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Hockey Day in Mankato will be Hockey Week for MSU's Dickerman

Maverick women's assistant coach and former player will spend plenty of time at Mankato's Blakeslee Stadium

by Dan Myers @mnwildscribe / Wild.com

MANKATO -- Shari Dickerman isn't one to spend much time making plans. As a college hockey coach, she certainly is familiar with the old saying, "you plan, God laughs."

There's no way to know what an 18-year-old Shari Vogt thought when she arrived as a young hockey player on the campus of Minnesota State University in the fall of 2000.

One thing is for sure: she didn't plan on spending most of the next 20 years of her life in Mankato, a town of 50,000 that is the economic epicenter of South Central Minnesota. 

"I came here just looking for an opportunity to play," Dickerman said. "I didn't see myself staying here after. I didn't have a plan on where I'd go but I definitely didn't think I'd move into the Gage Towers, piece it together to play on the national team, and then end up moving back here for grad school."

A native of Richmond, Minn., just a stone's throw from St. Cloud in central Minnesota, Dickerman would go from quiet freshman to senior All-American in her four years as a Maverick, compiling the greatest resume in the history of the women's hockey program at Minnesota State. 

In an era where Minnesota Duluth, Minnesota and Wisconsin dominated women's hockey - and still do for that matter - Vogt was a name synonymous with of the best players in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association in the early 2000s. 

To this day, her All-American banner hanging in the rafters of the Mayo Clinic Health System Events Center - the downtown home of both the men's and women's hockey programs - is the only one in program history. 

It's one the current players at Minnesota State see when they take to the ice every day for practice. But her mug isn't only present on a banner hanging on the walls of the Mavericks' home barn ... it's one they see each and every day as an assistant coach behind the MSU bench. 

Dickerman is married with three hockey-playing children of her own, Tucker, Gigi and Cruz. She's got a killer backyard rink and both her and her husband, Jon, coach their kids in addition to Shari's MSU coaching duties.

Tweet from @vogt30dickerman: The most wonderful time of the year. ������ ������ 🏒 🥅 🥰Opening day at #dickermanpond #tuckergigiandcruz pic.twitter.com/cVWYQ5HbGS

She's a staple, not only in girls and women's hockey circles in Mankato, but is a mainstay in the hockey community at large.

"It seems like a long time ago that I played here, but at the same time, it's not that long ago," Dickerman said. "It's really eye-opening for me now when people I'm recruiting weren't even born when I was playing here. That kind of aged me a little bit."

You'll be hard-pressed to find anyone more excited for Hockey Day Minnesota to feature, not only Mankato, but Minnesota State University, when it hosts the event on-campus at Blakeslee Stadium next week.

"I've been Purple and Gold for a long time now," Dickerman said. "I really like it when people come down and say, 'I've never been to Mankato. I didn't know that your campus was like this. It's pretty nice.' I think people make a lot of assumptions, in that it's just another spot. But it's pretty special to me, and it's going to be cool to have all the Hockey Day stuff here."

Dickerman calls the Hockey Day festivities "an eight-day bender," and for her it will be. While the event is televised to a statewide and national audience for one full day, in the communities that host Hockey Day Minnesota, the events surrounding that day have morphed it into more of a 'Hockey Week Minnesota.'

In Mankato, events will officially begin on the ice surface as soon as this Sunday, six full days before Hockey Day Minnesota takes the air on Bally Sports North. 

That includes Dickerman's squirt, who plays on the ice Sunday. Her mites play on the last Sunday.

"It'll be fun to bookend the whole week with my kids playing out there too," Dickerman said. 

Of course, Dickerman has some business to attend to herself during the week. Her current MSU squad will host the University of St. Thomas at Blakeslee Stadium on Sunday, Jan. 23, which is the final scheduled event on the docket. 

Just before that, however, she'll once again don the goalie pads in the Minnesota State women's alumni game. Dickerman said about 50 players will return for what is expected to be the largest alumni game they've ever had.

"Threw it out there when we were supposed to have this event in 2021, and a lot of people were in, but it got postponed," Dickerman said. "It'll be awesome to have it outside and for them to take in our campus. We're having an alumni reception, so they'll have an opportunity to be in the student union, which is new from when most of them were here, take in campus and see our facility.

"A lot of them haven't been back in awhile and things have definitely changed since my era of being here. I'm excited for them to see that and to see how far our program has come from when they played and were around."

Much is different about the program since Dickerman played here two decades ago. For one, the home arena has been a game-changer for the program, which has just one winning season in its history: Dickerman's senior season in 2003-04.

Expect that to change in the coming years, as Dickerman and fellow assistant coach Jeff Giesen, working under head coach and U.S. Olympic legend John Harrington continue to build a burgeoning power in South Central Minnesota.

When Dickerman played here, the Mavericks called All Seasons Arena home. Known in town as "the little yellow shed on the hill," the women joined the men's team at the downtown Civic Center six years ago, and both teams now enjoy the benefit of a world-class facility that has turned into a second home for players in both programs.

The success of the Maverick men's team has also helped. No program in the country has won more games than the MSU men over the past 10 years, and repeated trips to the NCAA Tournament as well as last spring's Frozen Four, has raised the profile of the University overall, opening doors for both programs that would not have been options before. 

"The success of the men's program has really put us on the map," Dickerman said. "People now know about Minnesota State hockey."

The arena helped too. In Dickerman's day, programs like the University of Minnesota or Wisconsin would come to town chalk full of Olympians, and they'd play in front of a couple dozen people in a frigid community rink. On the way to the game, Dickerman would have to stop at the local grocery store to pick up her own snacks for between periods.

Now, they have a full-service kitchen just down the hall at the arena and a giant snack and shake station right inside the dressing room.

"I always tell them, 'you guys are spoiled, you don't know how good you have it,'" Dickerman said with a laugh. "Or turning in your sweatpants at the end of the weekend, and now all the swag they get. It has changed and it has grown and I think it's great. 

"This community has really embraced hockey a lot more than maybe 20 years ago, when it was more of a football or basketball place. Now there is hockey everywhere, so it's good to see."

Dickerman's coaching career began at Stattuck-St. Mary's School 40 miles to the east in Faribault in 2008.

A year later, she got the call from then MSU men's assistant coach Eric Means, who was applying for the vacant head coaching job on the women's side. If he got the gig, he wanted Dickerman to join him as an assistant coach on his staff. 

Means got the job, brought Dickerman onboard and she's been there ever since, sticking around after Harrington took the reigns of the program in 2015.

Harrington, a member of the 1980 'Miracle On Ice' team that won a Gold Medal in Lake Placid, played college hockey at Minnesota Duluth and coached the men at Division III St. John's, while serving as an assistant coach early in his career at the University of Denver and at St. Cloud State. 

His sojourn to Mankato was his first professionally, and he wanted someone who knew the hockey community and the university well. In Dickerman, he had both right on his coaching staff.

"Right from when I first started here and had a chance to visit with her, she was someone who I was certainly hoping would stay," Harrington said. "She had played here, she had coached here and she knew so much more about the university and how it worked than I did. From an administrative aspect of it, that was important.

"But her knowledge of the game and having played it and coached it, it was something that was strong and she's been invaluable for us on our staff. She's a great connection for our alums that have played here but she also connects with our current players. When she speaks, they listen because they know she's played here and gone to school here and she's got a lot to offer in terms of knowledge they can use."


Main photo courtesy of WCHA.com

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