Winter Wings

Edina’s traveling hockey team flies to victory.
Edina hockey players experience excitement on and off the ice.

How did Edina’s fledging hockey program of the 1950s become a state powerhouse in such a short time? Former youth coach Bill Ryerse answers in a word: “Traveling.”

To become great, Edina needed to play great teams. In the 1960s, that meant traveling to Iron Range towns, which dominated the hockey scene. Rather than a long, cold bus ride to play in the 1966 state VFW tournament in Roseau, the Bantam team hopped on a Northwest Airlines plane provided by Don Nyrop, Northwest’s CEO and father of player Bill Nyrop.

The 14- and 15-year-old boys, many of whom had never been on a plane trip before, were having fun and enjoying the continental breakfast. All of a sudden, the mood of the young passengers shifted when the plane ran into a blizzard and turbulence, according to the team’s co-captain Bruce Carlson.

After circling for more than 15 minutes during the storm, pilot Eric Linden safely landed the plane. Edina created a buzz as locals wanted to witness the largest-ever plane to land at their airport.

After they took to the ice, Edina made an even bigger impression, as the small but fast hockey players defeated bigger and stronger players from White Bear Lake, Rochester and International Falls to win the state title. This same team would later win Edina’s first state high school hockey title in 1969, and Bill Nyrop would go on to become arguably one of Edina’s most prominent professional players, winning three Stanley Cups with the Montreal Canadiens (1976-78).

See more stories from Edina’s hockey history at the Edina History Museum, 4711 W. 70th St. The “City of Hockey” exhibit is now on display.