While all eyes are on the 56th annual World Championship Snowmobile Derby this weekend, there's another major sporting event set for Eagle River in February.

The 14th annual Labatt Blue/USA Hockey Pond Hockey National Championship will be held on about 24 ice rinks located on Dollar Lake just east of Eagle River Feb. 8-10. With cold temperatures in the forecast for this week, it’s anticipated there will be plenty of ice for the event.

Last year, about 290 teams from over 20 states and Canada participated in the event. This year's tournament will consist of 19 no-check divisions, including several women's divisions. Nearly 300 teams are expected again this year.

Kim Emerson, executive director of the Eagle River Area Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center, said the tournament is so popular due to the caliber of the event which brings back players year after year.

“This popular event has grown significantly each year. The first year, we were happy that 40 teams from 11 states participated on seven ice rinks,” said Emerson.

Emerson said the success of the event is the result of the incredible cooperation of local groups and many volunteers who spend hundreds of hours preparing for and working at the event.

Chanticleer Inn offers its property as the event host site, with all of the games being played on adjacent Dollar Lake. The Eagle River Area Fire Department builds and maintains all of the ice rinks on Dollar Lake. The Eagle River Recreation Association will provide the referees and scorekeepers. 

Pat Weber of the fire department said there are about 12 inches of ice on the lake and the area that will be used for the rinks will be plowed Saturday.

“Ideally, we would like 16 inches of ice out there so we can park cars on the lake this year,” said Weber. “That would make things a lot easier for participants and spectators during the tournament.”

The Eagle River chamber has a contractual agreement with USA Hockey and is responsible for local organization, including the Saturday evening social event held at the Derby Track Expo Hall. 

Emerson said bringing nearly 300 teams, with four to seven players per team, to the greater Eagle River area has additional benefits other than a three-day boost to the local economy. Just as the Derby will do this weekend.

“We have had numerous folks tell us they are now vacationing here during the summer months as a result of experiencing our area because of this great winter event,” said Emerson. “The annual Derby and pond hockey events provide a tremendous economic boost to our local economy each January, February and beyond.”

Sporting events such as the Derby and the pond hockey tournament help put Eagle River on the map.