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Childhood in the State of Hockey

by Eric Postma / Winnipeg Jets

You could pack up the entire town of Roseau, Minnesota, drive them the 185 kilometers to the MTS Centre, pack them in the arena, and still have enough room for another 12,000 hockey fans. Despite it’s small size, that town, just a stone’s throw over the Canada-U.S. border, could ice a pretty competitive hockey team.

Before Dustin Byfuglien came along and won a Stanley Cup Championship with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010, Roseau’s claims to fame included: the Polaris snowmobile factory, former NHLers the Broten brothers (Neal, Aaron and Paul), and seven Minnesota state high school hockey championships (more than any other team in the state).

Dustin Byfuglien was born in Minneapolis, but his mother, Cheryl, was from Roseau, and the two moved back when Buff was only a toddler. Dustin was raised by his mother, in a trailer behind his grandparents’ house in Roseau.

Speaking to Dustin Byfuglien now, he talks about going with the flow when growing up in Roseau. He played hockey because that’s what everybody did.

“Basically I was just following my cousins along, following what my buddies did,” states Byfuglien. “I just happened to get on track and be one of the better players.”

Hockey is life in Roseau. If Minnesota is the ‘State of Hockey’ then Roseau is the capital city. There isn’t much else for a young guy to do in Roseau, and with easily available rinks, the game of hockey flourishes. “We had three indoor ice sheets in a small town,” says Byfuglien. “All I did was play hockey.”

Byfuglien spent some time briefly with the storied Roseau Rams, who over their 114-year history, have appeared in 33 State Championships, and have captured seven titles. The Rams’ seven titles (most recent in 2007) is more than any other high school in the State of Hockey.

However, due to academic ineligibility, Byfuglien would have to find a different hockey home. In 2001 he left Roseau to play AAA hockey with the Chicago Mission in Warrenville, Illinois, a suburb west of Chicago. From there Buff moved on to play in the Western Hockey League with the Brandon Wheat Kings and later the Prince George Cougars.

It’s clear that his hometown is very important to Byfuglien. On August 15, 2010 Buff returned to Roseau with the ultimate gift, the Stanley Cup. In an emotional ceremony at the Roseau Memorial Ice Arena, Byfuglien fought off tears as he stated simply that he wanted to share the championship experience with the people of Roseau. His family and friends were gathered around him to share the Championship experience.

“It was a small, simple town,” says Byfuglien. It’s the simplicity of the quiet northern Minnesota town that appeals to Buff.

For Byfuglien, Roseau is still home. He still has family there, and he loves to spend his spare time fishing on the 10,000 lakes of Minnesota. As Dustin Byfuglien continues to be embraced by the rabid hockey fans of Winnipeg, he will always have a home in Roseau.

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