Today, our story comes from Steve Mosner of Maplewood, who has found that the sport of hockey can bridge the age gap between adults and kids, and can make anyone feel like a kid again.
Foreword: I am now a 27 year old man, who didn’t really get into hockey until about age 17. Up until 17, I had probably skated maybe 10 or 12 times in my life. I then started skating a couple of times during the week in the winter when the local rinks were frozen over. Since this was usually two or three months maximum per year, my hockey thirst was not fully quenched.
When I was about 19 or 20, my brother happened to find a paved rink in Eastside Park in Oakdale, Minnesota and he told me about it. I laced up my inline skates, and before long, was heading up there every chance I got. I have always liked being a goalie, so that is pretty much what I do up at Eastside, as long as there’s someone to shoot on me. Mostly, I’d find myself up there with Peewee and Bantam age kids after school, on the weekends, and during the summer. I have gotten to know quite a few of them over my years of going there. The ones I’ve gotten to know the best are the ones that I’ve known for the longest time. Ryan was going into first year Peewees when I met him, and now he’s a junior in high school, playing forward for Hill-Murray. Neil was a squirt goalie, who came up to Eastside to get in some time as a skater. He’s now a goalie for the Tartan A Bantam team, but he has developed into a great skater on the roller rink. In addition to these guys, I’ve gotten to know so many more kids on the current Tartan high school and Bantam teams, and even a few Peewee kids. They include: Mike, Matt M., Matt K., Cole, Jake, Ryan A., Chad, Tim, and Joe from the Tartan high school hockey team; also Alex from the Tartan Junior Gold team, and Brandon, David, Derek, Casey and Sammy from the Tartan A Bantam team, and Petey, Jake M., Nate and Austin from the Tartan A Peewee team.
I’ve spent a lot of time over the last seven or so years up at Eastside, and becoming friends with these kids has been a lot of fun and exercise. I’ve gotten to know not only them, but many of their parents as well. In the winters, I have gone to see them play, even going to the Spirit of Duluth Tournament this year to watch the A Bantams play – they took 3rd place. Despite an age difference (I’m 10 to 12 years older than a lot of these kids), our passion for the game keeps us all coming up to Eastside whenever we can. We all have each other’s cell phone numbers, and come snowmelt in March or April, the simple phone calls and text messages will begin – “Hey, you want to go to Eastside today?”
With that, I will describe the perfect day for my friends and me at Eastside: The weather should be partly cloudy, temperature about 70 to 80 degrees, and you want it to be a day when I’m not working, and the kids don’t have school. We’d want to get started about noon, so we could all sleep in awhile. I’d try to bring like 10 Gatorades, because we go through them like nothing else, and we’d still probably have to go to the corner store to buy a few more. Maybe like 3:00 or 4:00 pm we’d call up Domino’s to order some pizzas, and have them delivered to the house across the street – we need to keep our eyes open for when the delivery guy comes. Then, probably play for a few more hours. The best is probably 4 on 4, and we’ll switch up teams for all kinds of combinations, and throw in a shootout now and then (I’m the goalie, so I try my best to make it last as long as possible – once in while it lasts a long time). But the perfect day would not yet end. At maybe 6:00 or 7:00 o’clock, we’d all head home to get cleaned up, and then get everyone to come over to my place to watch the Wild win a playoff game, and then play some cards afterwards. After a day like that, I know I’d be feeling some 27 year old aches and pains, but undoubtedly the boys would call me the next day wanting to play, and I would say yes. That is, what would truly be, our perfect hockey day.
Afterword: Our reasons for coming up to Eastside vary I’m sure. The kids do it to work on their game and spend time with their friends. I do it to hang with them, give them something to do to stay out of trouble, and to stay active and keep myself as young as possible. It has been such a great experience getting to know them all, watching them grow up, and playing hockey with them as their skills improve.
One of the most rewarding things is that these kids are good! Tartan has not had a noteworthy hockey team until recently. The varsity team this year should do decent, but the A Bantams are almost unstoppable. They are 24-1-1, with the only loss coming to Duluth East in the Spirit of Duluth tournament, in a hard-fought game, and wins over Mounds View, White Bear Lake, Hermantown, and Edina. These guys look to have a bright future ahead of them at the high school level. And to be able to get on the rink with them to work on my game, and help them work on theirs, is a sweet bonus.
With all of us that come up to Eastside, we have a true passion for the game. We’ve played in the wind and the rain, when we’re hurt or sick, and when we’re super tired. There have been times when the older kids don’t want to play with the younger kids, but more often than not everyone is included. Sticks in the middle, and pick teams. If there were such an award, I would give the “Most Passionate Hockey Player” award to Ryan from Hill-Murray and Neil from the Tartan A Bantams. They both personify the “Hockey is Life” attitude. Pretty much no matter what, they are there. Keep playing guys, keep playing.