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Community Outscores Catastrophe

03/18/2013, 4:00pm CDT
By Derek Ricke

Worst flood on record threatened Duluth associations, but neighboring rivals answered the call

As we find out every year, when it comes to Mother Nature’s devastation, there’s no telling who might be impacted. It could be a hurricane on the East Coast, an earthquake on the West Coast. Here in Minnesota, we’re no stranger to natural disasters, and that means our hockey players, hockey teams and hockey communities are often impacted.

In 2010, Wadena was struck by a tornado that wiped out a 20-block section of the town, including the hockey arena.

This past summer, Duluth and the surrounding area suffered its worst flood on record, leading to major challenges for the youth associations in the area that rely on outdoor rinks.

Irving Youth Hockey was one of those associations. The two rinks in Irving Park on the west side of Duluth have been a cornerstone of the community and a major source of pride for many years. Just ask Chad Postal, the president of Irving Youth Hockey, who grew up on those very rinks and now volunteers his time making sure today’s youth have the same opportunities he did.

“The Irving rinks aren’t just about youth hockey,” emphasizes Postal. “They are a symbol of our community. Any given night you see players from youth hockey up to current college players.”

Fortunately, in Minnesota, our neighbors (and sometimes rivals) know how important it is to provide kids the chance to play hockey. That’s when we realize that in times of trouble, we all represent the “State of Hockey.”

Rinks Shouldn’t Flood in the Summer

Last June’s torrential downpours and subsequent flooding threatened Irving Youth Hockey with the biggest challenge it has ever faced. The entire park spent a significant portion of the summer underwater. By the time the water dissipated, the scale of the damage was devastating.

About 80 feet of boards were washed away making the rinks unusable, but that was just the start. Irving had stored all of its equipment in the Irving Community Center, which saw water rise as high as the second floor. Nearly everything was damaged beyond repair, leaving Irving Youth Hockey without concession equipment, hockey equipment, locker rooms, rinks and ice maintenance equipment.

Worst of all, the City of Duluth condemned the community center, stating that the cost of repairs weren’t justified given the condition of the building. Suddenly, the home away from home for hockey players of all ages was essentially gone.

Yet for Chad and the rest of the hockey community in Duluth, giving up on hockey in Irving was simply not an option.

“I grew up on these rinks in the 1970s and 1980s,” states Postal. “The thought of kids in Irving not having hockey is unbearable. We need to provide these kids a place to play.”
 

Rivals to the Rescue

While the leaders of Irving Youth Hockey were busy assessing the damage and starting the cleanup process, other local associations made a point to reach out and offer their support.

Congdon Youth Hockey, located on the eastern side of the city, which had recently lost a rink of its own, held a special board meeting to encourage its members to donate money Irving.

The most important contribution, however, came from one of the most unlikely sources. Gary Morgan Park Youth Hockey, a neighboring association, proposed that Irving share their ice in Gary Morgan Park for the upcoming season.

“I was really impressed by our parents’ reactions when we brought up the idea,” says Dave Shea, president of Gary Morgan Park Youth Hockey. “Everyone was really positive about it. They put themselves in Irving’s shoes and agreed that we needed to help.”

Shea wasn’t the only one taken aback by their generosity.

“They welcomed us with open arms,” highlights Postal. “To have an association that you usually compete with on and off the ice be so willing to share their precious ice time with us, it was such a blessing.”

Since then, Gary Morgan Park and Irving have been working together to provide hockey to as many kids as possible. There have certainly been challenges in running two associations off one outdoor rink, but they have made it work because of their dedication to a common goal.

“In a way, this situation has brought out the best in us,” points out Shea. “It has united these two neighborhoods that used to compete. We aren’t Gary Morgan Park vs. Irving. We are a group of parents committed to providing our kids with a place to play hockey.”

Whether it is natural disasters, safety issues or overcoming everyday challenges to participation, you can count on hockey parents and volunteers to come together and find a solution. One of the best parts of the community-based model in Minnesota is that we aren’t just hockey people. We are a hockey community.
 

Rivals to the Rescue

While the leaders of Irving Youth Hockey were busy assessing the damage and starting the cleanup process, other local associations made a point to reach out and offer their support.

Congdon Youth Hockey, located on the eastern side of the city, which had recently lost a rink of its own, held a special board meeting to encourage its members to donate money Irving.

The most important contribution, however, came from one of the most unlikely sources. Gary Morgan Park Youth Hockey, a neighboring association, proposed that Irving share their ice in Gary Morgan Park for the upcoming season.

“I was really impressed by our parents’ reactions when we brought up the idea,” says Dave Shea, president of Gary Morgan Park Youth Hockey. “Everyone was really positive about it. They put themselves in Irving’s shoes and agreed that we needed to help.”

Shea wasn’t the only one taken aback by their generosity.

“They welcomed us with open arms,” highlights Postal. “To have an association that you usually compete with on and off the ice be so willing to share their precious ice time with us, it was such a blessing.”

Since then, Gary Morgan Park and Irving have been working together to provide hockey to as many kids as possible. There have certainly been challenges in running two associations off one outdoor rink, but they have made it work because of their dedication to a common goal.

“In a way, this situation has brought out the best in us,” points out Shea. “It has united these two neighborhoods that used to compete. We aren’t Gary Morgan Park vs. Irving. We are a group of parents committed to providing our kids with a place to play hockey.”

Whether it is natural disasters, safety issues or overcoming everyday challenges to participation, you can count on hockey parents and volunteers to come together and find a solution. One of the best parts of the community-based model in Minnesota is that we aren’t just hockey people. We are a hockey community.
 

"One of the best parts of the community-based model in Minnesota is that we aren’t just hockey people. We are a hockey community.”

Esko Fights Back

Esko Youth Hockey knows how Irving feels. The same period of heavy rains caused a river near the nearby community of Esko's outdoor rink to flood. Esko’s warming house was filled with several feet of water, ruining the building and all the hockey equipment stored in there.

In another showcase of community support, donations from local businesses and the effort of numerous volunteers enabled Esko to rebuild their warming house in time for their first game this season.

“The Esko community has been truly amazing,” remarks Crystal Kilichowski, vice president of Esko Hockey and Skating Association. “We have seen people giving up evenings and weekends to help out. It is really rewarding to see not just Esko hockey families using the rink, but the community families. People have come to see how valuable the rinks and warming house are to them.”

Upon hearing about the hardship these two associations have had to endure, Minnesota Hockey and Total Hockey have partnered together to help with their recovery. Each of them will receive 10 sets of starter equipment to replace what they lost and assist with future recruiting efforts.

“These communities are working so hard to find solutions and we want to help provide some relief,” stresses Total Hockey’s Katy Benoit. “Hopefully, this equipment brings some fun and joy to the recovery process.”
 

Tag(s): Home  Issue Archive  March 2013