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Californians Learn Quickly That Pond Hockey Is a New Game

03/16/2016, 9:00am MDT
By Greg Bates - Special to

The players from ONE Sports + Entertainment Group made their Eagle River debut in 2016

The guys from ONE Sports + Entertainment Group were confident.

They’ve got the talent to skate against any team. However, this is pond hockey, and different variables apply.

The ONE players found that out early on at the Labatt Blue/USA Hockey Pond Hockey National Championships last month in Eagle River, Wisconsin.

“We got punked pretty good [the first day],” said ONE player Brad Barrett, who is one of the partners at the firm. “The reason we came out here in the first place is none of us have ever skated on an open ice pond. We’re from California, so it’s fun. We found out very quickly it’s a sport we’re not used to. It’s different, very different.”

ONE, which is a financial management company based in Westlake Village, California, sent three of its employees to the annual pond hockey tournament. It was the team’s first time playing in the event.

Their first game playing in the Gold Division — which is the top division — was a real eye-opener, losing 25-4 to Northern Exposure, the 2015 champion and 2016 runner-up.

“It was a definite learning experience,” ONE player Dan Quilico said. “We’re not bad hockey players, but this is completely different game. Great experience, and we’ve met a lot of cool people and they’ve been really receptive of us. Knowing we’re from California, everyone’s like, ‘Crazy you came all the way out here to do it.’”

Quilico played four years at Colorado College, so he knows the game well. However, he and his teammates weren’t prepared for the twists of pond hockey.

“I grew up playing in a controlled environment and never skated in my life outside, first time,” Quilico said. “It’s a blast. I’m having a great time.”

Barrett said the team tried to spread out and pass the puck around like normal in their first game, just like they had always done.

“It just wouldn’t work,” he said. “Pucks were bouncing, and the team was just linear and the zone stuff didn’t work.”

The ONE players learned plenty of pointers from the opening contest that helped them out the rest of the three-day tournament.

“Probably keeping it a lot tighter so passes are no more than three or four feet, go linear, up and down, north and south, and kind of wait for them to make a mistake,” Barrett said. “With this ice condition, you kind of have to capitalize on their mistakes. We were trying to push it too much.”

Along with playing on an unfamiliar pond, the guys weren’t used to skating in cold temperatures.

“I packed like nine layers of Under Armour and I’ve only had to use one, which is good,” Quilico said on the second day of the tournament. “You stay warmer than you think.”

The weather with the wind chill was mostly in the low 20s during the three days, and Quilico said his family and friends in California thought the guys on ONE were nuts for playing in the chilly conditions.

“It’s worth it,” Quilico said. “Totally worth it.”

ONE consists of just five players who range in age from 24 to 29 years old. The team didn’t have a problem playing with only five guys. Seven is the maximum number of players a team can roster.

“I don’t know if that has to do with our age, but most of us still play pretty good once or twice a week, so the conditioning isn’t bad,” Barrett said.

ONE went 0-3 in the tournament and was outscored 55-6, but the guys would like to make a return trip to Eagle River for a second chance to do well.

“It’s hard to say because we’re from California and it’s a long flight out here,” Barrett said. “It’s not exactly easy. But I would say the majority of us would come back out.”

“I’d come back and try it again,” Quilico said.

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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