State Hockey Tourney: Time For A Major Change Once Again? The Mfan NHL Power Rank Returns!

Marc Elliott

PROCTOR HEIGHTS… Years back, the Minnesota boys state high school hockey tournament underwent a major change when it expanded from an eight-team single bracket tourney to the current two-class format. Some fans and hockey purists don’t like it and still complain about it, but the sport and tourney have never looked back. It is more popular than ever. But every now and then, re-examination and change can be a good thing, and we just might be at that crossroads once again.

Most fans in the Ports are aware of what has been taking place in Class A, with one private Twin Cities school dominating the recent competition. The same thing is taking place with some private schools to an extent in Class AA. This year’s Class A title game between the local Hermantown Hawks and the Twin Cities powerhouse St. Thomas Academy actually turned out to be a very competitive contest. STA got the game-winning tally with six seconds left while on a power play to win 5-4.

Anyone who has followed hockey for a time knows that in a game of this magnitude, the referees usually “pocket the whistle” late in a tie game. Short of a player committing a grand larceny type of infraction, the refs usually let the players decide the outcome. Sadly, this wasn’t one of those occasions. It was a weak call on a Hawks player, made worse by a missed opportunity to give the Hawks a makeup call and possibly send the tilt to an overtime, where the outcome could have been more fairly decided. Post-game, Hawks coach Bruce Plante let the officials know how he felt and did so while still out on the ice.

This may or may not have been appropriate, as has been the subject of conversation by many fans, but above and beyond all of that is Plante’s longtime contention that as long as private school enrollment, and thus their athletic rosters, is not bound by school district boundaries or the ensuing transfer rules and so forth, as are the public schools, a level playing field does not exist in high school hockey. And basically Plante is right. He is absolutely right.

So, how would you go about “leveling” that field? Are the current transfer rules strong enough? Some purists advocate returning to a single eight-team tourney once again, but I do not see that happening now or ever. And it is no secret that the real good players find a way to get on to teams better than the program that may have brought them up in the game from youth hockey to high school, either by their families packing up and moving or by finding that long-lost “aunt and uncle” to move in with that just happen to live within that team’s school district boundary.

Allow me to think out loud here. Is it time to add another class to the state tourney? I would call it Class ‘E’ for Elite Class. If the truly elite players are going to continue to take advantage of some nefarious transfer rules and so on so they can play with other players of their caliber, why don’t we just recognize that and make it official? This class could contain anywhere from 8 to 12 teams, and you would have to meet stringent criteria to get into it and stay in it. An Elite Class addition to the tourney could be held right alongside the Class A and AA tourneys and could contain  perhaps four teams after a playoff competition.

A really good team might be in one year and might not meet the qualifications the next, thereby giving other teams a chance at the Elite classification. This would serve to end the current charade we have going on right now and recognize and separate the elite talent so that they can compete against one another, and compete honestly, without all of the machinations going on now with transferring or built-in advantage for private schools. At the end of the day, it’s up to the adults in the room to fix this and give our kids the level playing field they deserve.

Coach Plante has a right to be mad to an extent, but he should also be proud. If his club was facing a “stacked” roster, they gave them all they could handle and then some. If not for a call that should have never been made, they just might have come through and brought home the gold. Now let’s get to work and fix our tourney… PEACE

1. CHICAGO… one streak ends another begins.
2. ANAHEIM… Coach BB has the Ducks rollin’ & loves pro wrestling, too!
3. MONTREAL… Might be toughest team in the East.
4. BOSTON… Might be 2nd toughest team in the East.
5. PENGWAH… Missing Geno, still winning.
6. LOS ANGELES… Lousy start, building some “Mo” now.
7. OTTAWA… #1 ’Tender out, doesn’t matter.
8. ST. LOUIS… Hot start, then slump, now hot again.
9. DETROIT… Talk of team demise premature?
10. MINNESOTA… Finding offense & 7-3 in last ten.
11. WINNIPEG… 7-2-1 in last ten. Coming on.
12. CAROLINA… G Cam Ward out, team forges ahead.
13. TORONTO… Team cooled off lately, still in playoff hunt.
14. VANCOUVER… Canucks cooling off.
15. NEW JERSEY… Still good club, fighting for playoff spot.
16. COLUMBUS… Unbeaten in regulation in last 10.
17. NY ISLES… Possible playoff spot after years of futility?
18. PHOENIX… Not winning lately, don’t see that lasting.
19. NASHVILLE… Slumping lately, goal differential of -9.
20. NY RANGERS… Season going badly, Gabby, Richards in Toy-lay!
21. NORTHSTARS… Playing .500 hockey, -12 differential, need more?
22. TAMPA BAY… 3-7 Last 10. Circling the drain?
23. SAN JOSE… You wanted Brent Burns why?
24. CALGARY… Time for Kipper, Iggy & Bouwmeister to say bye-bye.
25. EDMONTON… Not even 20 years of 1st rounders can save this club.
26. COLORADO… Injuries and a holdout did no favors.
27. BUFFALO… No tendin’ this season?
28. PHILADELPHIA… Let wrong goalie go.
29. WASHINGTON… Is Coach Oatsie taking intravenous Pepto yet?
30. CLOQUET PEEWEE AA… Tough coach, tough team, tough moms.


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 wrote “The Masked Fan Speaks” column for the Lake County News Chronicle for ten years and was a prominent guest on the former “All Sports” WDSM 710AM in Duluth.