Why They’re Awesome
When St. Cloud was selected to host the 2018 Hockey Day Minnesota on Lake George this past January, it didn’t just come together on a whim. No, this was an event the central Minnesota city had been preparing for many years.
“I’ve personally been working to make this happen,” said Mike Petroske, St. Cloud Youth Hockey Association president. “We’ve made a concerted effort to throw our hat in the ring. It’s a great thing for St. Cloud and the community.”
During the 12th year of this outdoor hockey extravaganza, hockey in St. Cloud was put on display for the entire State of Hockey to see. The day kicked off with two high school games and a women’s college game all took place on the outdoor surface in St. Cloud. That was followed up by a men’s college game in the Granite City between Minnesota State-Mankato and St. Cloud State.
“It’s great to have this exposure to our city and show what we have,” Petroske said. “Most people are unaware of how many opportunities there are here in St. Cloud to watch hockey.”
HOME ICE: Municipal Athletic Complex (MAC) and National Hockey Center
PRESIDENT: Mike Petroske
2016-17 REGISTRATION NUMBERS: 468
As a pure spectator of hockey, St. Cloud has plenty of ways for fans to get up close and personal with hockey. It starts at the collegiate level with the Huskies, both the men’s and women’s teams finding success.
The men’s team has come into the national spotlight and have spent time this year at the top of the college hockey polls. They are led by head coach and Austin native Bob Motzko, who has led Team USA at the World Junior Championship each of the past two years (complete gold and bronze finishes).
Outside of the Division I level, there are other levels of amateur hockey to watch. St. John’s and St. Ben’s each compete at Division III . The area also hosts the Granite City Lumberjacks, which plays in the North American 3 Hockey League.
“It’s great for the kids to have access to watch all this high-level hockey,” Petroske said. “There are a lot of opportunities as a hockey nut. The biggest challenge is all of the demand for ice.”
‘It’s All About the Kids’
As Petroske points out, this youth association is all about the young players and making the sport affordable for them. This goal is evident each season from start to finish.
It starts in September, when they host an activity day. It’s an open-house where young players can skate, play various games and activities. Their parents can participate in Q&A sessions during the event.
“We want to get people aware of the program and how affordable it is,” Petroske said. “It’s a mass marketing campaign. We try to get it into the schools as much as we can. We typically end up registering about 50 kids that day.”
St. Cloud also runs Try Hockey For Free Days during the season to get even more players on the ice. So far, the effort has resulted in significant growth for the association. They had 468 players registered this past season.
Though Petroske said it’s probably the peak of the growth, he is hoping it will mean more players staying with the program.
“I’m really proud of how much everyone has really embraced recruitment,” Petroske said. “We’re doing a good job of retaining the kids we have. I think our affordability is a big part of that.”
A Special Kind of Growth
Aside from its youth growth, the St. Cloud Hockey Association has helped launch Minnesota Special Hockey’s newest team in St. Cloud. The association has helped raise money to help get this team off the ground. The team is in its first season and is part of a partnership between Minnesota Special Hockey and the Minnesota Wild.
“It’s another great opportunity for people to take advantage of here,” Petroske said. “We’re very proud of our partnership with them. It’s just one more way for families to get involved in this great sport.”