On January 28, the St. Francis Boys High School hockey team played Cambridge-Isanti outside. The game returned to its roots on an outdoor rink Cambridge calls “The Pond.”
Playing outside, where the game of hockey originated, was a wonderful way to get back to the roots of the sport. Covid 19 has brought many challenges for everyone; however, creative solutions meant the Saints and the Bluejackets were able to show why Minnesota is called the state of hockey.
“It was a great experience,” said senior goaltender and alternate captain Spencer White. “You don’t often get to have experiences as surreal as that or play in games that are so unique, I even got to tape a hat to my helmet!”
White started as goalie for the Saints.
“It was something you always dream of as a kid – that and the tourney are the two things every hockey player dreams of,” said senior Captain Dylan Strate. “It was fun to be out there with the boys and have people in the stands supporting you. I’ll remember it forever.”
Head Coach Tyler Schaff reflected on these interesting times.
“These are the type of moments you coach for,” said Schaff. “It’s great to see the boys out here having fun and really embracing the game the way it was meant to be played. It is something we are so grateful to be able to do because we might never get the chance again.”
Schaff has coached the St.Francis Saints for 11 years now, with this being the first season with a game outdoors.
“Stepping out on the ice being able to see fans brought tears to my eyes,” said Assistant captain Ethan Smith, “Even though we lost, scoring the only goal really capped off the night for me.”
Smith scored the lone goal in a 3-1 loss for the Saints.
“I’ll tell you what – I’m never complaining about the temperature in an ice rink again,” said Hockey alumn Jordan Haller, class of 2020. “All you need is a pair of choppers and some boots and you’re good to go.”
Even KARE 11 showed up to document this unique moment in Minnesota High School Hockey history. They interviewed the Cambridge Coach to explain how the outdoor concept came to be a reality.
They thought there would be a time when they wouldn’t have fans because of Covid. They saw an opportunity to actually have fans if they could play outside. The Saints were one of the lucky teams who got to face off on “The Pond.”
The week before the Saints played Cambridge, the Bluejackets faced their rivals Princeton in a challenge, much like the SFHS football Battle for the Paddle. They call this contest the Rusty Skates, and Cambridge won 2 to 1 to take the trophy back after a number of years.
“The victory had a little more meaning with these unique circumstances,” said Jared Ziebarth of KARE 11.
The Saints lost the game 3-1 making their record (1-2 ). They played Chisago Lakes on Saturday, January 30, and lost 2-0. The Saints are now (2-5) on the season and play Armstrong-Cooper Saturday, February 13th.
All in all, it was a memory that will last a lifetime.