By Mpls.St.Paul Magazine / Inspired by Zach Parise’s My North
For Minnesota Wild forward Zach Parise, Minnesota means one thing: hockey. So when it came time for him to sign a free agent contract with his hometown team in June 2012, one of the deciding factors was his desire for his family to be even more deeply immersed in the sport. From a Northwoods city that goes by Hockeytown, USA to a metro hockey mecca, here are the most essential hockey pilgrimages in Minnesota.
Three hours north of the Twin Cities in the heart of the Iron Range, Eveleth is about as devout a hockey town as there is in the world. The U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame sits on Hat Trick Avenue. The town’s most notable monument is a five ton, 110-foot-long hockey stick (the biggest proper stick in the world). And Eveleth high school’s hockey team, the Golden Bears (who’ve won a handful of state titles), play in the Eveleth Hippodrome—a 3,000 seat arena that was hailed as the “Madison Square Garden of the Northland” when it was first built in the 1920s. Hockey isn’t just a sport in Eveleth, it’s a legacy.
The most enduring of the Twin Cities metro youth and high school hockey programs is Edina’s, which has a lot to do with an Eveleth kid, Willard Ikola. In the late 1950s Ikola took over Edina’s high school team, the Hornets, and built it into a powerhouse before retiring in 1991. As the Hornets’ legend grew, so did that of their modest digs, Braemar Arena, which, in addition to being the program’s home base by winter, opens up its doors come summer for a somewhat unofficial NHL/college training scrimmage league called Da Beauty League. The league features pros ranging from Zach Parise to Ryan McDonaugh to Dustin Byfuglien, and is open to the public. Also worth checking out in Edina are Lou Nanne’s American Grill (named after the Golden Gopher, turned 1968 Team USA member, turned Minnesota North Star) and Stauber’s Goalcrease, a goaltending store and training center owned and operated by former Minnesota Golden Gopher Robb Stauber (who was the first goalie ever to win college hockey’s top honor, the Hobey Baker Award, and is the current head coach of the US Women’s National Team).
Just shy of Canada, six hours north of the Twin Cities, sits the tiny working class town of Warroad. It’s a company town (Marvin Windows & Doors) with an idyllic Lake of the Woods setting, but what Warroad’s even better known for than producing world class doors and windows, is producing world class hockey players. In fact, it’s literally called Hockeytown, USA. Warroad has produced a laundry list of NHL and Olympic talent not the least of who are T.J. Oshie, Dave Christian and Henry Boucha, and central to it all is Warroad Gardens Arena, which is one part ice surface, one part defacto museum to the city’s storied hockey history.
Downtown St. Paul
Downtown St. Paul is built for hockey. Its heartbeat, the Xcel Energy Center, is the home to the Minnesota Wild, as well as both the girls and boys Minnesota State High School Hockey tournament. But it’s the hockey haunts like Tom Reid’s Hockey City Pub (named after Minnesota North Star player turned Minnesota Wild Broadcaster), Mickey’s Dining Car (where Charlie Conway’s mom worked in The Mighty Ducks), and, of course, Herbie’s On The Park (a natty bar and restaurant named after the gold medal-winning 1980 US Olympic Hockey Team coach and St. Paul-native Herb Brooks) that make it truly next level.
One of the oldest settlements in Minnesota—and known more for its Faribault Woolen Mills blankets, bucolic Cannon River setting, and being the birthplace of the Tilt-A-Whirl (thanks, Howard Sellner!)—Faribault is also a sneakily big deal when it comes to hockey. The Faribault Falcons high school boys and girls teams play at the Faribault Ice Arena, but it’s the national-caliber program at the local private school, Shattuck-St. Mary’s, that sets Faribault apart. The coeducational boarding school (that’s seen the likes of Marlon Brando, Townes Van Zandt, and Brent Musburger pass through its halls) is known for being a hockey player factory. Its on-campus Hockey Center of Excellence has produced a bevy of top-tier NHLers including Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews, and Zach Parise.