It’s State Hockey Tourney Time! Masked Fan Sports Shorts & Much, Much More!

Marc Elliott

LARSMONT… Just two summers ago, my son William, my little brother Tom Zamberletti and I went over to the St. Paul neighborhood where we grew up. A few years had passed by since I had been over there, and my son wanted to see where it was that we lived when we were younger. Not 200 feet off of West 7th Street, and a couple of blocks from the Mighty Mississippi, with Fort Snelling on the other side, we walked around and took it in. It wasn’t hard to think back to what it was like in the late fifties and then the sixties. There were some changes, but…

If I were there this week, it wouldn’t be hard to imagine getting on the bus for the fifteen-cent ride down West 7th to the old St. Paul Auditorium to see some AWA wrestling, or the Shrine Circus, or the St. Paul Rangers CHL team in action, or the king supreme high school sports tournament of all tournaments: the Minnesota State High School Hockey Tournament. I’ve seen the Wisconsin, Illinois, and Missouri state tourneys, and all of them added up together wouldn’t even come close to the excitement and level of play that this one has. It is absolute magic and always has been.

I can think back to being in grade school then and what a huge week it was. I can recall when only eight teams got in. It seemed that every tournament “eve” it snowed without fail. I can recall we always had a special dinner the night before the tourney and every night of it. I can recall seeing the scores of fans and players from out of town walking around the downtown area, taking in the big city, in awe of it. I can remember that if you saw an out-of-town player wearing his letter or team jacket, that you would make a point of saying hi to them and welcoming them to town for the big event and wishing them luck. And I can remember the civility and manners shown in return in the form of a “Thank you, we are glad to be here.”

The “buzz,” as it was, from fans young and old alike was simply indescribable. And then of course, there was the tourney itself. The teams, coaches, and players that have graced this event are a veritable who’s who of Minnesota hockey. If I gave you the nicknames of Ike, Kriegs, Dougie, Shels, Big Henry, Antone, Lou, Bonker, and more, and you knew who I was talking about, you are a serious fan. And I can guaran-gol-dang-tee ya that before the championship game on Saturday eve, if you weren’t going to the game and you went outside in your neighborhood five minutes before the game, you would have been out there all by yourself.

This tourney promises to be as exciting as ever, and with three Duluth area teams in, I can only say that all eyes will be on St. Paul. I have made out my brackets already, and next week, I will share the results with you. Good luck to all participants!

THE VIKINGS HAVE a “tentative” stadium deal together, and the politicking has already begun in earnest. If my math is correct, the Vikes/Wilf/NFL combo will be contributing less than 50 percent of the proceeds, but on the other hand will not be receiving revenues or profits from non-football events. Well, thank you for that. The negotiations seemed to be getting to the point whereby I thought the Wilfs were seeking everything in the state that they could get their greedy mitts on. I even thought my sons’ table hockey game was in jeopardy. So please allow me to summarize: I watched less than one hour of NFL football last season. And it is not because I don’t like football anymore, it is because I hate the NFL and its business practices. The stadium taxpayer blackmail game is more than stale NFL, and it is not like you don’t have the money…..

THE TWINS HAVE begun their spring exhibition schedule, and I can’t say that I think the Twins’ chances for this season look all that great. The real power in the AL Central this year, I believe, will be with the Detroit Tigers. The Twins and the Sox just might be fighting it out for the basement….

THE NCAA WOMENS’ hockey brackets are set, and the Bulldogs didn’t get in. From the WCHA the Cheese, Gophers and NoDak are in. The men’s brackets are set for the WCHA tourney, and the Dogs will open up against Mankato and the Gophs have got Alaska-Anchorage. Should be a couple of interesting weeks leading up to the WCHA finale. The Dogs and Gophs will have to be reckoned with, and I would keep a close eye on Denver and NoDak as well….

THE WILD ARE circling the drain after consecutive shutout losses to the Red Wings and then last night at the ‘X’ to the Avalanche. I would say the playoffs are completely out of the question now, and yes, my season-ending post mortem on the current state of the club is not going to be pretty….  PEACE

1. VANCOUVER CANUCKS—got tougher at trade deadline
2. NEW YORK RANGERS—can’t put them at 1st with a 28th ranked PP
3. PITTSBURGH PENGUINS—Malkin continues to dominate
4. NASHVILLE PREDATORS—wouldn’t want to play vs. G Pekka Rinne right now
5. ST. LOUIS BLUES—not a star-laden roster, but who is playing better “team” puck?


Marc Elliott is a freelance sports opinion writer who splits time between his hometown in Illinois and Minnesota. Elliott grew up in the Twin Cities with many of his childhood neighbors working or playing for the Vikings and Twins. He participated in baseball, football and hockey before settling on hockey as his own number one sport. Elliott recently wrote “The Masked Fan Speaks” column for the Lake County News Chronicle for the past ten years and was a prominent guest on the former “All Sports” WDSM 710AM in Duluth.