I recently saw the documentary, Hockeytown. This very raw film, follows two high school hockey teams in Northern Minnesota during the 2019-2020 season. Two rivals on very separate paths: Eveleth is the iconic Iron Range town, home of the U.S Hockey Hall of Fame. Both the town and the hockey team are long past their prime years. Hermantown is on the rise, gaining both population and championships.
All the pressure, pride, excitement and disappointment in playing Minnesota’s state sport at the high school level is laid out bare in this very well done documentary.
Texas has football; Indiana has basketball; Minnesota has hockey.
John Gaule started to plow open hockey rinks and skating trails on Trail Lake back in the 1980’s. The community rink near Moose Pass has grown considerably since then. One thing that hasn’t changed is that the trails and rinks on Trail Lake are 100% volunteer driven.
Today the rink is plowed with a pickup truck, rather than a 4-wheeler, and there are now loaner skates and hockey sticks available for anyone to use, but the feel of the community hub is still the driving force. There can be as many as 50 people skating at any given time, and the skating trails can be a mile long. These days, Gaule even has a skate sharpener, which he charges $5/ pair, with the money going into rink maintenance.
The snow plowing begins when there is 6 inches of ice, and the ice is usually thick enough for skating to run through most of March.
This coming weekend will have both the hockey rink and skating trails open to anyone who wants to lace up a pair.
We spent some time out at Battleship Cove on our off-hockey day. There are eight surviving U.S. battleships that had served in WWII. One member of the Frozen Foursome had been to seven of them. We set out to find the last one on the list: the USS Massachusetts.
There is a lot to see out at the Maritime Museum at Battleship Cove: Cobra and Iroquois helicopters, a pair of PT Boats, a WWII landing craft and a DUKW Boat, just to name a few things. The main draw though is the big ships: the destroyer USS Joseph P. Kennedy JR, the submarine USS Lionfish, and the “Big Mamie”, the battleship USS Massachusetts.
The USS Massachusetts was commissioned in May of 1942, and quickly headed out to take part in Operation Torch, the invasion of North Africa. Afterwards, she was transferred to the Pacific Fleet, taking part in the Gilbert and Marshall Islands Campaign, the Philippines Campaign, and the Battle of Okinawa. After WWII, the ship was transferred to the reserve fleet in 1947, and finally stricken from Naval Records in June of 1962.
The USS Massachusetts has been a museum ship at Battleship Cove since August of 1965. She was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976, and became a National Historic Landmark in January 1986.
On our off day between hockey days, we drove out to Rhode Island to check out the ProNyne Motorsports Museum. We had a Pawtucket guide along for the ride as well, a newly minted Puckhead from Australia.
ProNyne is dedicated to New England’s racing history, and the museum is an absolute treasure trove of New England racing memorabilia.
Curator Ric Mariscal was kind enough to open the doors and give us a tour on a Friday, and he even turned on a heater, although I’m not sure any of us would have minded if that had skipped that part.
The museum is packed, but well organized, although we definitely imagined what an adventure it would be to get one of the cars out for a special event.
Every corner comes loaded with stories, even the barber chair. When you stop in, you should ask about the barber chair. The walls are covered with photos, and the books and articles are readily available to peruse. The place is a researcher’s dream; trust me, we had one with us.
New England is not my “neck of the woods” by any stretch of the imagination, and I found myself absolutely fascinated by one car in particular: Bill Slater’s 1954 Studebaker. The car was found in a field, and now rests peacefully against an interior wall of the museum. For me, it did not take a lot of imagination to picture the Studebaker speeding around Daytona at 100mph with Slater behind the wheel.
For anyone remotely interested in racing, the ProNyne Motorsports Museum is well worth the visit. It was an unexpected gem of a destination on this trip.
What is a group of Puckheads to do while visiting the city of Boston for the D-1 Hockey National Championship? Prior to the games on Thursday, we visited the rinks for all the teams that play in the annual Beanpot Tournament.
First stop was Agganis Arena on Commonwealth Avenue. The home of the Boston University Terriers. The rink seats 7200, with plush theater seats. I hate to get in the middle of Boston rivalries, but it was arguably the nicest arena we visited. It was also the newest, having been built in 2005.
I believe it was an assistant coach who gave us directions to get into the rink, after we tracked him down. Nice guy.
A quick trip down Commonwealth brought us to Conte Forum on the campus of Boston College. The home of the BC Eagles. The Forum seats 8606, and opened in 1988.
Quite a bit larger than the BU rink, as well as older. Major construction was going on around the complex, but we had no trouble finding an open door. A pick up basketball game was taking place on the floor, and someone was even popping popcorn in the concourse.
One thing we all agreed on was that BC has a beautiful campus.
Harvard University was our next stop, but the doors were locked to the Bright-Landry Hockey Center at Harvard Stadium. Luckily, a student with a key card approved of our Quest, and opened a door for us. Harvard had the only rink with the ice still in.
The Hockey Center seats 3095 for hockey and opened in 1956.
We did not tour the campus, but did poke around Harvard Stadium a bit, where the football team plays. The Stadium is an early example of building with reenforced concrete. Harvard Stadium opened in November of 1903.
Our final stop on the Quest was Northeastern University and Matthews Arena. We saved the oldest for last. Matthews Arena, which opened in April 1910, is the oldest ice arena still used for hockey, and the oldest multi-use athletic building still in use in the world. Sadly, this is all we saw of it. There was no sympathetic coach or approving student to allow us past the locked doors. In theory, the arena seats 6000 for hockey. We all agreed that the arena does have a nice arch.
I had a quick trip down to the Lower 48 before the chaos of summer hits. It was the first personal, leisure trip I’ve taken since the pandemic began.
I have been to Seattle many times, but this was the first time I stayed in Seattle Center. The Mediterranean Inn was my crash pad of choice. A very laid back, no rush, quiet sort of place within walking distance of pretty much anything one needed to do. My layover was hockey related: a Kraken game at the new Climate Pledge Arena. My walk to the rink took five minutes. The monorail is close by, as are a huge selection of restaurants. There was no shortage of pubs to choose from either.
The Inn has a small deck on the roof, with a great view of Seattle. I guess it is early in the year, and I was more than a little amused by the quantity of outdoor propane heaters, but even with those, I rarely found anyone else up there when I ventured top side.
The flight to Seattle from Fairbanks was full to the overhead bins, but otherwise uneventful. My next leg was a bit more challenging. Alaska Airlines has suddenly had some issues. Growing too quick; a sudden influx of air travelers; a shortage of pilots? All of those things have led to a recent cancellation of flights. I was caught up in that mess, although compared to others, my situation was just an inconvenience.
I have traveled from Alaska long enough to know, if at all possible, give yourself extra time. By extra time, I mean days. Luckily, when I received the “Dear Passenger” letter from Alaska Airlines, I had the time to adjust my flight. I have been stuck in worse cities than Seattle.
With travel loosening up somewhat, and hockey once again allowing fans, I made a quick break for the Lower 48 last weekend. Since I had to travel through Seattle, I figured I would overnight, and take in a Kraken game. Climate Pledge Arena is located in Seattle Center, which is the home of the Space Needle, and was the home of the 1962 World’s Fair. Renovated to be the home of the fledgling Kraken NHL team, the arena maintains the original roof and exterior support from the Washington State Pavilion, which was built in 1962.
The arena is said to have hit its goal of being carbon neutral in 2022. There are over 12,500 trees and plants on site, including the Climate Pledge Living Wall. Rain water is collected in a cistern, and that water is used to resurface the ice. With the extensive mass transit system in Seattle, people are actively discouraged from driving to the rink. Personally, I just walked over for the game.
The pregame festivities are true to the history and personality of Seattle. There were two themes, one was nautical, and the other was musical. Water, Seattle and the Kraken go tentacle in tentacle. Water, in all its forms, including ice, are celebrated here.
Local youth bands played for the audience pregame, in a platform called School of Rock. The talent was impressive. A 12 year old played a Jimi Hendricks inspired “Star Spangled Banner” on his electric guitar. The crowd roared with approval.
Being an expansion team, Seattle isn’t knocking on the door to the playoffs, but they have a rabid following, which is true of all Seattle sports teams. The Dallas Stars happened to be in town, and the Kraken played quite well. The arena was packed, and the crowd was raucous. Dallas never seemed to get their footing, and lost decidedly 4-1.
Just a fun night at a new arena, after being cooped up for two years. Great atmosphere at Climate Pledge, and any time I can watch the Dallas Stars lose is a “cherry on top” kind of day.
With the Alaska Nanooks on their second consecutive week off, we dip into the archives for our hockey fix. I’m guessing this was the championship game of the 1936 Winter Carnival tournament. 1936 would have been the second annual winter carnival. Fairbanks won the game, although no score, or photog credit was given.
The hockey game was between periods, and I had to make a quick run over to the neighbor’s. I turned the corner from my front walk, and was looking right into the shoulder of a cow moose. “OH! Hello.” I reevaluated my route, and took the long way around the cow. I was guessing there was a calf close by, but hadn’t seen it yet. The cow seemed to anticipate my rerouting, because she was waiting for me when I popped back out, but her ears were not laid back, so I scooted by, and made my way next door.
On my way back, the calf had come out onto the narrow road to join the cow. I still would have been fine, but a snowmachiner chose that moment to drive by. The rider spotted the cow, and stopped even with the unseen calf. Then another snow machine came up and stopped, but both engines were idling. That was too much for the calf, who started to panic, which caused mom to get edgy. The two moose then took my long route back to my cabin, so I tried to make a quick go at the short route. The moose beat me. I hesitated, then made a break for my front door. Mama Moose was not impressed, and tried to cut me off, but a huge spruce blocked her way.
She spent the next 30 minutes at the end of my walkway, just daring me to come back out, but I had college hockey to watch, and the moose had already caused me to miss 10 minutes of the game as we played tag.