In Minneapolis, high school hockey becoming just a myth

first_imgAs future University of Wisconsin women’s hockey coach Mark Johnson took to the ice against the Soviet Union on Feb. 22, 1980, he did so as a starter, proven goal scorer and on-ice leader for an eventual gold medal-winning team. Somewhere behind him on that opening face-off was defenseman Mike Ramsey, the youngest member of the 1980 Olympic hockey team and a graduate of Minneapolis’ Roosevelt High School. Johnson was no stranger to Roosevelt, where his father, “Badger” Bob Johnson led the Teddies to four city conference championships in the six years before leaving Minneapolis for Colorado College. And yet, today, we are all strangers to the legacy of Roosevelt hockey, for it no longer exists.Last April, the Minnesota State High School League accepted a measure to reduce the number of Minneapolis high school hockey teams, from two, down to one. Of the seven public high schools in Minnesota’s largest city, athletics officials feel interest in hockey is so low that the district cannot support a second team. All of a sudden, Minneapolis is being lapped by its older-yet-smaller brother, St. Paul, which still manages to prop up two separate squads.This is somewhat personal. My mother is a Roosevelt graduate, and while her memories of the Teddies rarely extended beyond how Reed Larson’s girlfriend — Larson went onto play in the NHL and is a member of the US’ sad attempt at a hockey hall of fame — was a bit of a prima donna when they worked in similar areas of the Powers Department Store, she seems to appreciate hockey. I still remember watching the evening news the night Roosevelt’s hockey program folded — the video footage seemed to come straight from one of the less-than-triumphant scenes in “The Mighty Ducks.” As the droning voice-over carried viewers across the history of city hockey, images of Roosevelt’s goalie, who appeared to be a member of Minneapolis’ burgeoning Somali community and was wearing a catcher’s chest protector, spoke volumes to how the mighty had fallen. And this was 1997.Since then, other schools have ceased their programs, forcing a conference of three cooperated teams, which quickly became two co-ops, and now this. And it’s easy to see their justification. After all, Minneapolis has never dominated the high school hockey scene. In fact, between Minneapolis’ and St. Paul’s city conferences, there have been five high school state championships — with four of those coming from St. Paul Johnson. And yet, the Twin Cities are the cultural hub of the state, and for six months of the year, much of that culture revolves around hockey. With both cities putting the future of the game on life-support, it raises an important question: what exactly is the state of hockey in the State of Hockey?Every year, baseball fans are forced to endure a round of columns decrying the waning presence of black players on major league rosters; is it time the public points a finger at the institutional racism fostered by city public schools? Where have all our tall, pale Nordic athletes gone?Well, the suburbs. Remember, the only reason Edina native — and cake-eater — Adam Banks joined Joshua Jackson and Emilio was because of some athletic gerrymandering. It should be no great surprise that the death of city hockey somewhat coincides with the upper-middle class’s exodus toward planned, gated communities. And yet, as urban renewals push forward in major metropolises across the country (Detroit withstanding), it remains to be seen whether Minneapolis and St. Paul can ever rebuild these programs into competitive entities. School district budgets don’t project much in terms of surplus for the foreseeable future, and hockey isn’t exactly an affordable sport.For Mike Ramsey, life as a Teddie worked out pretty well. Eighteen seasons in the NHL, four All-Star Game appearances and one gold medal later, he owes a fair amount of his success to the exposure initially generated by Minneapolis public school hockey. But it’s a success story that may never be repeated again, and it’s not because of a lack of interest; it’s because the opportunity is fading quickly. There was a time when one could take pride in “Badger” Bob and his four city conference championships as the coach of Roosevelt High School, but that feels a bit moot now. Can a city with one team even have a conference champion?Sean Kittridge ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in journalism and history.last_img

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