Shjon Podein’s impact on St. Louis Park hockey cannot be denied. The Rochester native and 13-year NHL vet and Stanley Cup winner entered the youth program five years ago, before taking the high school head job prior to the 2011-2012 season. The Orioles finished 2-24 last year before beginning the Podein era 6-0 and posting a 19-6-2 mark to close out the season. The Minnesota Hockey Journal caught up with the former Minnesota-Duluth Bulldog and founder of Team 25, the Shjon Podein Children’s Foundation.
Philadelphia Flyers alumni Shjon Podein fires a penalty shot during the 2012 Winter Classic Legends Game.
MHJ: I have to ask you about that NHL Winter Classic Legends Game. That was quite an event.
Podein: That was a blast. I loved it. I was humbled to be invited to it. Then, to be able to go out there – I thought it was just going to be a little scrimmage with no fans or anything – and 50,000 people showed up and it was outdoors. It was one of the best things I got to do in my life.
MHJ: Who gave you the invite?
Podein: (Flyers General Manager and St. Paul native) Paul Holmgren called me. He was kind of laughing. He goes, “Yeah, Podes, you know, somehow you ended up on the list of people we were supposed to ask to this thing.” It was pretty funny.
MHJ: They must have made the right choice. You scored a goal.
Podein: It was pretty much prototypical of my career: Standing in front of the net and chipped it about two feet over the goalie – and my linemates did all the work.
MHJ: Looks like you’re having success with the St. Louis Park High School program early in your tenure.
Podein: We’re a hard-working Class 1A team. We have OK success against other teams like us. When we go up against the big boys, we get exposed a little bit.
MHJ: That said, every win you guys register must provide a boost for the program.
Podein: It’s just nice for the kids on the team to know what it feels like to win again, so they can get used to that and want it a little bit more.
MHJ: One of the challenges you face at St. Louis Park is keeping kids in the program, rather than open enrolling at some of the surrounding schools. But kids are sticking around now.
Podein: Growing up in Rochester in the 1970s is completely different than 2012 in St. Louis Park. We have kids within a four- to five-minute ride that can get scholarship money to attend a Benilde-St. Margaret’s, a Blake, a Breck – there are just so many options right here in their hometown. You hope to put on a program where kids enjoy growing up and playing with their friends – and when they do get to that age, they decide they want to stick together, play together and they have a viable, top-notch option right in their own backyard.
MHJ: Still keeping tabs on the Bulldogs?
Podein: Always. I actually work for an agency (family advisor) so I have a couple of kids up there right now – Jack Connolly (Duluth) and Dan DeLisle (Arden Hills) – so I keep very close track of how they’re doing. And, of course, I’m a Bulldogs fan so it’s hard not to check in.