Volunteers ensure the smooth running of the National Pond Hockey Championships
“My boss, she was actually the one who looked after all the volunteers and I sort of took over when she decided to retire and that’s what led me to be here “, Olson said. “But I really like pond hockey itself, that’s why I keep coming and will continue to be here for many years in the future.”
With Olson at the helm, the volunteers – who are the lifeblood of the event – keep the tournament running smoothly. It’s a well-oiled machine.
Katie Holmgren, Tournament Director and Director of Program Services for USA Hockey, knows she doesn’t have to worry about volunteers during the tournament because they’re in good hands.
“Jenn and others who have done it before her really make a difference because they know so much about what we do,” Holmgren said. “It’s almost a no-brainer for us, and we hardly have to worry about it. And it’s not in a selfish way, it’s just that they know what they’re doing and it’s so reliable. They make it work.
Having the pond hockey event in Eagle River – which has a population of just over 1,500 – for the 16 years it has been going on is a blessing to the community and its residents.
Eagle River, home of the Wisconsin Hockey Hall of Fame, has a historic skating rink called “The Dome.” In 2020, the Eagle River Recreation Association (ERRA) began fundraising to help offset renovation costs and keep the rink open.
Getting Eagle River residents to volunteer for the Pond Hockey Tournament helps bring benefits to ERRA and the rink.
“It’s all right to help us continue to have a working dome and with the last dome standing, I think that’s a really big deal,” Olson said. “To make it work, that’s what all the volunteers do at the rink. We try to keep the lights on, we try to keep operating, because when we have tournaments at our rink, they want to play in the dome, that’s what they want to do.
The event is huge for the hockey community in Eagle River, and it also provides economic stimulus to many businesses.
“It helps hotels, restaurants, everything. It helps our rink, our dome,” Olson said. “For our skaters at our rink, it keeps our registration fees low. If we didn’t have these opportunities (to volunteer), it would be much more difficult for parents, children, everything.
Holmgren said the desire of Eagle River residents to always lend a hand to ensure the event goes off without a hitch speaks for itself.
“I think that says a lot about this town and it’s a hockey town and there’s a lot of hockey history here,” Holmgren said. “They want hockey to continue to grow here, they love having this event here. I think that says a lot about this city, and we’re taking hockey back to its roots. The volunteers here want to be part of this event.
Olson is responsible for finding all volunteers to work the tournament each year. Parents of hockey players register quickly and social media posts attract other volunteers. Olson said that, just like her, there are a lot of people who come back every February to help out.