Update: The Missoula Pond Hockey Tournament schedule has changed to Saturday–Sunday, February 2–3. Please click here for event details and to learn more about the team registration discount.

As you're no doubt aware, Missoula Pond Hockey 2013 is coming up soon at The Ranch Club. Having lived in both Minnesota and North Dakota, I've witnessed the "hockey player continuum" with casual players at one extreme, and diagnosable,obsessive fanatics at the other. It is this latter group who might wonder - "how big is pond hockey? How far might we, in theory, take this thing?"

The answer is the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships, held annually in south Minneapolis, Minnesota. Minnesota Public Radio notes the tournament generally brings about 2,000 players and 300 teams to Lake Nokomis, with 28 rinks in constant use throughout the weekend. It looks something like this:

photo: Facebook / US Pond Hockey Championships

Teams compete in numerous age and skill categories. The ultimate goal: The Golden Shovel trophy (obviously there are no Zamboni machines on a lake, so the shovel is a coveted and essential part of the whole pond hockey experience).

Have fun at Missoula Pond Hockey tourney! And, next year, maybe think about adding the U.S. championships to your pond hockey itinerary. Two tourneys, after all, are better than one!