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State of Hockey Spotlight: New Ulm Sleepy Eye Hockey Association

03/03/2016, 11:15am CST
By Kelly Erickson




This youth hockey association isn’t solely about one community—instead it brings together two. It’s about two towns dead center in southern Minnesota banding together to grow the game.

As Mini-Mites and Mites, players stay within their own communities. But from Squirts on up, they combine as one group

“We joined forces back in 2011 and since then it’s been great as far as the teamwork that’s been involved to get everything merged together,” Mike Peterson, hockey operations committee director for NUSE, said. “Two separate communities came together as one. Obviously there were some reservations about it in the beginning. But at this point now, it’s been fantastic. It’s a combination of everybody working together.”

Five years into the merger, they do still face some challenges—namely in recruiting. 

“If anything it’s being unified for recruiting. It’s grassroots hockey. We’re working on it right now, trying to step up our efforts through both communities,” Peterson said. “It’s been kind of an individual thing in the past. We’re looking at ways to come together as a program to further that recruiting process to get kids out for hockey.”

That being said, NUSE has made consistent efforts to spread the word to new recruits. They host Try Hockey For Free days. Specifically for girls, they’ve thrown pizza parties with the high school girls’ team, encouraging the 10U, 12U and 14U players to invite their friends for some floor hockey and a fun time.

Naturally, getting more kids on the ice is an ongoing conversation—especially when it comes to addressing to cost and time commitment involved.  

“I think the mindset today is still that hockey is very expensive,” Peterson said. “But we outfit all entry-level players, even if you’re a Mite in your second or third year, we try to supply everybody with as much gear as possible. Certainly first-year skaters, even second-year skaters—they have their equipment for free. 

“The challenge is getting the word out and promoting it more. It’s not so much a challenge, it just needs to take place, it needs to happen.”

"Two separate communities came together as one. Obviously there were some reservations about it in the beginning. But at this point now, it's been fantastic. It's a combination of everybody working together."

From on-going education for coaches and players on and off the ice, to getting hard dividers for Mites so they have an appropriate sized rink, NUSE prides itself in the investment it puts into its community. 

And they’re not done. They’re hoping to construct an outdoor rink next to the beautiful New Ulm Civic Center, using boards that were donated to them by a community member. 

But for NUSE, the investment isn’t in its players alone—it’s in all members of the association.

“We continue to work on development with our coaches and players,” Peterson said. “We’ve got a hockey operations committee that works with all facets of on-ice hockey, off-ice and tournaments. It's something we take a lot of pride in doing.

"There's more work to be done as always. We continue to make progress and keep focusing in on doing everything we can to help our coaches, our players and the parents."

Tag(s): Home  March 2016