Saturday, December 22, 2007

A Game? No, It’s a Life. A Tribute To Warroad - Roseau Hockey Rivalry

Courtesy of The New York Times

Published: January 26, 2007

Editors Note: This story was written by Chip McGrath last season. It takes a look at life and hockey in the communities of Warroad and Roseau, two very storied hockey towns. Prior to that game last January 11, 2007, I produced a special event called, "A Night With The Warroad / Roseau Hockey Legends." The event drew numerous onlookers as over 18 hockey legends gathered for a roundtable discussion and reflected on the rivalry and how significant hockey is to these two towns of hockey mystique.

AT this time of year there isn’t a lot to do in Warroad, Minn., a little town at the southwestern end of the Lake of the Woods, just a few miles from the Canadian border. There is no movie theater, the one bowling alley closed a while ago and the nearest shopping mall is in Grand Forks, N.D., two and half hours away across a windswept plain. You can snowmobile, but the snowfall has been a little skimpy so far this winter. Or you can ice fish, though until just a couple of weeks ago, when the temperature finally plunged to double digits below, it might have been unwise to drive a pickup out onto the lake.

Or like many Warroad residents, you can flock to the Gardens, the town’s main ice rink, especially on a night when the Warroad High School Warriors are playing. What basketball is to Indiana and football is to Texas, hockey is to Minnesota, a passion so intense that it borders on civic religion. And even in this hockey-mad state, Warroad, which bills itself as Hockeytown U.S.A. and displays a pair of crossed hockey sticks on the town water tower, is legendary for its fervor.

The Gardens is a kind of oasis — a place to see your neighbors, escape from the grind of a long northern winter and even enjoy a vicarious thrill or two, watching the Warriors cream Crookston or Thief River. Teenagers flirt here. Friends catch up on the news. Mothers bring their kids and let them zip around the lobby on their wheeled sneakers. The railbirds, the guys too nervous to sit, stand in the corner and never take their eyes off the ice.

“What else are you going to do up here?” said Ruben Bjorkman, a longtime observer of the local hockey culture. “It’s cold.”


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