For the love of outdoor hockey

If there’s one story today to warm the heart of an old hockey player, it’s MPR reporter Dan Kraker’s story about the hockey players who still play in outdoors rinks.

And if there’s one quote that aptly sums up the state of hockey in the state of hockey, it’s this one:

“They’re not as used to the outdoor skating. They’re more used to indoor skating.”

That’s Edina Hockey Association president Mike DeVoe.

“We have teams come up, and it’s kind of neat for them to play a game outside.”

And that’s Portman Amateur Hockey Association president Todd Ching, who hints that outdoor hockey for kids from the cities is like seeing an old rotary telephone.

There are challenges to playing outdoors, Kraker notes. Sometimes slush makes it hard to skate and kids can’t pass the puck. You know, like the Minnesota Wild.

And yet, there’s something that’s perfect about this photo from Derek Montgomery.

Photo:  Derek Montgomery for MPR News

“It’s just always came to me that it’s better playing outside than inside,” an 8-year-old player told Dan. It’s enough to restore your faith in kids.

Coincidentally, a story in the Duluth News Tribune today documents the difference it makes for kids to grow up playing outdoors.

“It’s something special and pretty much no one else can say they have,” Dominic Toninato, a junior for the University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs. “In Duluth we have seven, eight or nine outdoor facilities. You grow up with your neighborhood kids. You play with them so you have that special bond and friendship and connection being so close to those guys all the time. And then you’re playing your other buddies from around the city. It’s definitely cold at times and whatnot, but you learn a lot on those outdoor rinks.”

It’ll be hockey day in Minnesota on Saturday. Some cities, like Grand Rapids, will recreate the tradition when Grand Rapids hosts Holy Family Catholic on an outdoor rink.

To their credit, there are a few metro youth hockey programs that still play outside. Mahtomedi, for example, still has its Rink Rats program on outdoor rinks.

One important benefit of outdoor hockey: Kids learn how to pick up and use a shovel.

That’s life-long knowledge right there.

More hockey: High school hockey goalie makes 111 saves in unreal performance (For The Win).