1980 U.S. Olympian Jack O’ Callahan famously asked Ralph Cox in the beloved movie, Miracle, “Why’d you want to play college hockey?” The answer for most Minnesota hockey players: Why wouldn’t you want to?
Minnesota has long been a leader in producing top collegiate talent, and each and every year that trend continues as our state currently leads the way with roster spots on Division 1 teams. In 2013-14, 318 DI players hailed from the State of Hockey, including 183 men and 135 women.
It starts at home, thanks to our own in-state college hockey success with five grade-A programs that plant the college hockey seed. Players grow up wanting to don the coveted ‘M,’ to wear the purple Maverick on their jersey, or to step onto the ice and hear the crowd chant “U-M-D”, “SCSU” or “B-S-U” It’s all part of a Minnesota hockey dream.
“It’s pretty simple for all of us in the state of Minnesota,” said St. Cloud State University head coach Bob Motzko. “We have such a strong talent pool right in our backyard that we all benefit from and have historically benefited from throughout the years.
“(And the stories of our homegrown college players), those are great stories – real stories. Kids hear that and think, ‘I want to do that, too. He played in my youth association and made it.’ We love hearing those types of things.”
And the high-opinion of our state’s players is showcased across the nation. College recruiters and coaches recognize the high-level of players grown and developed in Minnesota, vying all season to get them on their rosters.
“Right now, the Minnesota model – nothing even touches it,” Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold stated in a video for Connecticut hockey. “It’s the best model going. The numbers don’t lie. They produce so many players for Division-I hockey and for the NHL.”
Division I hockey isn’t the only level that Minnesotans are leaving their mark – or groove in the ice. At the Division II and III levels, Minnesota once again leads the way. Last season, there were 212 men and 281 women adding their talent to DII and DIII rosters.
The Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) is made up of 90 percent Minnesotans. MIAC schools like Saint John’s, St. Thomas and Gustavus Adolphus provide an opportunity for players to stay close to home while continuing to play the sport they love and competing at a high level on a national stage.
There have never been more options available to play college hockey, and there have never been more athletes taking advantage of those opportunities.
Just another reason we truly are “The State of Hockey”.
Read more about the Minnesota-College hockey relationship in the Dec. 2014 issue of Minnesota Hockey Journal.