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Early Minneapolis Hockey (1895-1942)

Source: Donald M. Clark - Cleve Bennewitz Manuscripts/Unpublished Notes

Minneapolis, City of lakes as it is often called, is an ideal place for winter sports. With its cold weather and large Scandinavian population, who are inherently interested in winter sports, it was only natural that the city would become interested in ice hockey. The city is blessed with numerous ponds, marshes, and lakes such as Calhoun, Nokomis, Lake of the Isles, Cedar, Hiawatha, and Diamond. The abundance of these combined with an average January temperature at 11 above, the coldest of any large city in the nation, afforded the local citizens an opportunity to skate and play hockey. In the winter the unorganized game of shinny was often played by the youths and adults on the numerous lakes and ponds dotting the city. Sticks made from tree branches, blocks of wood or tin cans for pucks, and chunks of wood or large rocks for the goals were part of the game of shinny. Aside from “shinny on your own side” rules were few and simple.

Ice polo, a game popular before the turn of the century, in Minnesota, Upper Michigan and New England was played in the 1880’s in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Minneapolis teams such as the Polo Club, Acorns, and Lelands met teams from St. Paul, which had a more extensive program than Minneapolis. In late January of 1888 the Leland team competed in an ice polo tournament held in St. Paul as part of the famous St. Paul Winter Carnival. The January 25, 1888 edition of the St. Paul Globe listed the Minneapolis Leland lineup as follows: John McClelan, 1st rush; R.G. Moore, 2nd rush; J.W. Urquhard, goal; Frances Marsh, center; Walter Hefflefinger, cover goal; A.S. Hefflefinger; cover point.  Walter “Pudge” Hefflefinger later was chosen as an All American guard at Yale in 1889, 90 and 91. On most all time All American teams he has been chosen for one of the guard positions. He has been adjudged to be one of the greatest to ever have played the game of football. The earliest evidence of a game of ice hockey being played in Minneapolis was when two local teams met at an outdoor rink located at 11th Street and 4th Avenue South in a series of games in early January of 1895. These contest were among the very first to have been played in Minnesota and the United States. Later in January and early February a Minneapolis team met the newly formed University of Minnesota team in a series of games.

The first University of Minnesota hockey team, unsanctioned by the college, was organized in January of 1895 by Dr. H.A. Parkyn, who was familiar with the game having played in Toronto. Parkyn, who played football at the University of Minnesota, coached the team in its preparation for its game against the highly touted Winnipeg team. Several of the Gopher players such as Walker, Russell, and Head were experienced ice polo players.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press edition on February 19, 1895 describes the international meeting as follows:

The first international hockey game between Winnipeg and the University of Minnesota was played yesterday, and won by the visitors 11-3. The day was perfect and 300 spectators occupied the grandstand, coeds of the University being well represented. Features of the game were the team play of the Canadians and the individual play of Parkyn, Walker, and Head for the University. Hockey promises to become as popular a sport at the University as football, baseball, and rowing.

The game against Winnipeg was played at the Athletic Park in downtown Minneapolis, located at Sixth Street and First Avenue North, behind the famous West Hotel, the current site of the renowned Butler Square Building. The park was the home of the professional Minneapolis Baseball Club until they moved to the newly constructed Nicollet Park at Nicollet Avenue and Lake Street South on June 19th, 1896. In 1895 as there was no rail connection between eastern and western Canada the Winnipeg Victoria team founds it necessary to travel through Minneapolis on their trip to Ontario and Quebec where they won two games each from Montreal and Ottawa and lost one contest to Quebec. Traveling through Minneapolis afforded the opportunity for the University of Minnesota to schedule the Manitobans. The eastern Canadians were surprised by the abilities of the Winnipeggers, whom had only been playing the sport for only a few seasons. Following the University if Minnesota game against Winnipeg the 1895 no effort was made by the University Athletic Board until November of 1900 when a committee composed of George Northrup, Paul Joslyn, and A.B. Gibbons was appointed to look into the problem of playing the sport at the University. Another appointed committee decided not to flood Northrup Field and instead to play at Lake Como in St. Paul. No scheduled games were played during the season of 1900-01 and it was not until 1904 that the University of Minnesota played any formal games. Only two contests were played that season, both resulting in wins over Minneapolis Central High School 4-0 and St. Paul Virginias 4-3. Team members were John S. Abbott, Frank Teasdale, Gordon Wood, Fred Elston, Frank Cutter, R.S. Blitz, W.A. Rose, Arthur Toplin, and Captain Thayer Bros. The short season of 1904 proved to be the last of hockey at the University on a formal basis until it’s revival in the early 1920’s. In 1910 efforts were made to interest the Universities of Chicago and Wisconsin in ice hockey, as to furnish Big Ten Intercollegiate competition. The movement met with failure.

On January 24-25, 1896 the Minneapolis Hockey Club entered a four team international tournament held at the Aurora Rink in St. Paul. They defeated St. Paul Two Team 4-1 in the first round and lost to Winnipeg 7-3 in the finals. The event, part of the St. Paul Winter Carnival, was witnessed by large crowds. This may have been the first tournament in the United States involving a team from Canada. Canadian team had played a series of games in this country during 1895, but these teams had not been involved in any tournaments. During the following few seasons the sport, in part due to warm weather, languished in both the Mill City and St. Paul. But by 1900 Minneapolis teams were engaging in numerous contests with St. Paul teams.

The St. Paul Globe edition of January 12, 1900 describes a game between the St. Paul AC and the Minneapolis HC as follows:

St. Paul AC defeated Minneapolis HC 4-2 at the Virginia Rink in St. Paul. Newsome, Barron, Patterson, and B. MacDonald played well for St. Paul, while Labett, Raymond, Taylor, and LaLand did likewise for Minneapolis. 

Lineups were as follows:

St. Paul Minneapolis
R. MacDonald G Vance
B. MacDonald P McBridge
E.J. Murphy CP Laland
G. Patterson F Tait
Bob Barron F Labelle
J. Murphy F Taylor
T.M. Newsome F Raymond

Referee: Rawan

Umpire: Manley, Seller

From Minneapolis Journal; December 20, 1900

Minneapolis Hockey Club was organized at the Board of Trade. Officers were as follows: President- Willis Walker, Honorary President- A. A. Ames, Vice President- Matt Madden, Secretary-Treasure- G. K. Labatte, Managing Committee- F. B. Champman, M.. A. Miller, G. McBride, R. W. McLeod, B. J. Stovel. The old Star Roller Rink, 4th Avenue South and 11th Street, will be fitted for ice hockey. Membership fees set at $1.00. Central High School will use the rink three afternoons a week. North High School wishes to use the rink also. First game of the season will be against St. Paul at St. Paul New Years Day.

Late in the winter of 1901 a short lived four team Twin City Senior League was formed of the following teams: St. Paul Hockey Club, Minneapolis Hockey Club, Minneapolis Central High School, and St. Paul Mechanic Arts High School. The following season of 1901-1902 found the formation of a six-team league as follows: St. Paul Hockey Club, St. Paul Mascots, St. Paul Mechanic Arts High School, St. Paul Central High School, St. Paul Virginias, and the Minneapolis Hockey Club. Robert H. Dunbar, the famous curler, placed a cup in competition to be awarded to the newly created Twin City league champion. The Virginias won the Dunbar Cup for the first season. Dominated by St. Paul teams, the league operated continuously through the 1909-1910 season. Among the members of the 1901-1902 Minneapolis team was: P.K. Labatte, J. Best, A.M. McIntosh, C. Harfield, A. Raymond, S. Chapman, J. Loundon, C. Fairchild, and T. Adams. The visit of the world famous Portage Lake, Michigan team to the Twin Cities in late January of 1902 was a noteworthy event. On January 23rd Portage Lake defeated Minneapolis Hockey Club 8-4 in a game played at the indoor Star Rink.

Lineups were as follows:

Portage Lake Minneapolis
Washburn G Hatfield
Howell P McBride
Gibson CP McIntosh
Meinke F Fairchild
Wilson F Chapman
Hay F Labatte
Roe F Raymond

The famous Dr. John Gibson, a native of Berlin, Ontario, was the organizing force behind forming the development of the Portage Lake seven. For the most part the players on the Portage Lake team were Canadian imports. The day following the Minneapolis game Portage Lake defeated the St. Paul Virginias on their outdoor rink as Joe Jones starred in goal for the losers. The Portage Lake Pioneer players claimed Jones was the best goaltender that they had faced to date. Later Jones played for American Soo in the International Hockey League, the world’s first professional circuit. During the next several years many different Minneapolis teams joined the Twin City League, among them being AAA, Lake Shores, Harriets, Wanderers, and Eagles. The league ceased to operate after the 1909-1910 season as the St. Paul Chinooks, and Minneapolis Wanderers withdrew from the organization. Although the Minneapolis teams provided stiff competition for the St. Paul teams during the nine year history of the league they failed to capture the league championship during the circuit’s existence. Among the leading Minneapolis players during the first decade of the 1900’s were Carl Struck, Cleve Bennowitz, W. Lalond, Ray Hodge, Kimball Hodge, Jack Bradford, Cornell Lagerstrom, P.K. Labette, A. Raymond, C. Fairchild, and Bobby Marshall.  Cleve Bennewitz, who played youth hockey as a youngster in Argyle in northwestern Minnesota and later moved to Minneapolis, informed the writer that in addition to Marshall there were two other black athletes in Minneapolis who were notable hockey players.  He cited Bobby Marshall and goaltender Bill Butler as being leading performers.  Marshall was a well known Minneapolis athlete who was chosen All American in football as end for the University of Minnesota in 1905.

Starting in 1900 Minneapolis High Schools played one another and the St. Paul schools as well as the club teams in both cities. By the end of the first decade of the 1900’s East, West, North, and Central all iced varsity teams, as did Mechanic Arts, Central, and St. Paul Academy in St. Paul. In 1905 an outdoor ice hockey rink was constructed by the Minneapolis Amateur Hockey Association at Lake Street and Girard Avenue South which had a large warming house that afforded ample room for fans to observe every play. The long bleachers extending on the east side accommodated the overflow of crowds from the warming house. The setup handled more fans than any other facility in St. Paul or Minneapolis. The well outfitted rink lasted only a few seasons as the Minneapolis School Board found it necessary to purchase the property. About 1905, a few years after natural ice was installed at the Star Roller Rink, another roller rink located at Washington and Broadway Avenue North was outfitted with natural ice. Tar paper was placed on the floor at it was flooded to form a 150’ x 50’ ice surface. Electric lights were also installed.

Following the breakup of the Twin City League after the 1910 season a Minneapolis Senior League was formed and many of their games were played at a rink located on the ice of Lake Harriet. Members of the league were ABC’s, Simokins, North Commons, and Lake Harriet’s. During this period the Lake Harriets were consistently among the best teams in the city. On occasion they would play St. Paul and Duluth teams and on one weekend played Hallock from northwestern Minnesota. In 1914 each team in the Minneapolis High School Hockey conference, East, North, Central, and North maintained its own outdoor rink and occasionally played a game on the large ice surface at the Hippodrome at the State Fairgrounds in St. Paul. In 1917, Nick Kahler, who had been captain of the championship St. Paul AC team of 1916, organized a team to challenge St. Paul. He imported a few Canadian players, among them Lyle Wright, who later ran the Minneapolis Arena and the Minneapolis Millers professional hockey team. The first game played at the large Hippodrome resulted in 9-2 rout for the St. Paul seven, while the second game played at the smaller Casino in Minneapolis ended in 9-0 loss for Minneapolis. The Kahler team, the best that Minneapolis to date has been able to ice, proved to be of little opposition to the St. Paul AC. At a later date, in 1921 Kahler again organized a team with Winnipeg imports Elliot, Chambers and Dunlop and challenged the St. Paul six to a series of games. Using spares and “kids” in their lineup the AC defeated Minneapolis 4-1 and 2-1. Due to lack of proper playing facilities the Kahler team did not enter the USAHA and played an independent schedule.

Following WWII local Minneapolis business and companies became interested in sponsoring teams/leagues in the various sports, including ice hockey. Joseph Shipanovich in his book titled Minneapolis states “During the 1920’s business and corporations began the tradition of sponsoring athletic teams composed of their employees as part of a general social movement known as industrial paternalism.”

At about this time the Minneapolis Recreation Department of the Board of Park Commissioners became interested in forming an enlarged hockey program.  An article appearing in the 1921 Spalding Ice Hockey Guide reveals the hockey operation of the Minneapolis Recreation Department:


By W.W. Fox, Director of Municipal Athletics

Under supervision of the Recreation Department of the Board of Park Commissioners the Municipal Hockey League was reorganized during the highly successful season of 1919-1920.

In accordance with the recreational program, the board of park Commissioners established and maintained twenty-three skating rinks, equipped with warming houses. They also provided hockey rinks at Logan Park, North Commons, Lake of the Isles, and Powderhorn Park. The skating season was unusually long, affording unlimited activity in winter sports, including “hikes” through the park system, Juvenile and adult skating races, skiing and tobogganing, ice carnivals, and the most successful hockey competition ever witnessed in Minneapolis.

The hockey season began December 28, 1919, with twenty teams representing social and community center interests from various parts of the city. The association was divided into Senior and Junior Divisions 1 and 2, with little, if any difference in playing strength. In the Senior and Junior No. 1 Division sixteen teams competed, while Junior No. 2 embraced four teams.

The handsome “Struck” perpetual challenge cups were the trophy objectives in the Senior and Junior No. 1 Divisions, and Ward C. Burton, another hockey enthusiast, donated ten gold medals to the winning team in the junior No. 2 Division. In this division the Deephavens, Raccoons, and Ascensions supplied spirited competition, while the Heatherdale A.C., owing to illness of players, was unable to win, yet finished the schedule with enthusiasm. The raccoons won the championship by defeating the Ascension team in the final game of the schedule; Deephavens, Ascension and Heatherdales finished in the order named. In the Junior No. 1 Division the Logan Parks, Stewart A.C. and Powderhorn Parks competed with vigor against the Lagoons, Camden Juniors, and Maple Hills.

The Logan parks won the championship from Stewart A.C. in the final game which required two extra ten-minute periods to determine the winner. The elimination contest for the championship of the junior divisions, between the Raccoons and Logan Parks teams, created keen rivalry, as both teams represented the unified community center interests at Logan Park. The Logan Parks finally caged the puck on a well executed team play and on the dual championship. Play in the senior division produces amazingly keen competition. Vertex, tri-champions of the association: Camden Seniors, Midway Merchants, and East Side A.C. formed a quartette of veteran teams and the struggle for the “Struck” trophy was filled with thrilling competition. Lake Hennepin merchants, North Commons, headed the second division, and A.B.C., owing to a belated start, failed to get in the running. Very little difference between the first four teams characterized the season’s play, with Vertex leading most of the season until temporarily displaced by East Side A.C. The schedule closed with Camden Seniors and Vertex tied for the major prize. The tie game was played at Logan Park in sub-zero temperature. It went into two extra periods and finished in a tie.
The following Sunday these teams met and Vertex’s team work and aggressive system of play proved a decisive factor in winning the senior championship. Interest in municipal hockey was at this time centered in the city championship, between the aggressive Logan parks, dual champions of Divisions No. 1 and No. 2 Junior, and the veteran Vertex seven, champions of the Senior Division. This decisive game was played at the Logan park rink and both teams resorted to defensive play during the first period, with honors even. In the final period, however, the Vertex seven opened an aggressive attack that carried the puck to the Logan Parks’ cage and captured the city championship for the fourth consecutive time.

The Minneapolis Arena, with artificial ice and a seating capacity of 5,400 spectators was constructed at 2800 Dupont Avenue South and was opened for use in 1924. The facility, the only one in Minneapolis for many years, played an important role in the skating and hockey activities of the city for over forty years. For the season of 1923-1924 Minneapolis, replacing an ill-fated Milwaukee franchise joined the strong United States Amateur Hockey Association along with St. Paul, Duluth, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and Eveleth. To date this was the best brand of hockey that the Mill-City fans had a chance to view, unless they chose to travel to the Hippodrome to watch the St. Paul A.C. Ching and Ade Johnson, natives of Winnipeg, who had previously played for Eveleth, joined the team for the initial season. Ching Johnson, who weighed over 200 pounds, was an immense favorite at Eveleth and around the league. Predictably, the Minneapolis fans took great delight in the big defenseman’s bald head, broad smile and rough tactics on the ice. He proved to be the most popular player to ever have played with a Minneapolis team. After three years with Minneapolis at the relatively old ago of twenty-nine, along with another popular player, Taffy Abel, he joined the New York Rangers for an eleven year stay.

In their first season in the league Minneapolis tied Duluth for last place with a 6-14-0 record. The rockets finished fourth both halves the following season, that of 1924-1925. After severing his connections with professional hockey, player Nick Kahler, in 1928 was chosen to coach the Augsburg College team which had been approved to represent the United States in the 1928 Olympic Winter Games in St. Moritz, Switzerland. Augsburg formulated plans to attend the event, including the raising of funds to help allay their expenses, but after much internal wrangling with the United States Olympic Committee, Chairman Douglas MacArthur termed the Augsburg team “not representative of American hockey” and the committee changed their mind and would not approve the Minneapolis College. The team was led by the five Hansen brothers- Oscar, Emil, Julius, Joe, and Lewis. Other members of the team were Gordon Schaeffer, George Malsed, Wallace Swanson, Willard Falk, and Charles Warren. The Hanson brothers were born in the United States, but spent part of their youth in Canada before moving to Minneapolis.

In 1929 Kahler continued his interest in the amateur game when at the conclusion of the high school season he assembled an All Star High School team called the Cardinals which won the Minneapolis Recreation title. Members of the teams, most of who were from South and West high schools, were as follows: Phil Perkins, Bill Oddson, Bubs Hutchinson, Red Malsed, Harry Melberg, John Scanlon, Evy Scotvold, Kelly Ness, Bill Cooley, Mack Xerxa, and Bill Munns. In a game played at the Minneapolis Arena the All Star team edged Eveleth High School 2-1. Eveleth had not been defeated in the past three seasons of competition against Iron Range and Duluth schools. An idea of the caliber of these two teams can be gathered from the fact that five of the eleven Minneapolis players and six of the eleven Eveleth performers later turned professional. Kahler, who was born in Dollar Bay, Michigan and played his early hockey in the Copper Country, was interested in sports other than hockey. A master as an organizer and promoter he founded the National Golden Gloves event as well as the Northwest Sports Show. He was inducted into the Minnesota Sports Hall of fame in 1962, awarded the Governor’s Public Service Citation and Heritage Award in 1967, and elected into the United States Hockey hall of Fame in 1980. He died January 8, 1983 at the age of 91 in Minneapolis, after having given a great share of his life to hockey and other sporting events. 

After five successful seasons of operation the 1924-1925 season was the last for the “amateur” USAHA. The league’s name in 1925-1926 was changed to the Central Hockey Association and some franchise changes were made. Minneapolis, with an exceptionally strong team, played a 38 game schedule, winning both the regular season and the playoffs. Some of the greatest players in the game were members of the team. Among them were Tiny Thompson, Cooney Weiland, Taffy Abel, Ching Johnson, Mickey McQuire, Bill Boyd, Denny Breen, Vic Ripley, and Johnny McKinnon. Several of these players went on to become outstanding stars in the National Hockey League. 

The season of 1925-1926 was the last for the amateur league in the Midwest. In order to protect its players from raids by the NHL teams in the league in form of the American hockey Association turned professional for the season of 1926-1927. The new league membership consisted of Minneapolis, St. Paul, Duluth, Winnipeg, and Chicago Shamrocks. The latter was the second professional franchise in Chicago.

The minor professional AHA, with numerous franchise changes, operated sixteen consecutive seasons from 1926-1927 through 1941-1942. In the sixteen year history of circuit, fourteen different cities held franchise at one time or another: St. Paul, Duluth, Minneapolis, Winnipeg, Chicago, Kansas City, Tulsa, St. Louis, Buffalo, Wichita, Oklahoma City, Omaha, Dallas, and Fort Worth. In the early years Duluth, Kansas City and Tulsa dominated the league, while the St. Louis Flyers did likewise in the late thirties and early forties. Minneapolis and St. Paul did not place teams in the league during the four year span of 1931-1932 through 1934-1935, instead choosing to join the more compact Central Hockey League.

During this time the leading Minneapolis players that local fans had the opportunity to watch in the AHA and the CHL were: Tiny Thompson, Stu Adams, Cooney Weiland, Helge Bostrom, Bill DePaul, Hub Nelson, Oscar, Emory, and Emil Hanson, Bill Mitchell, Sil Acaster, George Agar, Pat Shea, Bob Blake, Nakina Smith, Alex Milne, Marty Barry, Ed Oatman, Rip Ripley, Billy Hill, Moose Johnson, Cully Dahlstrom, Bill Boyd, Alex Wood, Ed Prokop, Ching and Ade Johnson, Byron MacDonald, George Patterson, Fido Purpur, Harry Dick, Phil Hargesheimer, Sal Fassono, Bob nylon, Red Stuart, Joe Stark, Joe Bretto, Nick Wasnie, Leo LaFrance, Earl Barthelome, Evy Scotvold, Ted Breckheimer, Louis Swenson, Jack Flood, Phil Perkins, Virgil Johnson, and Bill Oddson. A large number of these players were born and developed in Minneapolis.

During their twelve year stay in the AHA the Millers never managed to capture the regular season crown, but did manage to win the playoffs in 1927 and 1937. During the five year period of 1936-1937 through 1940-1941 the millers finished second in the regular season schedule five consecutive seasons.

American Hockey Association Minneapolis Finish

Year Regular Season Playoffs
1926-1927 Second Second
1927-1928 Third First
1928-1929 Second None
1929-1930 Fifth *
1930-1931 Sixth *
1935-1936*** Third (tie) *
1936-1937 Second First
1937-1938 Second Second
1938-1939 Second Third
1939-1940 Second Third
1940-1941 Second Third
1941-1942** Fourth *

*Did not qualify 

**League divided into two divisions

***Oklahoma City franchise transferred to Minneapolis 3/12/36


During the four year period of 1931-1932 through 1934-1935 Minneapolis and St. Paul withdrew from the AHA and joined the newly formed Central Hockey League which was composed of teams from Minneapolis, St. Paul, Virginia, Hibbing, and Eveleth. With few exceptions the entire rosters of the teams were composed of players of Minnesota descent. Although some termed the league as “amateur”, the NHL viewed it as a professional circuit. Teams in the league played a 40-48 game schedule and developed many players who went on to compete in the AHA, AHL, and NHL. Minneapolis captured the league championship in 1932 and 1934, while Eveleth turned the trick in 1933 and St. Paul in 1935. Among local area players who had played for the Millers include: Pat Shea, Earl Barthelome, Ted Breckheimer, Evy Scotvold, Kelly Ness, Cully Dahlstrom, Bill Oddson, Virgil Johnson, Hub Nelson, Bill McGlone, and Louis Swenson. An example of the strength of the league is shown by the fact that St. Paul, Central League champion in 1935, defeated the AHA titlelist St. Louis Flyers in a post season playoff series three games to none. In an exhibition game, Eveleth, third place finisher, defeated Kansas City of the AHA.

Senior, Intermediate and Junior hockey continued to flourish in Minneapolis in the twenties and thirties. The continued interest shown by the Minneapolis Recreation Department, the advent of professional hockey, and the erection of the Minneapolis Arena all contributed to the growth of the sport. Among the leading teams and programs during the period were: Logan Park, Vertex, Raccoons, Deephavens, Foshays, Buzzas, Federals, Flour City, Lake Lyndale, Wheaties, Daytons, Munsingwear, Ewalds, Jerseys, Bankers, Aces, Ascensions, Americans, Midways, North Commons, Camden, Cos & Steves, Powderhorns, Norse, Vikings, Mitby-Sather, Pershing, Red Squirrels, Nolans, East Side, Cedar Lake, Chicago Lake, and St. Lawrence.

Billy Fox of Minneapolis and Ernest Johnson of St. Paul, both associated with their respective recreation departments, were leaders in organizing and operating the Minnesota Recreation Association’s first Senior Hockey Tournament at Hibbing on February 19-20, 1926. The Minneapolis representative, Federals, defeated International Falls 1-0 in four overtime periods, and St. Paul Fire and Marine 6-0 before bowing the Eveleth Cubs 6-0 in the finals. In 1927 the four team tournament was held at the Hippodrome in St. Paul when the Minneapolis Buzzas defeated Nashwauk and the Duluth Aces for the State Recreation crown. The following year at Hibbing the Buzzas lost to the Duluth Gateleys, the eventual champions, 4-3 in overtime in the first round of competition.

The growth of hockey under the auspices of the Minneapolis Recreation Department in best pointed out by an article in the 1931-1932 Spalding Ice Hockey Guides:


By: W.W. Fox Assistant Director of Recreation

From article in “Parks and Recreation”

Hockey in Minneapolis is the outgrowth of a tiny beginning which started years ago. Today, the recreation department shows an enrollment of 275 teams and a playing personal of 2,750 players with a competent staff of fifty officials. The magnitude of the program necessitates a schedule requirement of over 800 games, which are played on twenty-six brilliantly lighted rinks systematically placed throughout the park system, with a view of developing the hockey spirit and play in every neighborhood. The hockey program is organized from voluntary and solicited registration and the teams are grouped into preferably four club league units, each club paying the department and entrance fee of $5 for juvenile and junior teams, $8 for intermediate and $10 for senior teams. This fund is paid out to officials for handling the games, for detail publicity and for trophies. The various teams are grouped according to an age system which runs from twelve years to senior classification. North section teams, in formation of fours, plays round robin schedule of games which provides competition for each team. South, East, and West sections are similarly treated and the whole program coordinated into the major organization.

A potent factor in the formation of the park hockey program centers in the enlistment of every organization in the city interested in boys’ welfare-settlement houses, athletic clubs, social center bodies, men’s clubs, church clubs, YMCA, Knights of Columbus, Masons and in fact every kindred group working for the welfare of the boys and solution of his problems. 

When one takes into consideration the tremendous amount of skating that is being done on the Minneapolis park system, which will run up to millions of participants covering approximately fifty ice arenas, the need of supervision is outstanding, especially on the hockey rinks and adjacent hockey arenas which serve a consistent purpose in the promotion of the big hockey program where every boy twelve years upward can enjoy the game. The hockey rinks are of standard dimensions, 188 feet long, 96 feet wide, and 3 feet high and fully lighted with 1,000 watt lamps, which not only flood the entire area but illuminate the sideboards. The boards are removable for the purpose of either putting in the tractor and planing the ice, which is done on some rinks, or flooding in others. The entire rink is encircled with heavy mesh wire, which is additional protection for the spectators.
Another fine feature in the development of this program is the co-operation received from the management of the Minneapolis Arena, where professional hockey is played as well as the fine program of amateur hockey. Professional hockey has been a powerful factor in the development of park hockey programs. The skillful play in evidence at the Arena, the tremendous attendance and enthusiasm accompanying these paid programs, naturally interest the young boys of the city and they want to go out on the park ice and do likewise. At the conclusion of the general hockey program sponsored by the recreation department of the board, a Northwest hockey tournament is promoted on this indoor arena. The tournament embraces all intermediate and senior winners throughout the Northwest and any non-paid team is eligible to compete. It takes about a week to run off this program and the receipts about balance the expense.


Through the efforts of Billy Fox and Lyle Wright, manager of the Minneapolis Arena, the first Northwest-State AAU Hockey Tournament was held at the Arena in 1930, a popular event which ran for eleven years through 1940. Some years as many as twenty-six teams and two divisions would be involved in the tournament, which might take as many as four days to complete. Minneapolis teams won four straight State AAU titles in the years 1936-1939. With the champions being; Wheaties, Jerseys, Red Squirrels, and Barnes, respectively. Of these titlelists the Jerseys and Wheaties came out of the strong Minneapolis Arena League, and indoor circuit that functioned in the late thirties. Jerseys, Bankers, Wheaties, Munsingwear, Daytons, and Ewalds were some of the teams that were members of the Arena League. Dozens of former Minneapolis and St. Paul high school and University of Minnesota players, who had not turned professional, performed in the popular indoor league. Among them were: John Scanlon, Spencer Wagnild, Phil LaBatte, Bill Toenjes, Russ Grey, Clyde Munns, Wylie, Al, and Howie Van, A. Campbell, Hank Frantzen, Bucky Hollingsworth, Marshall Hutchinson, Bucky Johnson, Charley Duncan, Bob McCoy, Ed Nicholson, Red Melberg, Elmer Nelson, Roy Newquist, George Clausen, Manny Cotlow, and Laurie Parker.

For the season of 1935-1936 the Minneapolis Recreation Department reported a record 435 teams, a large increase over the 275 reported in 1931. The department reported 5,530 players using the scores of lighted and well maintained rinks. This was the largest hockey program in the county and compared favorably in numbers with those in the largest cities of Canada.

In the twenties high school hockey became increasingly more popular with many of the more important games being played at the Minneapolis Arena, which had the advantage of artificial ice. Before WWI, West had dominated the City High School Conference and continued to do so through the 1932 season, when the sport was temporarily discontinued until reintroduced for the 1936-1937 season. In the period 1908-1932 West won fourteen city championships. Their ready access to the lakes and ponds in their section of the city and their close proximity to the Minneapolis Arena may have been a factor in West’s success. Washburn won their first title in 1927-1928, South in 1928-1929, but West retained the championship for the next three seasons. During this period W.W. Bradley coached the West team for a ten year span. Following the revival of the sport for the season of 1937-1938 Marshall won their only city title, but lost to St. Paul Humboldt 3-2 in a Twin City playoff game before 2,600 fans at the St. Paul Auditorium. Washburn won their second and third championships in 1937 and 1939, while Roosevelt captured their first title in 1940.

Two private schools in the Minneapolis area iced varsity teams in the late twenties and the thirties, those being Blake and De LaSalle. These schools usually scheduled West, Cretin, St. Paul Academy, St. Thomas Academy, and Shattuck and occasionally would schedule college frosh or varsity teams. Blake iced some strong teams and many of their players matriculated and played at eastern colleges such as Yale, Harvard, Princeton, and Dartmouth. Coached by John Savage, former Princeton goalie, Blake went undefeated during the 1937-1938 season. Leading members of the team were: Jock and Tel Thompson, Bert Marvin, Lindley Burton, Monty Wells, and Captain John Brooks.

Red Curran, John Scanlon, Phil Perkins, Burr Williams, Jack Flood, Clyde Munns, Phil LaBatte, Laurie Parker, Earl Barthelome, and Manny Cotlow were among the leading players who performed for West high school during the late twenties and thirties. Of these players; Perkins, Flood, Parker, Williams, Barthelome, and Cotlow turned professional. Others from Minneapolis during the same periods who signed professional contracts were: Hub Nelson, Virgil Johnson, Cully Dahlstrom, Bill Moe, Don Olson, Bill McGlone, Kelly Ness, Evy Scotvold, Ted Breckheimer, Louie Swenson, Leo Schatzlein, and Emil, Oscar, and Emory Hansen. In addition, Phil LaBatte was a member of the 1936 U.S. Olympic team, while Spencer Wagnild played with the 1938 and 1939 U.S. National teams. Ed Nicholson, who had been a member of the Banker’s team in the Arena League, joined the 1939 U.S. National team that competed in the World’s Championship in Zurich, and Basel Switzerland.

Dahlstrom, Moe and Johnson advanced to the NHL where they became regular performer. Others who had short careers in the NHL were Oscar and Emil Hansen, and Burr Williams, while Barthelome and Nelson enjoyed long careers in the AHL and AHA, respectively. In the 1937-1938 season, Dahlstrom won the Calder Trophy; emblematic of the rookie award of the season in the NHL.

A final review of the University of Minnesota hockey program is in order. The sport was placed on a varsity basis for the 1922-1923 season when the Gophers played a twelve game schedule with a 10-1-1 record. During the twenty-one seasons stretching from 1922-1923 through the 1940-1941 season Minnesota posted a very respectable 200-69-19 record for a .727 winning percentage. In collegiate circles this ranked among the very best in the nation. During the twenty-one years, with few exceptions, the Gophers rosters were composed of born and reared Minnesota players. A review of the line ups during the twenties and thirties unveils that Minneapolis has furnished a large share of the Gopher’s playing personnel. A partial list of the Minneapolis natives who wore the Maroon and Gold colors during this periods includes: Phil Bros, Joe Brown, Ed Olsen, Cliff Thompson, Chuck McCabe, Lloyd and Clyde Russ, Ed Hollingsworth, Fred Gould, Howard Gibbs, Fred and Marsh Ryman, Ed Arnold, Bucky Johnson, Harold, Jim, and Bob Carlson, Laurie Parker, Phil LaBatte, George Clausen, Bill Munns, Spencer Wagnild, Bill Zieske, John Scanlon, Reynard Bjork, Bud Wilkinson, Wally Taft, Ridgeway Baker, John Ganley, John Hokanson, Fred Junger, Les Malkerson, Glenn Seidel, and Marty Falk.

Marty Falk and Bud Wilkinson, both goaltenders, and Wally Taft, a forward were products of Faribault’s Shattuck School’s hockey program. Wilkinson was a Gopher football star and later became a nationally acclaimed football coach at the University of Oklahoma.