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Memories of Skating in NW Minnesota

Michael Rustad

I wonderful if any of you remember hockey games in Humboldt. Virgil flooded one of his sheds and it was like an indoor arena except for the center poles. We would frequently use the center poles to check opposing players. Ralph, I don't remember whether you played in those games. Jay Hoglin was the best skater in Humboldt and was always breaking away for goals. The Lofbergs played and so did a lot of the farm kids. I was a bad skater so they placed me in the goal. I remember not having a proper goalie stick and once using a curved snow-shovel. This rink was active around 1964-66. Prior to the "indoor" rink," the town had an outdoor rink close to Bill Sylvester's field. The earliest outdoor rink I recall was at the school which was later the football field. The school rink had a warming shed. We would also skate frequently in Pembina which actually had a warming shed with a heater. I was a terrible skater perhaps because I never had a pair of skates that fit. I never had a new pair or one that was even in good condition. I also had bad ankles and generally bad instincts on the ice. Jay Hoglin, on the other hand, was a graceful skater who would skate on the Red River for miles to improve his conditioning. We did not have a hockey team in Humboldt and it was a shame because Jay certainly would have been a star. 

I remember watching a few games in Hallock. The hockey games at tournament time were broadcast on KROX. I remember hearing Hallock play Indus and win in 1966. I remember that people in Hallock cared deeply about hockey. Hallock was a relatively small school but fielded hockey and basketball teams. Our town of Humboldt and St. Vincent did not have hockey, but we did have legendary curling teams. I think that the tournaments were called Bonspiels. Later, the Finney boys were champion curlers. The St. Vincent teams would frequently win competitions in Canada. Curling is an incredibly boring sport to watch with its sweeping of the stones! One of the Toronto Raptors asked to be traded when he found the only sport on tv to be curling. St. Vincent had a curling rink and some outstanding curlers. In the 1920s and 1930s, St. Vincent fielded a hockey team. I don't believe that Humboldt ever had a hockey team. Hallock, on the other hand, .represented N.W. Minnesota in the state hockey tournament in 1955-57. I don't have any present memories of legendary hockey players like Bob Krumholz, Jerry Lindegard, and the Younggren boys.


Attached is an article on hockey in Hallock.     

HALLOCK, MINN.: Honoring hockey history

Reunion brings players past and present to the ice

By Ryan Bakken

Herald Staff Writer

Herald photo by Jackie Lorentz

Leonard Lander, 77, warms up on the ice in the Hallock Arena on Friday. Lander is back for the Hallock hockey reunion this weekend. Lander still skates and shoots a puck.

"It's a topic every year, people wondering how much longer (Kittson Central) can survive. But we always seem to get enough numbers."

Kevin Klein, Class of 1988, Hallock, Minn.

HALLOCK, Minn. - Leonard Lander, at age 77, still skates several times a week. Always outdoors.

"I always have a hockey stick, too, just in case I trip," he says. "Like I tell the guys, I've got my crutch along."

Don't let his modesty fool you. The blades may not flash as quickly as they once did, but Lander still cuts a wicked groove in the ice. He certainly impressed the hockey veterans watching when he took some spins around the Hallock Arena ice sheet Friday afternoon.

Lander's rink is on Lake Markee, just offshore from his home near Brainerd, Minn. A snow blower keeps snow off his skating patch while a homemade, crude Zamboni makes fresh ice.

"It's a barrel with a sprinkler type deal in the back, dragging a rug behind," Lander says. "It's just like we used to do it in Hallock."

Good old days

Similar remembrances of the good old days of Hallock hockey will run rampant here this weekend. About 180 ex-high school players - more than half of those who ever played for the Hallock High School Bears and the current Kittson Central Wolfpack grouping with Kennedy - are back for the first hockey alumni reunion.

"This is the talk of the town," said Loren Younggren, one of the reunion brainstormers and organizers.

Research showed 320 hockey alumni. To have 180 returning exceeded by 80 the highest hopes of the organizers. Of the 180, 145 say they'll lace up their skates to play in the organized games.

Lander still was unsure Friday afternoon if he dared join the on-ice action. "I don't know if

I should press my luck," he said. "But I sure enjoy skating.

"I just wish the reunion would have happened 10 years ago when I would have felt more like playing."

The event kicked off Friday night with a banquet attended by more than 300. Four games will be played both today and Sunday, matching players of similar ages and abilities. Tonight features a steak fry benefiting youth hockey and a dance.

Old and young

The sign "Home of the Hallock Fighting Bears" has lain facedown in a corner of the arena since Kittson Central was formed in 1990. The sign was put back on the wall this week for the reunion.

The streets were full Friday of grown men wearing not only the letterwinner's jackets of the Hallock Bears and Kittson Central Wolfpack, but the team jackets of the Hallock Bruins, a senior team that operated for about 10 years before folding in the early 1980s. Some of the jackets fit better than others.

The old-timers' nights of open hockey at Hallock Arena in December have seen almost double the usual number of participants. Apparently, the "has-beens" have tried to round themselves back into shape for the games.

"There are no prizes, just the chance to get on the ice, sit in the box and tell stories," said Kevin Klein, Class of 1988.

Reunion participants have come from as far away as California and Florida. Many have piggybacked the reunion onto a holiday visit with relatives. Recent graduates who are in college also are around.

"We've gotten responses from a lot of people who aren't able to make it," Mike Lindegard said. "They were impressed that we'd organize something like this and wished they could have made it."

Hallock's first high school team was in 1935. Lander, who last played in 1943 before being drafted into the U.S. Army at age 18 before his senior year, dates back the furthest among reuniongoers.

"We were very fortunate to have a closed rink back then," Lander said. "Most of the towns had open rinks."

Birthplace claim

Hallock, tracing its hockey start to 1895, probably had an earlier start in the sport than its northwestern Minnesota neighbors with bigger hockey reputations. Some locals even claim it's the birthplace of hockey in Minnesota. The reason was that the railroad traveled from Winnipeg through Hallock, bringing hockey players here for games.

Hallock also was one of the first Minnesota towns to have an indoor arena, that happening in 1934.

Now, its distinction is that Kittson Central has the lowest enrollment of the state's hockey-playing schools. Hallock had teams reach the 1957 and 1961 state tournaments, but most years since, they've played the underdog role to bigger and tradition-richer schools. For several years now, there haven't been enough players to field a junior varsity. But this season's varsity is strong, having beaten perennial powers and scared several others.

"It's a topic every year, people wondering how much longer we can survive," Klein said. "But we always seem to get enough numbers."

The arena looks spiffy for the reunion, but there are problems below the surface, such as the ancient compressors and boards. The Plexiglas barely extends above the boards, prompting Dave Lindegard to say, "When you come in here, you have to watch the game."

But the hockey families in town keep the arena, built in 1973, going while facilities costing many millions pop up around them.

"It's not the nicest arena around, but we think it's pretty special," Klein said.

They think the same about their hockey tradition.