Muddy Puck hockey tournament draws teams to celebrate end of season
Each year for nearly the past decade, as the National Hockey League’s playoffs begin, the Muddy Puck coed hockey tournament draws teams to its own, not-so-fierce competition at the Park City Ice Arena.
Instead of a shot at the Stanley Cup, players in the coed tournament vie for homemade prizes and a case of beer.
This year, the prizes are bottle openers mounted to small commemorative plaques, crafted by tournament organizer Dawn Tyler.
“At least it’s something that can be used,” Tyler said.
She also made beer cozies for the winning team emblazoned with the tournament logo and the declaration that they were the champions.
Tyler is one of several organizers who has helped bring the Muddy Puck to life each year, along with her husband, Tony, and a handful of volunteers from the Park City Predators women’s hockey team. The event has drawn teams from as far away as Washington state, but it’s not so much about competition as it is about camaraderie.
The Muddy Puck was able to secure a beer garden license, so participants undeterred by the elimination of the Las Vegas Golden Knights or the Nashville Predators can watch the Stanley Cup quarterfinals alongside players they just faced off against. (The Park City Predators crib their name and branding from Nashville, with the NHL team’s blessing.)
Tony Tyler said he and his wife have fielded two teams almost every year the tournament has been held, and will keep doing so because they enjoy it so much.
“I’m terrible, but it’s still fun,” said Tony. “You think, like, NHL-level, then you knock it down, like, 20 times, that’s pretty much us.”
He said his teams are usually in the middle of the pack in their respective division and is usually at least in contention for the coveted case of beer.
Tony said he didn’t know what kind of beer the grand prize was.
“I’m hoping it’s Labatte,” he said.
On Saturday morning, Marley Vaughn, a player for the Cocktails of Jackson, Wyoming,was hung over. She knelt in the entrance to ice sheet and stretched out before taking the rink in her team’s game against the Puck Hogs.
“I’m super sore,” she said. “Played at 11 o’clock last night. Then we had a little bit of fun after that until about 3 in the morning.”
She and the Cocktails have been coming down from Wyoming for the past nine years.
“Every year we come out here, and this is one of our most fun tournaments,” she said. “We rent a big house and we all stay together and all cook together and all enjoy our weekend in the sun.”
Vaughn said she plays forward and loves spending time with her team. But she’s also happy just to get out of the house for the weekend. She had a baby 10 months ago, and the Muddy Puck was one of her first solo trips since.
Her husband was at home with their daughters.
“He normally plays, but this year he’s hanging out with the girls,” Vaughn said. “He gets to go to a different tournament, and I chose this one.”
Vaughn said she and her team have won a few times in the past, and probably lost just as many.
“But every time we have the most fun, so that’s all that really matters to us,” she said.
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It’s been a rough season for Park City, but a taste of the postseason could pay huge dividends in the future.