It all started as happenstance.
Jordan Jung and Keith Strasser met at a store while buying hockey gear about 3 ½ years ago. Strasser had been invited to play an adult league game by someone else, and when Strasser got to the rink to play in a scrimmage, Jung was there lacing up his skates.
A bond was formed. Not long after, the Catalina Wine Mixer team was started.
“It’s just become a passion of every one of us to get to the level we’re at, and it’s going good,” Strasser said.
Catalina Wine Mixer, which hails from southeastern Wisconsin, plays in two weekly adult leagues: C Division at the Pettit Center in Milwaukee and in Division 1 at the RecPlex in Pleasant Prairie.
“It’s a great group of guys having a good time,” Jung said. “Some have families, kids.”
The guys also competed for the first year as a team in the annual Labatt Blue/USA Hockey Pond Hockey National Championships in Eagle River, Wisconsin.
Pond hockey is something that Catalina Wine Mixer — the name a reference from the movie “Step Brothers” — teammates are well versed in.
“We built this small group of guys and we play a bunch of pond hockey together,” said Strasser, whose identical twin as plays on the team. “I live on a lake back home, and I’ve got a little rink set up with a shed, a heater. We suit up and we play every Thursday night together.”
Already playing on the pond together, the logical next step was to have a team in the pond hockey tournament. Jung played at pond hockey three times before starting the Catalina Wine Mixer team for 2017. Strasser and a few of the other teammates were making their second appearance.
Why do the Catalina Wine Mixer players continue to come back and compete every year?
“The camaraderie with the guys, just hanging out, just giving guys crap, just laughing,” Jung said. “Making memories in life, and that’s what it’s all about.”
The guys turned the tournament into a five-day trip, renting snowmobiles and creating an entertaining atmosphere.
“Life couldn’t be better hanging out with this brotherhood,” Jung said.
Six of the seven guys who play on Catalina Wine Mixer in the adult leagues made it up to pond hockey. It’s a group that’s learning how to play on the ponds up north, which are a little different than what the guys are used to competing out back of Strasser’s house.
“When you’re playing against these tougher teams it makes it very difficult to figure anything out, because they’re literally skating faster, finding open space,” Jung said. “You just can’t even keep up with them. It makes it difficult. You’re frustrated, but you want to have a good time.”
Catalina Wine Mixer played in the Intermediate 21+ Division this year and went 2-1. The team, which ranges in age from 21-36, got its lone victory in an 18-9 romp of the Snipers.
Winning is an important element for the team members. They don’t take losing too lightly.
“Because then we all go talk about it afterwards,” said Jung, who is 33. “We’ve got a little bit of video footage to see what we need to work on. We talk about it, how things are going. We want to win. We want to kiss the cup, but it’s just find that right level.”
“We started late in life, but we’re all about that,” said the 28-year-old Strasser. “We love being competitive.”
With one year in the books playing as a team in the pond hockey championships, the Catalina Wine Mixer players know they’ve started a tradition of heading up north each year.
“Hopefully we’re bringing our children up here, everything like that, just to keep growing every year,” Jung said.
“We won’t miss it for the world,” Strasser said. “It’s the greatest experience ever. We’ve built a little family here with our pond hockey team and it’s been great.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.