Malcomb Chronicle: The evolution of a ‘hockey guy’ – Duluth News Tribune

0

ST. PAUL — I’ve heard a lot about the Minnesota Men’s Hockey Tournament over the past six months.

“You just can’t understand until you’ve been there,” they told me.

I don’t know if I didn’t believe them, but maybe “they” were right. I did not understand.

As I sit here in the press box at the Xcel Energy Center, the student sections of Thursday’s Class AA quarterfinals are already filling up — an hour before the start of the Lakeville South vs. Hill-Murray game.

This is not a hockey tournament. It’s like the winter state fair.

EVERYONE IS HERE.

I didn’t grow up with hockey. Honestly, it wasn’t a big part of my life until – well, until I became a prep sportswriter a few months ago.

I joked in a column at the time that I don’t understand why Minnesotans want to go inside during the winter to get cold. And honestly, I stand by my statement. It is stepping back.

That being said, I’m beginning to understand the draw. This winter I have seen some of the best hockey has to offer in this state.

Watching Hermantown’s Dane Callaway save an overtime penalty shot against Grand Rapids and Max Plante score the game-winning goal with less than a minute to go was honestly one of the best live sporting events I’ve ever attended.

Hermantown Men's Hockey takes on Grand Rapids at the IRA Civic Center.
Reporter Jamey Malcomb is almost as excited about being at the state hockey tournament as coach Pat Andrews was about his team’s overtime victory in Grand Rapids on Feb. 15, 2022.

Clint Austin/File/Duluth News Tribune

I’ve learned so much about the game this season – in large part through the patience of many local coaches, but especially Pat Andrews in Hermantown.

At the start of the season, Pat was talking about the concepts – gap control, forechecking, etc. – and I was like, “Wait, Pat, you lost me again.”

Being the teacher that he is, Pat would step back, patiently explain it again and my writing – on every team we cover – is better for it.

I went to Hermantown training last week at Amsoil Arena just to see what they were working on – just some passing drills in front of the opposition’s goal.

When I was covering the Section 7A title game two days later, I saw the drill come up in front of Denfeld’s goal and I swear the hair on the back of my neck stood on end.

“I finally understand,” I thought.

I’ve watched so much hockey this season that I joked with a pal in North Carolina that rubber, stale sweat, and chemical coolant was my new cologne.

Being here at the state tournament certainly didn’t make me love hockey any less. Until Wednesday, the only time I had been to Xcel was almost six years ago for a Phish show.

It was great fun, but even though I dig Phish, I think I prefer the state hockey tournament.

Seeing friends I haven’t seen in ages – like my pal Steve Wasko from Two Harbors – at the tournament heightened the state’s sense of fairness and I loved every minute of it.

But I’m not the only one.

After the 2021 tournament, where no fans were allowed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s not just me who’s happy to be back.

Everyone has a smile on their face. They are happy to be back and everyone is ready to see some epic hair.

After Hermantown’s 5-1 win over New Prague on Wednesday, I asked elder Zam Plante if he got a cut before the tournament.

“Yeah,” he said with a smile. “It’s mullet time, baby!” »

Senior Beau Janzig said it wasn’t just Zam who was looking to improve his pace.

“We’re bringing HAIR-mantown back,” Beau said.

The hockey tournament is a good time, but I think I’ll let Andrews wrap it up.

“People are really excited to be back in the tournament and I think the hair is part of that,” he said. “Our guys were super excited to watch all the player intros. It was phenomenal – the hair, all that. The atmosphere is so great, people are so excited about the buzz and the crowded building. People are so excited to have some normalcy back and now this tournament is back. It was so different last year – not because we lost, but not everything was the same – and it’s really special.

Well said, coach.

Share.

Comments are closed.