staff. The second weekend in May, the Minnesota walleye fishing opener, was a dead weekend at the Super Rink on the National Sports Center campus in Blaine. So Carlson challenged his staff to come up with an event to fill the ice.
The idea that won was brilliantly simple. With all the guys off fishing, presumably, why not start up a women's adult hockey tournament? In television, this is called counter-programming, like scheduling a figure skating show opposite the Super Bowl.
"It made sense to all of us at the time, offer a tournament for the women who didn't fish," said Carlson. "But actually, the tournament never happened as we envisioned it. As soon as the women's divisions were announced, men's teams wanted in as well. Turned out, not all guys fished
So what started as an experiment in creative ice sports programming, now has morphed into one of the Super Rink's signature events.
This year, a full tournament of teams – 122 – will compete in 15 different divisions for men and women. Teams will represent nine different states and Canadian provinces: Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Ontario and Saskatchewan. Skill levels will run the gamut, from divisions for players with minimal experience, up to the men's A Division, featuring past and current collegiate players. The games will fill all eight sheets of ice at the Schwan Super Rink.
And the fun spills out beyond the ice as well. There is a fish fry from 1-5 p.m. on Saturday. Also on Saturday, teams will tailgate in the parking lot, competing for the King of the Blacktop tailgating championship.
One of the new featured events on Saturday will be the BBQ on the Blacktop, featuring the Big Green Egg. Hormel will donate ribs, which will be smoked and prepared by BBQ experts from Poolside Pools & Spas. The ribs will then be available for sale at the Super Rink's concession stand.
On Sunday, the mood turns more serious, with Walleye Chop titles are up for grabs. Championship games will run back-to-back all afternoon on rinks 1-4. At stake? Bragging rights of course, and the unique Walleye Chop canoe trophy.
Walleye Chop Schedule - https://tournament.sportngin.com/show/5aea279771a2360b1e000027
Here are the translations of the division names:
Men's A: Muskie
Men's B: Northern Pike
Men's C Upper: Bass
Men's C Mid: Bullhead
Men's C Lower: Catfish
Men's D Upper: Whitefish
Men's D Mid: Steelhead
Men's D Lower: Eelpout
Men's Novice Upper: Carp
Men's Novice Lower: Mooneye