The Tourney ’20

The Tourney 20

High school hockey in Minnesota officially documented at the start of 1945 was preceded by almost 40 years where youth high school hockey can be traced to the late 1890’s to early 1900’s.  The then popular game of ice polo was evolving and hockey was taking over as the more popular winter pastime. Hockey had spread south from Canada to communities such as Warroad, Roseau, Thief River Falls, Crookston and Baudette. Hockey eventually flourished in the small range city of Eveleth, and all the way to Duluth. As the sport grew in popularity throughout the state in the men’s leagues, more rinks started to emerge and along with it the game of hockey gained popularity among Minnesota’s youth.

The first high schools to form a varsity team in Minnesota were St. Paul Mechanic Arts, St. Paul Central, St. Paul Academy, Minneapolis North, Minneapolis East, Minneapolis West and Minneapolis Central. By 1900, two of the schools, St. Paul Central and St. Paul Mechanic Arts, were playing in a four-team men’s senior amateur circuit called the Twin City Senior Hockey League along with the St. Paul and Minneapolis Hockey Clubs. Most of the games were played at the old Star Roller Rink located at Fourth Avenue and 11th Street, which had been converted from a roller rink with ice for hockey around 1900. Several teams that year competed for the state amateur “mythical” championship, which featured teams from Minneapolis, St. Paul, Duluth and Two Harbors. By 1909 Roseau and Warroad began their high school hockey rivalry which continues on today. St. Paul Public High School hockey championships were held for the first time as well in 1909. By 1914, the Minneapolis High School Hockey Conference, which included East, West, North, and Central, as well as the St. Paul City Conference teams: Mechanic Arts, Central, Humboldt and Johnson, whom all had their very own school maintained outdoor rinks for team play on. During the 1920’s, the metro teams got tired of playing each other, and began playing the northern teams more frequently. One of the first “north vs. south” games was in 1922, when St. Paul Central defeated Duluth Central 5-3 in Duluth. In 1923, Eveleth beat St. Paul Mechanic Arts 9-2 for the second state “mythical state championship”, an event that last took place in 1900. By 1926, the Northeastern Minnesota High School League was formed with teams from Duluth (Central and Cathedral) and the Iron Range Cities: Duluth, Eveleth, Chisholm, Virginia and Hibbing. High School hockey was becoming very popular throughout the entire state through the mid to late thirties.

By 1925, natural ice was installed in the White Bear Lake Hippodrome at the Ramsey County Fairgrounds in White Bear Lake, and it happened to be the only indoor facility in the Twin Cities to possess indoor ice for the next 25 years. With the new White Bear Lake rink in operation, the Bears high school team was resurrected, and with it became the first Twin City suburb to ice a high school team. By the end of the 1920’s, hockey was sponsored by close to 25 high schools in Minnesota. The 1930’s however, were a difficult time in America during the Great Depression forcing many public schools to drop their hockey programs. While some communities were forced to cancel hockey, others embraced youth hockey as an cheap form of entertainment and with it the game flourished. High School hockey briefly resurged in the late 1930’s, but was slowed due to the impact of WWII in the early 1940’s. At the conclusion of WWII, hockey was thwarted back into popularity not only in youth hockey.

The 1945 tournament consisted of eight teams, from so-called “regions” of Minnesota, that were invited to play for three days, Thursday through Saturday, to determine the state champion. Although the regions (today called classes A and AA) have been realigned and teams now must qualify through section playoffs, the basic structure of single-elimination play to determine consolation, third-place, second-place, and championship winners remains the same as it was in the beginning.

From 1945 through 1991, the tournament consisted of a single class, eight team tournament, instead of the present day two class (AA and A) tournament. Private schools were not allowed to play in the Tournament until the year 1975. In 1992-93, the tournament was composed of Tier I and II teams. This two-year experiment sent the top team from each of the eight sections to the Tier I portion of the tournament, while the remaining teams competed in a playoff to determine who would be included in the Tier II tournament. In 1994, the dual class system was adopted and teams were placed into a class structure based on school enrollments size. Today, teams play three 17-minute periods to comprise a game. A lengthened period time was recently adopted by the Minnesota State High School League. Boys hockey concludes their season with a four day tournament in March, notably called the “tourney” that features sixteen teams competing for championships in both classes, A and AA.

The tournament is now held at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, home of the Minnesota Wild. Based on tournament attendance, ice hockey is one of the most popular high school sports in the state. Standing room only crowds converge from around Minnesota to watch the state’s best high school teams in action with record breaking attendance each year of 120,000+ spectators.


2020 Tournament Review

The 2020 tournament saw Lakeville South, Eden Prairie, St. Thomas Academy, Hill-Murray, Maple Grove, Blake, Andover, and Moorhead go head to head to decide the state champion. In the quarterfinals Eden Prairie destroyed Lakeville South, as Hill-Murray also did with Moorhead. Maple Grove and Blake traded the lead for most of the game, but a questionable penalty at the end go the match sealed to game for Blake. In one of the biggest upsets in tournament history, STA upset Andover 3-2, with goalie Tommy Aitken playing the game of is life.

In the Semis, EP and Blake stays scoreless tell the end of the 2nd, when Ben Steeves opened up the scoreboard. Eden Prairie continued to dominate in the 3rd, giving the Eagles a spot in the state championship for the 2nd year in a row. In the nightcap, Hill-Murray squeaked past STA in OT.

The finals was extremely one sided, as Hill-Murray won 4-1, beating EP at every part of the game, giving the Eagles their 2nd straight finals loss and Hill their first title since 2008.

10 Standouts from the weekend

Tommy Aitken, Goaltender, St Thomas Academy

Remington Koepel, Goaltender, Hill-Murray

Luke Mittelstadt, Defense, Eden Prairie

Wyatt Kaiser, Defense, Andover

Ben Dexheimer, Defense, Blake

Ben Steeves, Forward, Eden Prairie

Joe Miller, Forward, Blake

Charlie Strobel, Forward, Hill-Murray

Nick Pierre, Forward, Hill-Murray