Tuesday, December 23, 2008

#6 2007 Minnesota State HS Finals

Who: Duluth Marshall vs. Hermantown & Grand Rapids vs. Roseau
Where: XCel Energy Center
When: March 10, 2007
Final Scores: 4-1 Hermantown & 5-1 Roseau

Neither game on Championship Day ended up being that close. In fact, the best game of that day may have been the Class AA consolation game, where upstart Rochester Century, on paper, probably the weakest team in the tournament, pulled off a surprising win over Burnsville to take third place. But it was still a special day for hockey in Minnesota.

2007 was a special year for out-state Minnesota because all four finalists came from the northern part of the state, with no representation from the Twin Cities, and three of the four finalists were public schools.

I'm not one of those people that deny the right of private schools to exist and compete in the MSHSL, like some people; though I think I've made my opinion on big city private schools playing in Class A pretty clear. But I do think sometimes it seems a little more meaningful to see public schools succeed at the high school level. When a private school does well, it's a big deal for the school. When a public school, especially an out-state public school does well, it's a big deal for the whole community.

Grand Rapids and Roseau are two small communities--both schools could have been playing in Class A, but opted to play in the bigger division--where hockey is king. The two towns combined have a population of about 10,000, and odds are, pretty much all of those 10,000 people helped make up the crowd of 18,000 that watched the championship game. It may not be the olden days when people from Roseau or Grand Rapids would make their way to the state tournament and get their only glimpse of a building bigger than two stories. But with big cities and suburbs ever expanding, and small towns shrinking, it's getting tougher and tougher for the teams from these small communities to compete. There's no Acceleration Sports Training Center in Roseau. But the 2007 state tournament served notice that these old school hockey powers were still a force to be reckoned with in the world of high school hockey. And that their communities still mattered.

Nobody seemed more aware of the effect on their communities than the coaches and players themselves. I was covering the games that year, and the scene on the arena level of the X was pretty amazing. The kids from Hermantown talked about all the dads that laid down water for rinks for them to skate on growing up. The kids from Roseau had tears in their eyes talking about what it meant to be part of the history of Roseau hockey. A state high school championship is a special thing, and it was pretty cool seeing it go to people to whom it meant so much.


Anonymous said...

Nice writeup on what it means to play in the state tourney for the northern schools. However, I would disagree that it is getting tougher for them to compete, as you assert. I think schools like Hermantown, Rapids, Roseau, Warroad, Hibbing, and Cloquet are actually getting stronger compared to some metro schools. One person I worked with whose kid goes to a metro school was talking about how they were participating in a tourney in Hermantown later that month...all he could say was that he hoped none of his teams' players ended up injured playing these northern teams and their typical physical style. Another words, they were in for an ass-whooping and he just hoped they survived the darn thing. They survived, but they did get their ass whooped.

Anonymous said...

Northern teams produce year in and year out because of their attitudes toward hockey. The 'rink rat' mentality is still strong in the Northwoods as it's very quickly being lost in the 'Big City.' This philosophy has helped endure the northern hockey culture as the cities boys try to dangle their way to the net only to be met by a meat n' potato buiser.