It was early in the season when my little guy came home from a Spud hockey game. Each season if the team wins their game, the boys get invited into the locker room. Its one of the smelliest locker rooms I've ever encountered, but you can't keep our kids out of there.
The "big" boys seem to understand the our "little guys" want to be just like them when they grow up. So the big boys, will often give our littles their broken sticks. But Colton, was especially thrilled when his favorite goalie, Chance Bitzer asked who was a goalie, and Colton said he was. So Chance gave him one of his sticks. Chance is known to give his sticks often to lots of kids.
And with each stick given, a dream grows bigger.
Playing in the Minnesota State High School Hockey tournament is a dream that begins at a young age in our boys. The tournaments draw crowds of around 19,000 people for each game. The fans adore their teams. The atmosphere is electric. Tons of scouts come looking for recruits for the USHL, NAHL, or one of the major Divison I hockey schools.
With win number one in the books, the Spuds, were looking for win number two to secure a spot in the Championship game. Moorhead has yet to win a State High School Hockey Title.
Friday afternoon, the Moorhead Spuds played the team from Hill Murray for their second game. It was a nail biter all the way through to the end. It was hard to watch, the intensity was palpable. It was a physical and gritty game, leaving us more defensive, than offensive. And when the last minutes wound down off the clock, we found ourselves with a tie game.
In a heart stopping, gut wrenching overtime period, Hill Murray scored to end the Spud's bid for the Championship. The boys were devastated.
The next afternoon we played for 3rd place. But the physical and emotional toll of the game from the day before left our boys out of gas. They gave it all they had, but lost to finish the tournament in 4th place. See more of the game photos at Spudhockey.
BUT... there was a really big but...
Just after the boys came out of the locker room and were loading their bus, Rick got on our shuttle and said he had to return to the venue. There were a few more photos he needed to take after the championship game. He encouraged us to be sure and watch the awards ceremony at the end of the tourney. I was on pins and needles, waiting for the big moment.
Each year there is a special award given out to one outstanding player. According to the Herb Brooks Foundation:
But Chance wasn't done being honored. He was also elected to the All-Tournament Team.
There was a real hero's welcome waiting the team back at the hotel. I had goosebumps when the crowd erupted for the second time. The Moorhead fans gathered on their balconies, down on the floor, and anywhere they could find a place to see.
But the accolades for Bitzer weren't quite over yet. Sunday, the goalie of the year award was given out at the Mr. Hockey awards banquet. The 2012 Frank Brimsek award winner, was Chance Bitzer.
I think my favorite Herb Brooks quote has to be this one: