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Youth Hockey Memories

by Ben Palosaari / Minnesota Wild
Hockey Day in Minnesota is drawing near, and although none of the Wild’s current players hail from the Northstar State, they all have memories of hockey the way it was supposed to be played – outdoors and for fun. Coach Todd Richards and Co. shared their early hockey memories —good and slightly embarrassing— with

Todd Richards:
When I was a bantam, about 13 or 14 years old, my parents would only allow me to get a certain kind of stick. It was only $10 or $12. I think they were the old Northland sticks. But I had a paper route, and I saved up some money because I wanted a new Canadian stick. They were about $35 or $40, and my parents weren’t going to spend that much on a stick. I bought this black stick. It was beautiful, and I had it taped special. It was almost like getting a car and you shine it up and wash it, and really take care of it. Well, we were getting ready to play New Hope, our biggest rivals, and we were practicing outside up at Becker Park. My dad was the coach of the team. We were doing a defensive zone drill, and I went into the boards and I speared myself with the stick, and snapped the blade. I was really angry with my dad after. I blamed it on him. Of course my dad just giggled.

Cal Clutterbuck:
One time, I forgot my equipment, my whole bag. I forgot to throw it in the back of the van. We drove to Buffalo, which was like a 40-minute drive, and had to cross the border. We got there and looked in the back of the van and my gear wasn’t there. I was so scared to tell my dad. Finally, I told my dad, and my mom, who wasn’t going to come to the game, ended up driving my gear there in time so I could play, but they weren’t too happy with me.

Martin Havlat:
My father was my coach. And, there was one night when we were losing 2-1. I had a chance to score, but was grabbed, and the referee didn’t call it, so I called him some names. I got 12 minutes of penalties for it. I had to go to the bench to see my father, and I got a slap in the face. His hand was hurting more than my head, and after that I had to go to the penalty box. It was his birthday too, so it was a great day for him.

Shane Hnidy:
I grew up in a small town in Manitoba, and we had some really good teams for a rural town. I remember hanging around the rink a lot. We were there whenever we could in case an extra half hour or hour of ice time opened up between games or practices. That’s what hockey’s all about: Having fun.

Mikko Koivu:
I used to play street hockey outside with my buddies. Playing as a kid there wasn’t a turning point where I realized I wanted to play professionally. It was all about fun.

Nick Schultz:
The biggest thing I remember, growing up in a small town, are the tournaments. You’re at the rink all day; you’d play probably three games a day. And in between the games you’re playing street hockey and eating hamburgers. That’s what’s fun as a kid, being at the rink with your buddies.

We played in a provincial play-down tournament style, based on the size of the town, with two games and total points. We lost in the provincial final one year by one goal. We went into the final and just needed to score one goal to tie it up, but it didn’t happen. That was the most heartbreaking thing for a kid.

Andrew Ebbett:
My best friend back home used to build a rink in his back yard. That was pretty fun. Usually on Christmas we would go there. We’d get there around lunchtime and stay on the rink until midnight, with a spotlight on deck pointed at the rink.

Our youth teams didn’t have much glory, we weren’t that good usually. But one year, when I was 14, we won a tournament in Vancouver. It was the end-of-the-year tournament, and we hadn’t done that well, but we came out of nowhere and won. That was pretty special.

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