HANCOCK - It's always said that traditions run deep in the Copper Country. One of those is Guts Frisbee, a game that was originally invented in Keweenaw County. Now, many of the best teams in the world come together for the International Frisbee Tournament at Hancock Driving Park every summer.
This year, the 52nd year of the tournament, 13 teams from around the nation came to the Copper Country and battled for the Julius T. Nachazel Cup and Sunday night when it was down to just two teams, both of them had U.P. connections.
After going undefeated during the round robin Saturday, Blame the Dog found itself with a bye in the first round of the double elimination tournament. Once it finally got to the competition, it showed pure dominance all the way to the finals, pouncing early on Monte Carlo en route to a two games to none victory.
Calumet native Rudy Tikkanen of Monte Carlo bounces the Frisbee off his chest during the International Frisbee Tournament on Sunday afternoon. Monte Carlo, made up entirely of Copper Country residents, made an improbable run to the finals before losing to Blame the Dog. For more photos, visit cu.mininggazette.com. (DMG photo by Brandon Veale)
"We had a good bracket," Marquette native and tournament MVP Roger Ohman said. "But that wind played a big effect on everyone's play today.
"The Frisbee just danced through the wind."
Wind gusts ranged from 10 to 20 miles per hour throughout the day. That didn't seem to affect Monte Carlo though, as it defied the odds reaching the finals.
The hometown team lost its first game to Red Carpet Baggers Sunday morning. But the double-elimination tournament kept them in the mix. John Walikainen, team captain, said his team knew it had a chance after it won its first game in the losers' bracket, which they weren't supposed to win.
"That was great momentum," Walikainen said.
The Monte then won four additional games, including a rematch with Red Carpet, whom it eliminated in the rematch, and the Appleton Assassins, whom it went to extra points with.
"It was a long, long, long battle, and it was a blast," Walikainen said. "It was a hellacious amount of fun."
However, when the Monte finally got to the finals, it was over before it started. It fell behind by a half-dozen, then 10 and finally it was over, 21-10.
In the second game, Monte Carlo made a little bit of a run, taking leads early on, but Blame the Dog maintained its composure and made the key catches and points to stay ahead and win 21-15.
Plus, the local squad struggled on throwing, committing throwing faults five times in the final series.
"We fought hard, but I think we were a little out of gas to be honest," Walikainen said. "We spent it all getting there."
For Ohman and the rest of Blame the Dog, the tournament victory was even more than they could have hoped for. The team was just recently established with guys from Illinois, Florida and Michigan. In fact, Ohman was one of the team's last additions.
"There were a couple of openings because guys retired and I got on board and we're turning the table and moving right up the ladder," Ohman said.
Much of the team will be together again next month for a tournament in Marquette and then in September for the national tournament near Ann Arbor.
"We'll all hook back up for the National tournament and that will be the next big one for us," Ohman said. "All of the teams will be geared up and ready."
Michael H. Babcock can be reached at email@example.com.