Posted by: Feldman
If you haven't already checked it out, Loren Nelson and the guys at Minnesota Hockey Hub have taken on a major project this summer, and now, we, the hockey fans of Minnesota, are getting to see it, debate it, enjoy it.
MnHockeyHub.com has put together a list of the 100 greatest players in Minnesota high school hockey history. They're releasing one name a day, starting last Tuesday, up through the start of the 2011-12 boys high school hockey season.
The list started last week with a bang — hockey icon Herb Brooks kicked off the list at No. 100.
"We wanted to start with a bang, with a big name," said Nelson, editor of mnhockeyhub.com.
While it caught some fans off guard that Brooks would come in at No. 100, the project takes into account mainly how good a player was when he was in high school. Only a very small amount of where a player ends up is based on how he did after leaving high school.
As Nelson explained it, you have to take into account that, if a player didn't really blossom until he got to college, he can't really be considered the best high school player in state history. On the flip side, if a player lights it up at the Division I level, or moves on to play in the NHL, he must have been pretty darn good as a high school player, so that deserves some credit.
So far, Nos. 100-94 have been released, and you can see who those players are, as well as read stories about them, by clicking on the links above.
It's been a long and tedious project for Nelson, but it's been a labor of love, too. He spent a couple of hours one summer afternoon with legendary coach Willard Ikola, discussing players from the Iron Range who were stars when Ikola played at Eveleth. They also talked a lot about some of the best players Ikola saw while coaching Edina to 616 victories and eight state championships.
A (maybe?) little-known fact about Ikola: He's still a HUGE high school hockey fan. He told Nelson he's missed only seven state tournaments — four while he was in college and three while serving in the military.
The list has already done a nice job of spanning multiple generations and different parts of the state.
In all, Nelson said he received more than 400 nominations, and he described cutting that down to 100 as "impossible."
"To get to 100, we had to cut Mr. Hockeys, guys who played in hundreds of NHL games, guys who won three state tournaments or goalies who won two state tournaments," he said.
Some submissions, Nelson said, were great players, but didn't qualify for the list. That includes guys such as Zach Parise, a big-time star at Shattuck-St. Mary's, the University of North Dakota, and now with the New Jersey Devils. But, Shattuck isn't a Minnesota State High School League team, so he couldn't make the list.
Nelson did plenty of homework, too, on players from some of the state's best teams of all-time. He talked at length with coaches such as Mike Randolph in Duluth and Tom Saterdalen, formerly of Bloomington Jefferson. He also talked to long-time Albert Lea coach Roy Nystrom.
Rest assured, southeastern Minnesota will be represented. You can probably guess who the guys from this area will be, but even so, I won't let the cat(s) out of the bag. That's part of the fun of this project.
It looks like the articles about each player are being posted at about 10 a.m. each day, the perfect time to set your work down and take a little break. Make it part of your routine. It's worth it.