Photo courtesy of Christopher Jones.

MINNEAPOLIS — Dogs, sticks, skates and skis—it must be Loppet time! This year’s dog-ski-skate-kubb spectacular was again a great success, featuring, of course, the world’s largest winter kubb event in the heart of Minneapolis—Captain Ken’s Kubb Tournament!

The weather was kubb-tastic for the 2018 City of Lakes Loppet. Well-groomed trails and kubb pitches, and smooth, thick ice provided a perfect setting for stick-throwers, skaters and skiers alike. Temperatures in the low double-digits were no deterrent on this largely wind-free day and the presence of participating local brewers surely helped as well.

Captain Ken again dished up some yummy chili for all participants, and Chuck and Don’s provided treats for the four-legged competitors. After last year’s weather-induced relocation to Theodore Wirth Park, we were all glad to be back on the frozen tundra of Lake Bde Maka Ska against the backdrop of downtown Minneapolis and a bright, clear blue sky.

The growing popularity of kubb was evident, as this year’s tournament included for the first time, a Recreational participant level—the Lilla Loppet. More competitive kubb players signed up for the Championship bracket. In all, 362 players participated across the two levels.

The Lilla Loppet in particular embodied the fun-for-all atmosphere that is the underpinning of kubb—lots of enthusiastic shouting and encouraging words, boisterous laughter, and plenty of spirit-fueled friendly competition.While the championship-level players were decidedly more focused on the competitive side of the sport, there was no lack of enthusiastic support (or spirits), and good-natured ribbing on that side of the lake either.

For the championship bracket, 36 teams were divided into six groups for round-robin play where every team in each group played each other once. The top two teams from each group advanced to the afternoon medal-deciding round. All of each group’s remaining four teams then competed in a re-bracketed consolation round. In both the consolation and the championship brackets, teams faced-off in a 55-minute best-of-three match to determine who moved on.

The Lilla bracket included 48 teams divided into 10 groups of four for the initial round robin play. The format for the Lilla was essentially the reverse of the championship bracket—the morning round robins also matched each team in  a group against one another once, but in a best of three, time-limited match. The subsequent afternoon consolation and championship-determining Lilla matches were then single-elimination.

Initial (morning round robin) championship bracket groupings were not purely random. Past Loppet champions and participating teams were spread across the six groups as best possible so as to avoid better/more experienced teams from eliminating one another from championship contention in the morning round. Such seeding however is becoming increasingly difficult as more and more kubb players gain experience and skill—a very welcome occurrence for this great and growing sport! Also, and very much in the spirit of the game, teams and players frequently rearrange themselves for a variety of reasons—to better match skill sets, to simply play with a new group.

With the blue skies clouding up a bit, the later rounds of the tournament wrapped up under lamplight. The spirits and enthusiasm were not in the least bit dampened, although standing around all day on ice and hard-pack snow began to take its toll. In the end, a number of familiar faces competed for the championship medals and wonderful 2018 Loppet winner’s round bibs.

In the championship side, the semi-finals had some very familiar teams. Chaska Blue (Phil Dickinson, Matthew Erdman, Jason Larson, John Oman, Mark Oman, Ford Rolfsrud) moved past the two-time defending champions, Strike Without Warning (Darren Finger, Evan Fitzgerald, Pat Rupp), and the Lumber Tumblers (Casey Anderson, Christopher Jones, Brian Winistorfer) took down Chaska Red (Matt Braa, Phil Goetstouwers, Paul Knutson). Chaska Blue and the Lumber Tumblers played the finals match for all the glory in the now darkened conditions. Game one saw 10 kubbs in play, with Chaska Blue eventually victorious. Game two was once again a very close one, seeing eight kubbs in play on the last turn that won Chaska the game and match. Chaska Blue was crowned the 2018 champs.

Third place went to Strike Without Warning over Chaska Red and Kubb Fellas were consolation winners.

In the Lilla Loppet, Team Ice KUBB’s was the champion, with Nordic Family ft. Kubbodeau claiming the runner-up spot, and Thundersticks grabbing third place. We B Kubbin was the consolation bracket winner, and Kubbin with Floyd was the Silver Consolation bracket first place finisher.

Thanks so much to Eric Goplin and all the volunteers and sponsors for putting on yet another amazing Loppet even. It’s great to see the sport of kubb continue to grow, especially given this mid-winter format. Keep up the great work everyone, and see you next year!

Photo of the top three finishing teams at the 2018 Captain Ken's Loppet Kubb Tournament.

Top three finishing teams.

Final Results

  1. Chaska Blue (Phil Dickinson, Matthew Erdman, Jason Larson, John Oman, Mark Oman, Ford Rolfsrud)
  2. Lumber Tumblers (Casey Anderson, Christopher Jones, Brian Winistorfer)
  3. Strike Without Warning (Darren Finger, Evan Fitzgerald, Pat Rupp)

Champion Consolation Winner: Kubb Fellas

Lilla Champion: Team Ice KUBB’s

Lilla Consolation Winner: We B Kubbin

Lilla Silver Consolation Winner: Kubbin with Floyd

Watch the finals on YouTube

Highlights from the finals match posted by John Oman.