RILEY TWP — A county tradition literally played itself out this past weekend. Over a dozen area residents taking to Riley Creek on Sunday to skate, sled, and keep their sticks on the ice in a friendly game of hockey.

This year’s games started on Saturday. A handful of men cleared the snow from the frozen creek, then hacked their way through seven inches of ice, dropped a hose, and, with the help of a generator, pumped hundreds of gallons of water up to the surface. With temperatures in the single digits, it didn’t take long for the water to freeze into a slick sheet, adding a couple of slippery inches of mostly smooth, skatable ice.

“Yeah, there’s some rough spots, but it’s way better than it was,” Joe Karhoff observed. “You’re usually playing around a rock, or a tree branch, or something like that sitting in the middle, anyway. A couple of rough spots? I think we’ll manage.”

Early Sunday afternoon, the same group was back, blowing the night’s accumulation of snow from the surface, and building a moderate-sized fire on the creek’s east bank.

The group, comprised mostly of familiar Riley Township families — Karhoff, Schroeder, Schulte, and their friends — gets together every year for a little friendly competition. But this is the first time in several years the game’s been played on the Riley. Warmer than average temperatures have failed to freeze the creek’s flow, so the group moved to area ponds. Not so, this year.

“This’ll be a good time for the kids,” Karhoff offered, then bounced up and down on the frozen creek with a who-am-I-kidding grin on his face. “And for us. It should be a good time, I think.”

By 3 p.m., the game was on. Small squads paired off, slapping the puck back and forth between the goals, and retrieving it from the rough. A little further to the south, the Evers boys learned the ropes from their grandfather, AD Schroeder, while a little girl decked out in a pink winter coat was towed in a sled across the ice.

Despite the cold, the games went on for hours, breaking up as dusk loomed and the warmth of hearth and home beckoned.

Not to mention, the Superbowl.