‘The Back Door’ was a wonderful quirk in hockey tournament’s history

Gene Aldrich was the athletic director for the St. Paul high schools when he started pushing the idea of a state hockey tournament. It came about as an eight-team invitational in mid-February 1945. The state was then divided into 32 districts and eight regions for the state basketball tournament. Aldrich and his organizers tried to approximate those regions in rounding up teams. One problem: Six of the 32 districts had no hockey teams. There were no teams in Region 2 (Districts 5 through 8) in south central and the southwestern corner of Minnesota. For some reason, Minneapolis did not send a team to St. Paul for the first tournament. Aldrich found Granite Falls to represent Region 3, St. Cloud to represent Region 5 (later Minneapolis), Staples to represent Region 6 and deemed White Bear Lake to be the Region 2 representative. The Granite Falls lads did not have real uniforms and only a modest understanding of the rules of hockey. They also had the misfortune and being pitted against Eveleth – Minnesota’s earliest high school power – in the first round. The score was 16-0. And, according to historians, the game was stopped several times for the referee to explain to Granite Falls such intricacies as what it meant to be offside. Minneapolis did have West High in the 1946 tournament and St. Cloud Tech came back as the representative from Region 6. Granite Falls was back to represent Region 3, then Willmar in 1947, and St. Louis Park – from that suburb way out west – in 1948. There remained some mismatches and it was determined in 1949 that an attempt had to be made to create deeper fields for the eight-team tournament. It was then that it was decided to create space for three teams from the two northern regions (7 and 8) and three teams from the Minneapolis and St. Paul regions (4 and 5). The third team from the north would represent Region 3 and the third team from the Twin Cities would represent Region 1. In hockey parlance, this became Continue Reading

I don’t always cover state hockey tournament, but when I do …

The 72nd Minnesota High School Hockey Tournament (for boys) starts on Wednesday in St. Paul. I haven’t been what one would call a regular attendee, what with those grueling obligations to attend spring training, but I certainly knew how to pick my spots. I covered the 11 games (consolation included) of the 1969 and 1970 tournaments at Met Center as the prep reporter for the St. Paul newspapers. And I dropped in for the afternoon quarterfinal session in 1983 as a St. Paul columnist. The 1969 tournament has to rate as the most historically significant since the whole thing started as an eight-team invitational in St. Paul in 1945. That was the year the tournament moved from the antiquated St. Paul Auditorium to the major league venue in Bloomington. As traumatic as this was for the city that had embraced the tournament for decades, it also became the point that the hockey event escaped the shadow of the boys basketball tournament and started a rapid ascent to being Minnesota’s No. 1 high school attraction. Two years later, the smaller schools would get their way, basketball would go to two classes for 1971, and the plummet to becoming a competition only of interest to the schools and communities involved would be under way. Prior to 1969, the basketball tournament had two things that had kept hockey on the tournament back burner: One, involvement of schools and communities from border to border; and two, the possibility of a tournament “darling’’ beating a behemoth on the elevated court of Williams Arena. Those of us who were witness will die off, and the significance will be lost to the ages, but there will never be a phenomenon in Minnesota high school athletics to compare with Edgerton – “tiny Edgerton’’ as it was perpetually called – defeating Chisholm, Richfield and Austin to win the state basketball title over three days of madness in Minneapolis in 1960. There were attempts to create that darling Continue Reading

Booster spending alters high school athletic competition

One evening last fall, dozens of well-dressed boosters of the Minnetonka High School baseball program sipped wine at a lakeshore banquet facility and waited as a chef sliced roast beef at an offseason fundraiser. A silent auction included a week’s vacation in Hawaii, a pheasant hunt, a cultured pearl necklace and a spa day sponsored by a Lexus dealership. The next day, Cathy Maes, an event organizer, reported that big gains had been made in retiring the $4.4 million debt on the school’s new baseball and softball fields. “I think we did really well,” she said. That same night across the Twin Cities, the Anoka High School football team, ending another dismal season, gathered for a last supper of sorts in a school cafeteria. The meal, spaghetti on paper plates, was provided by a booster club that worries about getting food to athletes from low-income families. Its budget has finished in the red two of the past four years. Jeff Buerkle, Anoka’s football coach, said the sophomores on the team still wear the same game pants from 1997. “A lot of stuff is beat up,” he said. “They walk into a place like Eden Prairie … our kids see what they’re up against. And they don’t feel it’s fair. “Every single year,” he said, “it is harder and harder and harder.” More than ever, booster clubs, affluent alumni and benefactors, and corporations are creating a world of haves and have-nots in local high school sports, just as they long have done for college athletic programs.High school programs from affluent public and private schools with significant donors invariably have the best facilities and are increasingly dominating state competition. It’s all perfectly legal. And for high schools across the metro area, it’s increasingly becoming a stark fact of life. “When we play a school like Columbia Heights, no — it’s not a level playing field,” Jerry Pettinger, Continue Reading

The 2018 Minnesota high school ‘All Hockey Hair Team’ has been unveiled with some amazing hockey salads and flow

Cork Gaines, provided by Published 5:35 pm, Monday, March 12, 2018 YouTube/Game On! Minnesota This year's Minnesota State High School All Hockey Hair Team have been announced. In a first, the top spot went to a player from the girls' state tournament. Our personal faves were two players dubbed the "Jolly Ginger Giant" and the "Railroad Baron." The team is named by John King, a 44-year-old marketing executive and native Minnesotan. Thanks to his videos each year following the Minnesota Boys and Girls High School Hockey State Tournaments, the hair — or more accurately, the hockey "salads" and "flow" — of the players has become nearly as popular as the actual games. This year's Most Outstanding Hair went to junior forward Carly Beniek of Breck High School. It is the first time King has given the top honor to a player from the girls' state tournament. LATEST BUSINESS VIDEOS Now Playing: Now Playing 9 Things We Learned at The Plaza’s Etiquette School TownAndCountry EU Commissioner Mariya Gabriel calls for a "humans in command" approach to digital transformation Euronews Shelter Dogs Love Donated Chairs That Make Them Feel At Home Buzz 60 Toys R Us goes into administration in the UK Euronews Women's History Month: 4 Facts About 21st Century Females Wibbitz This Is The Best Restaurant Chain in America Buzz 60 Fortnite Battle Royale Coming to iOS and Android Wibbitz McDonald's flips its arches for Women's Day Euronews What next for EU-UK trade relations? Euronews Putin Describes New Weapons Capabilities in State-of-the-Nation Speech Time Our personal faves were two players dubbed by King as the "Jolly Ginger Giant" and the "Railroad Baron." YouTube/Game On! Minnesota Here is this year's team. The entire video is great, but if you just want the Top 10, skip to the 2:57 mark, which is then followed by some excellent honorable mentions: Barry Melrose of ESPN did an E:60 special on King Continue Reading

Check out the 2018 Minnesota State High School All-Hockey Hair team

While the official end of the Minnesota high school hockey season was marked by Minnetonka’s 5-2 victory over Duluth East in Saturday night’s Class 2A state title game, the grand finale was a couple hours later. The closing ceremony of sorts is presented in the form of a YouTube video. Think of it as the Minnesota high school boys hockey state tournament’s rendition of ‘One Shining Moment.’ That’s right, the 2018 Minnesota State High School All-Hockey Hair team video, presented by Game On! Minnesota, has arrived. Watch it here: This year’s theme: Oh, the places you’ll flow! A couple Burnsville High School alums make their presence felt in this year’s edition, and the possessor of this year’s best flow may surprise you.. Continue Reading

2018 Minnesota Boys High School Hockey State Tournament

For complete tournament coverage: Stories, photos and game updates, go to the Star Tribune hockey hub. Lakeville North (16-10-2) vs. Edina (26-2-0), 11 a.m. St. Michael-Albertville (23-5-0) vs. Duluth East (23-2-3), 1 p.m. Hill-Murray (13-11-4) vs. Minnetonka (24-2-2), 6 p.m. Centennial (19-6-3) vs. St. Thomas Academy (25-2-1), 8 p.m. Lakeville North/Edina winner vs. St. Michael/Duluth East winner, 6 p.m. Hill-Murray/Minnetonka winner vs. Centennial/St. Thomas winner, 8 p.m. Lakeville North/Edina loser vs. St. Michael/Duluth East loser, 10 a.m. Hill-Murray/Minnetonka loser vs. Centennial/St. Thomas loser, noon Consolation semifinal winners, noon Semifinal losers, 4 p.m. Semifinal winners, 7 p.m. Mahtomedi 4, Mankato East 2 Orono 6, Litchfield/Dassel-Cokato 1 Hermantown 4, Monticello Moose 2 Alexandria 1, Thief River Falls 0 Mahtomedi vs. Orono, 11 a.m. Hermantown vs. Thief River Falls, 1 p.m. Mankato East vs. Litchfield/Dassel-Cokato, 10 a.m. Monticello Moose vs. Alexandria, noon Consolation semifinal winners, 10 a.m. Semifinal losers, 9 a.m. Semifinal winners, noon Continue Reading

Brian Murphy: First state hockey tournament was a shock for Granite Falls boys

GRANITE FALLS, Minn. — They had never seen a blue line, let alone a Zamboni. Their uniforms were tan trousers and sweatshirts. Shin guards were fashioned out of newspapers and magazines. Each player had one stick; breaking it landed him on the bench for the rest of the game. Three months later, they were in military uniforms. Gorman Velde was still 17 when he shipped off to Japan during the final bloody days of World War II, a proud member of America’s Greatest but fading Generation. The 1945 Granite Falls Kilowatts were more than wide-eyed country boys on a big-city adventure when they arrived in St. Paul for the inaugural Minnesota Boys State High School Hockey Tournament. They were aliens to organized hockey who might as well have been from Mars. St. Paul Monroe High donated a dozen jerseys, breezers and socks for the Kilowatts to wear. Perplexed teammates looked at each other in the dressing room and wondered what to do. “We had no idea how to put everything on,” chuckled Velde, the goaltender who wore his leather football helmet without a faceguard. “We had to have the St. Paul (coach) show us.” By summer, Velde was on a U.S. Navy ship bound for Iwo Jima to re-supply the battered marines who survived the costliest battle in the Pacific theater. More than 6,800 Americans were killed among 26,000 casualties, the severe price paid to secure airfields on the volcano island for launching bombing missions over Tokyo. “We were stevedores, so all we did was load and unload ships,” he said. “We were lucky we didn’t get shot at.”About 40 students graduated from Granite Falls’ class of ’45. All but one of Velde’s male classmates enlisted immediately, including all of his teammates, as Allied troops in Europe and Asia grinded through the final stages of combat that forced Germany and Japan to surrender. Velde, 90, was born in Granite Falls, went to school there, farmed his land for more Continue Reading

Beginning a diet of state high school tournaments

With the Super Bowl over, it’s time to get back to reality. With so much to distract the average sports fan in recent weeks, it might come as a surprise that we’ve already reached the beginning of the high school winter sports postseason. Both Alpine and Nordic skiing will hold their section meets to determine state meet qualifiers. Come Saturday, we’ll know who will be competing for medals at next week’s state meet in Biwabik. For a knowledgeable breakdown of the Nordic ski racing section meets, there is no better place to look than Bruce Adelsman’s Skinnyski.com, which does a terrific job covering Minnesota’s cross-country skiing scene. Girls’ hockey section playoffs also get underway. In Class 2A, keep an eye on Section 6, where No. 1-ranked Edina and No. 2-ranked Blake have earned the top seeds. Both are defending state champs (Blake competed in Class 1A until this year) and met only two weeks ago, with Edina winning 5-2. Section 5 is nearly as intriguing, with three teams ranked among the top eight: No. 3 Centennial, No. 4 Maple Grove and No. 8 Blaine. All three compete in the tough Northwest Suburban Conference. Centennial gets the slight nod, having posted a 3-0-1 record against the other two during the season. Upcoming state tournaments: Feb. 14-15: Alpine and Nordic skiing, Giants Ridge in Biwabik Feb. 16-17: Dance team, Target Center Feb. 21-24: Girls’ hockey, Xcel Energy Center Feb. 23-24: Gymnastics, U of M Maturi Pavilion March 1-3: Boys’ swimming and diving, U of M Freeman Aquatic Center March 1-3: Wrestling, Xcel Energy Center March 7-10: Boys’ hockey at Xcel Energy Center March 13-17: Girls’ basketball, Target Center and Williams Arena March 16-17: Adapted floor hockey, Bloomington Jefferson High School March 21-24: Boys’ basketball, Target Center and Williams Arena. Top games this week: Boys’ basketball Saturday: DeLaSalle at Cretin-Derham Hall, 7 p.m. Girls’ Continue Reading

Minnesota high school hockey player, 14, dies after unexpectedly passing out during game

A Minnesota family lost their teenage son on Friday after the 14-year-old mysteriously passed out on the ice while playing in a hockey game and later died. Patrick Schoonover’s spontaneous and unprompted fall came shortly after the puck was dropped on Friday around 4 p.m. at the Essentia Health Sports Center in Brainerd, a small town about 125 miles north of Minneapolis. Police and emergency medical officials got a call about an unconscious person on the ice at around 4:30 p.m. and he was declared dead after the officials brought him to a local medical center. The cause of his death was not immediately known on Saturday. The passing of Schoonover prompted the ice hockey community to come together over the weekend. The NHL’s Minnesota Wild tweeted Friday night that the team “joins the State of Hockey in mourning the tragic passing of a Bantam hockey player today in Brainerd,” read the tweet. “Our hearts and prayers go out to the teammates.” “He passed away unexpectedly playing the game he loved so much,” the family wrote in a statement cited in the Star Tribune. “We appreciate the outpouring of support from the Eastview and Minnesota hockey communities to our family. We want to thank his coach, first responders and the staff at St. Joseph’s for doing everything they could to help Patrick and for providing comfort to our family. We appreciate all of you. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Patrick’s coaches and teammates. He loved all of you. We ask for our privacy from the media at this time.” He is survived by his parents, Michael and Gayle and three siblings: Abby, 18; Anna, 17; and Matthew, 11. His father is on the local hockey association board. A hockey tournament that night and a high school girls’ game at the arena were rescheduled as a result of Schoonover’s death. In a another sign Continue Reading

Video of All-Hair Team for Minnesota high school hockey tournament leads to $15,000 donation

The only thing bigger in Minnesota than the high school hockey tournament is the hair under the helmets. The tourney is on TV and played in an NHL arena. For most of these kids, it’s probably the only time they’re going to be on TV, so hamming it up for the cameras is a must and that includes players staking up to the camera, striking a pose and showing off their coiffure. It’s become a tradition of sorts, dating back 15-20 years, Trent Eigner, coach of Class AA champion Lakeville North HS, said. So kids spend the season growing out their hair and then cut it down to a mullet or bleach it or just let the locks flow for everyone to see. “Every year for the high school tournament, a number of local media outlets run an all-hair team,” Eigner, whose championship capped a 31-0 season, told the Daily News. “The first introduction allows the kids to come out without their helmets on so they get a little face time on TV.” From those intros came a video of the Top-10 hairdos from the event and a wager — if the video reached 100,000 views on YouTube, hockey apparel company Warrior Sports would donate $15,000 to the Hendrickson Foundation, which helps disabled hockey players get back on the ice. By noon on Monday the video had easily eclipsed that goal with over 843,000 views despite only being online since Saturday. “(We’ve) had a lot of attention this morning because of the video. We're totally surprised by how successful it was. We're really happy about it and to help the Hendrickson Foundation,” Keith Perera, the brand manager for Warrior Hockey, told The News. Perera added that the company hasn’t ruled out upping its contribution to the Hendrickson Foundation after seeing the video surpass the initial benchmark eight-fold. One of Eigner’s players, Luke Seper, came in at No. 2 on the list after skating up to Continue Reading