There’s roughly 350 miles between Roseau and Edina.
On paper, the two communities seem worlds apart. Roseau and its population of 2,627 sit on the state’s northernmost edge. Edina’s 49,376 residents are wedged in the suburbs of Minneapolis. It’s the small town and the big city — but a thick hockey bloodline runs through both.
And that bloodline supplies two thriving girls’ hockey programs.
“Our hockey culture plays a big role in the growth of our girls’ program,” said Steve Huglen, head coach of the Roseau High School girls’ varsity team. “If we go back to the origins of when girls’ hockey really began to sprout, it was dads who were involved hockey. They wanted their daughter to have that same experience they had or their son had.”
Girls’ hockey has come a long way since the seeds were first planted in these communities. Edina Hockey Association now boasts one of the largest girls programs in the country at 328 from 8U through 14U. With more than 100 girls registered in 2013-14, the number of female players in Roseau is beginning to rival that of the boys. Their success is, too.
On-ice success dates back to the 1950s for both towns. Hockey is engrained in both communities.
“There’s such a strong tradition in Edina, it’s hard for anyone — girls included — to not want to come out and play,” said Guy Logan, Edina Hockey Association vice president and girls’ hockey co-chair lead. “There’s no question the history and support the city of Edina gets is a big factor in our program numbers.”
Many living in Edina and Roseau will tell you that the local rink is a second home. Between the two communities there are five indoor arenas and more than 15 outdoor sheets – not including lakes and ponds. Ice time helps keep the numbers up with availability for players of all ages to practice and play at the drop of a puck. Thanks to that option, Roseau and Edina are able to field teams from 6U to high school and have been for a number of years.
“When you have the availability for enough ice time, that’s huge,” said Huglen. “It allows you to have so many more players. Shared ice (under the ADM system) helps make it even more possible to grow.”
Huglen left Roseau for 20-plus years to pursue a career as an attorney. Once accomplished he moved back to start his family, a pattern so many other parents follow. Hockey is an added perk.
"Parents move back to be a part of this community, and a part of that is this immensely strong hockey culture,” said Huglen. “You come back to this small community and this strong hockey culture because you want your daughters to have that, too. Parents want their kids to have that same experience that they had growing up and to have a positive experience on and off the ice.”
Huglen added that in 2015 there are more Minnesota moms who grew up playing hockey. Those moms have passed on their hockey passion and experience firsthand.
“The support of the families is probably the biggest contributor to our high girls numbers and our success,” said Logan. “They’re the source of the girls and they are the ones putting time in. Without the dedication from our parents in the community we would not have near the numbers that we currently do.”
Behind every good hockey program, there is a great coaching system.
“The passion of our coaches to provide a fun learning environment helps to attract and keep girls playing longer,” said Bill Doll, Edina Hockey Association vice president and girls’ hockey co-chair lead. “It needs to be fun to attract and keep girls interested in the program.”
In Edina, the addition of female coaches has further increased girls’ hockey exposure.
“The more female coaches and instructors you can have, the better,” said Logan. “That’s not a knock against dads. It’s always great to have them out there, but the little girls especially look up to moms and older girls.”
Up the road in Roseau the sentiment is the same. Huglen says without the positive coaching staff, the numbers and success stories wouldn’t be near the same.
The Edina High School boys’ hockey team has been to the state tournament more than any other school in Minnesota. In a close second is Roseau. Lately the ladies have been taking a page out of the boys’ book.
The Lady Rams have made it to the high school state tournament three times (2008, 2010 and 2012). Edina has made the trip five times (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2015). That success began at the youth level.
“The high school impact has brought out more and more girls each year,” said Huglen. “We have pictures of our now high school players when they were with the 8U teams. Those youth players look up to the Ram high school players and that’s what we want. We want them to want to wear the Rams jersey. It’s a connection we want to keep there for a long time.”
Stocking the high school shelves is easy when you have successful youth programs. Roseau’s 12U and 14U teams have made 18 Minnesota Hockey State Tournament appearances since 2003. Those runs include three championship games. Roseau’s 14U A squad has made the State Tournament 10 consecutive years.
Edina has been equally noticeable at the state level. Since 2000, 31 Edina girls’ teams have competed in Minnesota Hockey State Tournaments. Those runs include 10 championships.
But in the end, for both associations, it’s about sustaining a girls’ program, with or without championships. What it comes down to is developing quality hockey players and quality people in a fun, safe environment.
“Within the girls’ hockey community, the Edina girls’ program is thought highly of,” said Doll. “It’s a philosophy that we have for development and long-term success. Giving as many girls as we can the opportunity to play at a higher level will better develop more skaters over time. It speaks more to the idea of development over wins and losses. Wins and losses will be a byproduct of development.”