HOCKEY: Drop the puck! In the snow?
The final score was 3-0. It was the first game ever played by Minot High Magicians hockey. The opponent? Little Cando. Yes, the Cando Cubs blanked the big school skaters with relative ease.
That was the start of Minot High hockey.
Coach Pete McKenzie was the leader of the Magician program and was on the bench for the initial test for the maroon and gold. The game was played in an outdoor hockey pen located just beyond the left field wall of Corbett Field.
Large, fluffy snowflakes fell before and during the game. There was no Zamboni. Players used show shovels to clear the ice as best as it could be cleared. Sometimes the puck would literally disappear into the newly fallen snow.
A small warming house served both teams prior to the game and between periods. Vehicles pulled up to the boards surrounding the rink so spectators could watch the game from heated interiors.
“We took out windshields. I can’t imagine how many got broke that season,” said Larry McFall. McFall was a goal tender for the initial Magicians.
Snow. Disappearing pucks. Broken windshields. Cold temperatures. No matter. Minot High hockey was born!
Enthusiasm aside, Hockey was a new sport for Minot High and the feeder system teaching young players was in its infancy. Predictably, success was slow to come.
“We’d go anywhere and just get smoked,” recalled McFall.
Nevertheless, a growing group of persistent and determined hockey boosters made a relentless push to insure the survival and growth of hockey in Minot. Buck Stanley, Herb Johnson and Ernie Selland were among the many who championed the “fastest sport on ice.”
“It would have been easy to give up on it. There was a lot of obstacles,” said Selland. “The most significant thing that stands out is the lack of support from the community. There just wasn’t any interest in hockey.”
Compounding the problem of starting a hockey program in Minot was a lack of facilities. It took donations and volunteer work to construct the hockey pen at Corbett Field. Later boarded rinks were added at Longfellow and Edison Schools.
“It was a basic start,” said Selland. “There were parents and a few businesses that helped us out. We had some volunteers who really worked hard.”
Marlow Johnson was the superintendent of Minot Public Schools when the Hockey Boosters approached him about adding hockey to the list of sanctioned sports at the high school level. Johnson was receptive to the idea, said Selland, but there was no money to support the program.
“We said put it in and we’ll pay for everything,” remembered Selland. “Getting hockey into the high school really helped the program. It gave the kids something to look forward to. Since then it’s become quite successful.”
A “tough sell” for the Hockey Boosters was the concept of an indoor rink. The proposal for an All Seasons Arena, a place where hockey teams could skate and practice out of the often harsh elements, was met with resistance from the community.
“Fundraising for that facility was not all that easy,” recalled Selland. “I don’t think people could envision how well it would be utilized.”
Selland credits former Minot Mayor Chester Reiten’s leadership in the eventual construction of a multi-purpose building, the All Seasons Arena, which would have ice for several months during the winter. In the season of 1975-76 the Minot High Hockey team played its first games indoors in Minot.
Hockey was so new to Minot during those early years that no businesses carried any hockey equipment. It was another obstacle to overcome for a fledgling program.
“Sticks, pucks, gloves. You couldn’t find any of that stuff here,” said Selland.
Selland said he would purchase hockey gear while on business trips in the Minneapolis area and bring it back to Minot for distribution to hockey players. In time a few Minot merchants began to realize that hockey was here to stay. Hockey equipment slowly began appearing on a few business shelves.
“As it became better known we had more success in raising money,” said Selland. “In the fall of 1970 we had maybe 30 kids in the program. By 1973 we had 125 or so. We had to car-pool to take players to games. There was no bus transportation in those days.”
In addition to the All Seasons Arena, the sprawling Maysa Arena has three full sheets of ice, the newest equipped with ample theater seating. It has become the focal point for hockey activity in the city.
“Oh my Lord, now it’s unbelievable!” said McFall. “Modern day kids don’t know what it was like to shovel snow and be outside every night for practice.”
“This was our goal, of course, but I couldn’t envision something as big as it is now,” said Selland. Photo courtesy of Steve Silseth/Special to the Minot Daily News
Minotauros forward Derek Frentz (7) tries to get a puck past Austin goalie Alex Schilling (31) during an NAHL game March 31 at Maysa Arena.
Growth of hockey by leaps and bounds
Hockey has been an important part of the Minot community for a number of years.
The drive and passion for the sport from the community has grown in recent years, and it will only to grow moving forward.
The biggest development of hockey to the community in recent years has been the establishment of the Minot Minotauros hockey club.
The Tauros are an American Tier II junior hockey team playing in the North American Hockey League.
The Tauros were an expansion team into the NAHL prior to the 2011-12 season. That first season was a bit of rough stretch.
The Minot team finished with a 7-49 record and finished fifth in the Central Division.
From there, improvement started happening for the Tauros. Minot finished fourth in the division in the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons.
The 2014-15 season was a turning point for the Tauros, as they finished the season with a 37-17 mark and finished second in the division.
After another second-place finish in the 2015-16 season, the Tauros made history by clinching their first division title this season.
Members the team are 16 to 17 years of age and are home-schooled. They play with the hope of landing a Division I scholarship.
Two members of this season’s team – Alex Adams and Tyler Jeanson – have already committed to play at the collegiate level. Adams has committed to play at the Air Force Academy and Jeanson has committed to play at Colgate University.
Success hasn’t just been limited to the Tauros.
The Minot High boys hockey team is the only Western Dakota Association team with multiple state championships.
The most recent coming in 2015 as the Magi edged Grand Forks Central 2-1 to claim their first state title since 1992.
Minot goalkeeper Brey Effertz recorded 37 saves in the state title contest.
“You just have to play every game like it’s your last,” Effertz told the Minot Daily News at the time. “This is what dreams are made of.”
And it doesn’t just stop there.
Youth of all ages are getting into hockey, helping the sport gain even more popularity in the area.
“We got a team at pretty much every level,” said Bob Gillen, Maysa Arena general manager.