Tag Archives: hockey

Can hockey, the sport I used to love, be saved?

Pond hockey in Hidden Valley Park, NorthfieldIn chatting yesterday with Brenton Balvin, I reminisced a bit about my life as a hockey rink rat from about 5 years old through high school. We had a pond near our house in Eagan and I pretty much lived there all winter.  We built our own warming  house, fully equipped with a pot-bellied stove.  It was classic pick-up hockey, also known as pond or shinny hockey:

There are no formal rules or specific positions, and generally, there are no goaltenders. The goal areas at each end may be marked by nets, or simply by objects, such as blocks of snow, stones, etc. Bodychecking and lifting or “roofing/reefing/raising the puck” (shooting the puck or ball so it rises above the ice) are often forbidden because the players are not wearing protective equipment.

I went to grade school as St. Peter’s Catholic School in Mendota where we had enough hockey players to have intramural leagues.  Raising the puck was allowed, and we had goalies, but bodychecking wasn’t common and I don’t remember any fights.

I went to high school at Nazareth Hall seminary in Aden Hills, MN where we could not only skate on Lake Johanna, but where we had full responsibility for maintaining the ice for two hockey rinks (with lights!).  We had giant hoses for flooding and dozens of shovels for keeping the rinks snow-free. Although our class was small (I graduated in 1967 in a class of 33) we had enough good players to field a team that played some of the other teams in the Central Catholic Conference (St. Agnes, Hill, Benilde, Cretin, St. Thomas, St. Bernard’s, DeLasalle). We finished 4-5 my senior year. I loved it. Again, bodychecking was allowed but it was uncommon, especially along the boards since they were only hip high on the outdoor rinks. I don’t remember any fights.

By the time my three sons were old enough to skate here in Northfield (early 80s), I became unhappy with direction hockey was taking.  Pick-up hockey was losing ground to organized hockey, even for the youngest kids.  Parents were getting up early to haul their kids to the indoor arena and spending their weekends hauling their kids to games and tournaments around the state.  I was disappointed to see how much time and money was required and secretly hoped the boys never got interested in playing.  Thankfully, they didn’t.

Pond hockey in Hidden Valley Park, NorthfieldI quit watching (in person or on TV) pro hockey long ago because of the fighting. (Olympic hockey was an exception.)  The recent four-part NY Times series on Derek Boogard, Punched Out: The Life and Death of a Hockey Enforcer and the recent incidents of devastating injuries of high schoolers on bodychecks from behind have served to reinforce my beliefs that great sport hockey has gone bad.

But then when I consider the youngsters playing pond hockey with the oldsters on the pond by my house a couple weeks ago, I think, Maybe hockey can be saved. How? I have no idea.

Photos: pond hockey rocks

pond hockey in Hidden Valley Park pond hockey in Hidden Valley Park pond hockey in Hidden Valley Park

I don’t know if my Xmas Eve post (Looking for a place to ice skate outdoors? Consider the pond in Hidden Valley Park) had anything to do with it but a game of  hockey broke out on the pond in Hidden Valley Park yesterday afternoon.

It was classic neighborhood pond hockey: shoes for goal posts, goalies in their shoes, no checking, no raising the puck, no one bothering to keep score, lots of smiles.

pond hockey in Hidden Valley Park pond hockey in Hidden Valley Park pond hockey in Hidden Valley Park

Oles & Carls toss cans, bottles & Zamboni tires on ice during club hockey brawl; ref injured, police called. This is a friendly rivalry?

St. Olaf Carleton hockey brawl - photo by JULIA AAKERMANITOU MESSENGERSt. Olaf Carleton hockey brawlA college club hockey game at Northfield’s ice arena was the scene of an ugly incident a month ago involving Carleton and St. Olaf students, both players and spectators. I just found out about it this week when a LoGro reader alerted me.

Having behaved badly at times during my college days at St. Thomas, I’m not quick to make a big deal over college kids doing stupid or offensive stuff. But this was over the top.

As far as I know, there have been no public statements about this incident from the administrations of either St. Olaf or Carleton.

Here’s what’s been reported:

Manitou Messenger news: Club hockey team brawls with rival Carls; Team injures referee, prompting police intervention

Spectators howled and jeered as game play took a violent turn in the St. Olaf versus Carleton club hockey game on Friday, March 4 at the Northfield Ice Arena.  The stands were packed with students, predominantly Oles, many of whom began the evening shouting profanities and other negative cheers, including the standard “Carleton sucks!”

The St. Olaf players were just as rambunctious as the fans. “St. Olaf had about as many penalty minutes as they had game minutes,” spectator Thomas Hegland ’13 said. When the crowd threw soda cans and bottles onto the ice, St. Olaf was penalized, and additional bottles and cans along with zamboni tires were thrown onto the ice in retaliation.

Manitou Messenger editorial: Club hockey brawl triggers shame and stitches

After several minutes the fight finally ended, leaving gear strewn across the ice. There were drops of blood from a referee, who had been “seriously injured,” as the St. Olaf student announcer stated over the loud speaker. The referee attempted to pull players apart. As he skated to the bench the fight left a deep sense of shame and disappointment in me.

Not only did I feel shame because of the fight, but also because of the cheers of “F— you, Carleton,” “F— you, Olaf,” “ugly b—-es,” etc., and because of the constant throwing of trash onto the ice. I was even more surprised that one of the St. Olaf students on the bench threw tires onto the ice and then walked out of the arena.

College Confidential story: Hockey Brawl with St. Olaf

There were several other incidents that weren’t in the articles. I have no idea what happened in the St. Olaf locker rooms, but I do know that one of the Carleton players asked the police to watch the Carleton locker room, because St. Olaf fans were lined up outside the locker room when they went back in between periods. My friend’s stick and gloves were stolen when he was in the bathroom. I don’t know what happened in the Ole locker rooms, but I’m sure it wasn’t exactly peaceful either.

Lastly – the fight was ugly and intense. In addition to the players, several spectators actually jumped over the glass onto the ice so that they could join the fight – it was ridiculous. I have no idea who hit the ref, but both schools were equally at fault and it was really startling. I wasn’t aware that the game was called a draw, but it doesn’t surprise me.

In short, it was an ugly game. There were a lot of drunk fans from both schools, and the tensions elevated really quickly. I don’t expect another Carleton-St. Olaf game for a while.

Badjocks.com story: College Hockey Game Turns Into Brawl, Ends With Referee Slashed in Face w. Skate

Naturally, the game was called a draw and the police spent hours afterwords clearing up the brawls OUTSIDE the arena.

The Northfield police report for March 4 only says:

Event Number: LNO110304002932
Date/Time Incident: 03/4/2011 9: 7: 9 PM
Type:  L/EXTRA PATROL
Address:  12XX BOLLENBACHER DR
Disposition: ADVISED OR ASSISTED

This 2008 Carletonian article tells the story of local police ticketing students for alcohol consumption at club hockey games:  Strong Northfield police presence at recent Chiefs game

The question may remain unsolvable. For the more immediate future, one of the written-up students suggested that the school warn students if there is knowledge of likely increased police activity. “I think the school really made a faux pas in this circumstance,” said the student. “A heads-up could have gone a long way… the school knows that students go to the hockey games inebriated.”

Photo album: Northfield’s outdoor ice skating rinks at night

It has been a great winter for snowshoeing, cross country skiing, and sledding (recent blog posts with photos). But it’s also been terrific for outdoor skating, as we’ve only had a couple days of temps above freezing.  Northfielders are fortunate to have many well-maintained outdoor ice rinks, all with warming houses.

I took photos of a few of them this week during one of our many light snowfalls.  I plan to take photos of the others (see the parks with an ‘x’ in the ice rink column on the City of Northfield’s parks page) in the next week or so.

See this album, the large slideshow (recommended), or this small slideshow:

Photos from the Northfield Peewee A hockey tournament

Jesse James Showdown PeeWee A Hockey Tournament Jesse James Showdown PeeWee A Hockey Tournament Center: Northfield Raiders Team Manager Cheryl Buck and friends
I went to get my skates sharpened this morning at the Northfield Ice Arena and discovered that the Northfield Hockey Association is hosting the Jesse James Showdown Peewee A Hockey Tournament this weekend. (Peewee boys, ages 11–12.) Teams from Northfield, Faribault, St. Paul Como, Red Wing, Orono, Fremont NE, Austin, and Tartan are participating. 

Cheryl Buck (right photo, center) is the Northfield Raiders PeeWee Team Manager. She’s also has duties as the President of the Laura Baker Services Association Board of Trustees while performing a few tasks as Director of sponsor relations for PRMIA.