FROM THE CATBIRD SEAT: A Lumberjack hockey hall of fame? Why not?
Since 1947, high schoolers have worn the purple, gold and white of Cloquet High School on hockey rinks all over Minnesota — first representing Cloquet, and then Cloquet, Esko and Carlton.
Boys and girls, parents, volunteers and coaches have spent untold hours learning one of the world’s greatest games and bringing untold credit to their schools and themselves in one of the State of Hockey’s truly great programs.
As we reported in April, Jamie Langenbrunner, freshly retired from an 18-year NHL career that spanned 1,255 regular season and playoff games, is heading up a group that is compiling the history of hockey in our town for display at Northwoods Credit Union Arena.
“It’s going,” Langenbrunner said this week. “We’re taking it bit by bit, getting some information and deciding how we are going to lay it out. We are getting people who are coming in with stuff.”
Some of the “stuff” was provided by longtime coach Bill Kennedy, who Langenbrunner said brought in “albums full” of old photos which have yet to be explored.
It’s stories like that which show why the Cloquet program is so special around the state. So why not go one step farther?
Let’s have a Cloquet Hockey Hall of Fame.
Surely a program that has produced the likes of Langenbrunner, Derek Plante, Corey Millen, Rick Mrozik, and the other four Division I captains on Millen’s 1982 team (he himself was the fifth) can find some space in the building to honor those who have done the “long haul” in terms of program service.
Plans are underway to honor all the known CHS and CEC graduates who have gone on to play college hockey, with a special section of wall similar to the NHL area at Amsoil Arena in Duluth.
But why not a Hall of Fame?
“That’s a no-brainer,” Langenbrunner said.
Have a section for players, boys and girls alike, who have worn the colors. Have another section for builders — maybe those who literally built the old Barn or the new “Lumberdome” from the ground up, or who served the program in other ways. Coaches. Rink workers. Staff. Let’s celebrate community.
The players are almost self-evident, and they can be added over time.
We know about the NHL players. But what about guys like Warren Carlson, the first Cloquet goaltender to beat Duluth East? Bruce Plante? Dutch Barrett? Adam Pavlatos? Adam Laaksonen? Josh Johnson? Reid Ellingson? The goaltenders alone read like a Who’s Who. And that’s just the boys.
Want more? OK. Jesse Bertogliat. Clay Wilson. Aaron Novak. Mitch Ryan. Tyler Johnson. Justin Jokinen. David Brown.
How about the ladies? Liz Palkie. Michelle Maunu. Carley Esse. Johanna Ellison, to name just a few. Girls’ hockey is now 20 years old in Minnesota and is developing a fine history of its own, especially here.
Varsity coaches? All right. Kennedy, Bartholdi, MacFarlane. And youth coaches? Absolutely. They built the program, too.
But back to builders. When I think of builders, I think of people like Jerry Couture, Milo Rasmussen, Kenny Young and Jackie Hebert to name just a very few (and I know I’ll leave some out who predate my time here dating back to the late ’80s). Folks like Randy Stahl, Kerry Rodd, Steve Jezierski and Mike Sylvester have long brought the games home to listeners and readers who couldn’t go to the rink. They deserve places, too.
They deserve a place because hockey in this community has been more than the players for many years now. Of course, the players are the focus because we will do anything to help our kids along, but the Lumberjack on the uniform has always meant more than the person who wears it.
Langenbrunner agrees. He saw it himself last year when he renamed the Pee Wee tournament’s trophy the “Founders’ Cup” and asked Couture to drop the first puck.
“There are a lot of guys who deserve to be honored for what they did,” Langenbrunner said. “A ring of honor, a hall of fame, whatever it is, we should do it.”
Wearing the Lumberjack means volunteers raising money to build rinks with their own hands. It means coaches and parents spending hours and driving thousands of miles for tournaments, games and events.
It means state tournament appearances, glorious heartbreaks and pride in a jersey that is immediately recognizable to any high school hockey fan in Minnesota without a single word being printed on it.
That’s what we are in the State of Hockey. Let’s celebrate that.
And now, let’s think about it. Let’s vote on an initial class for 2014 when Langenbrunner’s history exhibit opens for public display.
Can we do this?
I’ve never known a Lumberjack to answer that question with “no.”