Former Edina High School and University of Minnesota hockey stars Bruce Carlson and Skip Thomas have tirelessly collected and compiled programs, scrapbooks, feature articles, rosters, trophies, sticks, gloves, jerseys and a 20-foot four-pronged timeline of girls and boys hockey for a new, comprehensive exhibition of 65 years of Edina hockey history. Recently launched during a “Turkey Trot” teaser display and celebratory morning at Braemar Arena and now featured in an eight month exhibition at the Edina Historical Society Museum, “Edina’s hockey history,” says Carlson, “is an incredible community story worthy of exhibiting, preserving and celebrating.”
A Thanksgiving Day Braemar Arena kick-off of the hockey history exhibition was a piece of history in itself, modeled after the Turkey Trot tradition of the 1970s and ‘80s. In those years, the Edina hockey community roused every Thanksgiving morning and headed to Braemar to watch the newly selected high school team scrimmage. Fast-forward to November 26, 2015, when a practice replaced the scrimmage, and over an hour of open free skating was offered at Braemar’s new outdoor rink, the Backyard. Celebrants enjoyed coffee and doughnuts and a program featuring speeches by current and former Edina hockey greats.
But the Turkey Trot was only a teaser for the November 28 opening of a hockey history exhibition at the Edina Historical Society Museum in Arnesen Acres Park. Get ready for a whole lot of hockey memorabilia, all of it donated or on loan from a host of former Edina players. There’s a 1957 letter jacket, an evolution of jerseys and equipment from the 1950s and ’60s, including facemasks and leather helmets. It’s quite possible you’ll find a pair of gloves worn by Bill Nyrop (former Edina player who went on to the pros and won three championships with the Montreal Canadiens). Oh, and there might be a stick or two, maybe even the one used by Skip Thomas to score the winning goal in EHS’s OT victory over Warroad in the 1969 state high school championship.
Preserving the Past
The museum exhibition will be organized chronologically, says Marci Matson, former executive director of the Edina Historical Society. One of the first time-line points spotlights Willard “Ike” Ikola’s debut as Edina hockey coach and his only losing season (1958-59). A goaltender in his own illustrious hockey career, Ikola says, “The biggest lesson I learned [my first year of coaching in Edina] is that the farther you are from the net, the more you know about the game.” It seems he learned quickly. In 33 years of coaching Edina boys hockey, Ikola led teams to 22 Lake Conference championships, 19 section titles and eight state championships.
About halfway along the timeline, you’ll see the entrance of girls hockey which became a sanctioned Minnesota State High School League sport in 1994-95. Even so, Edina’s own college and professional hockey star, Jenny Schmidgall-Potter, played with the JV boys team. “There wasn’t a girls team at Edina when I was there,” she says. Potter has recently taken a job as head coach of Ohio State University’s women’s hockey team. “We’re playing in the Women’s College Hockey Association,” she says, “so I’ll be in town periodically and I hope to make an appearance at the Edina hockey history exhibit some time in the coming year” (perhaps with her four Olympic medals).
Celebrating People and Purpose
In preparation for the exhibition, Carlson videotaped interviews with many hockey personalities, including the famous Peter Hankinson, as well as current EHS boys coach Curt Giles, and current EHS girls coach Laura Slominski. “We may still be looking for our first championship,” Slominski muses, “but I feel nothing but support from Curt and the entire Edina hockey community. The history of both girls and boys hockey in Edina is long and proud.”
Every bit as important to that history are events and people involved in Edina Parks and Recreation hockey, and the hordes of Edina hockey community volunteers. Yes, there have been a total of 12 Edina high school championships, and yes, Let’s Play Hockey magazine has recently named Edina the hockey capital of the state. But Carlson has been adamant from the start that the exhibition is less a brag-fest and more a celebration of everyone—players, coaches, parents, boosters, volunteers—who have contributed to Edina hockey history.
Anyone in the community who has participated in Edina hockey—in any and every way—is welcome to add their own story to the narrative, with a chalkboard wall where people can share their own Edina hockey memories and experiences.
Passing It On
“It’s about more than hockey,” was Carlson and Thomas’ feeling when considering every item and interview for display. An appropriate slogan for the 65-year celebration had to be about more than just hockey, too, Carlson says. Eventually the hockey history exhibit committee settled on two: “Tell Your Story: You Are Edina Hockey,” and “Tradition: Pass It On.” The games, the championships, even the memorabilia, only scratch the surface, says Carlson. “The real story of Edina hockey,” he says, “is about a tradition of excellence in all things, and how as a community we want to pass that on.”
Carlson is hoping for record numbers of Edina hockey fans to view and add their stories to the Edina Historical Society museum exhibit. “It may be a few years down the road,” he adds, “but we want to make an Edina hockey history exhibit a permanent feature at Braemar Arena.” Contact the Edina Historical Society to make a contribution. Better yet, view the exhibition, add your story and pass it on.
Edina Historical Society Museum hours 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursdays, 10 a.m. to noon Saturdays. Hours may be expanded depending on demand.