Jan. 15, 2007
Crow River Youth Hockey Association/Delano Area Sports Arena
By Cullen Schultz
Minnesota has a great hockey tradition; in fact, Minnesota is known as the State of Hockey, and Delano is doing its best to live up to that tradition.
Delano youth hockey started back in the 1970s, and it was nothing like it is now. The program started with low numbers, with a couple of teams, depending on how many athletes went out during that particular year.
Due to complications with the number of children interested in hockey, combined with minimal support from the Delano community, the program didn’t pick up any steam.
Then, in 1990, the program took a huge step forward, when the Delano Area Sports Arena was built. The arena gave the hockey program the facilities and the indoor ice that it needed to be competitive.
“That’s when the hockey program really got started,” Crow River Youth Hockey Association (CRYHA) President John Reynolds said.
Things continued to improve for the program in the mid-’90s when Delano, Rockford, and Watertown decided to combine programs, and created what is now known as the Crow River Youth Hockey Association.
“We could offer what every other program did,” Reynolds said.
The CRYHA gave children of all ages the opportunity to play hockey; and with the addition of Rockford and Watertown (Watertown is no longer affiliated with CRYHA, the number of players, as well as teams, grew.
“We grew pretty fast,” Reynolds said.
The CRYHA joined District 5 hockey league, which consists of teams from Buffalo, Cold Spring, Hutchinson, Litchfield, Minnetonka, Mound, Sartell, St. Michael, and Willmar.
“We compete very well in District 5,” Reynolds said.
The CRYHA has grown tremendously since its creation over 12 years ago, offering a variety of hockey and specialized instruction.
The hockey program starts with Introduction to Hockey, for children around five years of age, and continues all the way through Junior Gold, for ages 15 to 17.
Intro to Hockey is the entry point to the hockey program for children, around the age of five. It is designed to teach players the very basics of hockey, emphasizing, particularly, skating.
“It is a way to see if they like it,” Reynolds said.
Then, next level is Termites, ages 5 to 6, followed by Mites, ages 7 to 8. In Termites, the players start playing organized hockey, learning the basics, such as handling the puck, skating on their edges, and start and stop. In this level, they first start to split up into teams and scrimmage each other.
“It is the first organized hockey, and it is a lot of the basics,” Reynolds said.
In Mites, they emphasize more technical skating, and they play a lot of games, such as tag, to work on their skating skills.
In this level, the first in-house games are played, for which the team splits into two, and competitive games are played on Sundays. The Mites also get to play in a tournament in January.
Squirts, ages 9 to 10, is the start to travel hockey, playing other teams in District 5. The first four weeks of Squirts is for development, playing games against each other.
“We split them into four teams that are even, practice and play each other, and then go to a tournament in November,” Reynolds said.
After the tournament, the teams are split into A, B, or C level, depending on their ability, and the teams practices and play games throughout the week.
“They usually practice a couple of days and have a couple of games each week,” Reynolds said.
In Peewee, ages 11 to 12, and Bantams, ages 13 to 14, checking begins. The physical play brings more intensity and competitiveness to the game.
Since Bantams is the last level of competition before entering into the high school program, a lot of emphasis is put into speed, skill, and intensity.
The Hockey Development Board, which consists of senior coaches for the CRYHA, works with high school coach Steve Brown to help ease the transition. They work with the players to familiarize them with the high school system.
“We run our system similar to the high school, to make it an easier transition,” Reynolds said.
If a player does not play for the high school team, but still wants to play, CRYHA provides Junior Gold, ages 15 to 17. Junior Gold is partnered with Buffalo, and gives players an opportunity to practice and play in up to 35 games.
“It is for players who want to keep playing, but can’t afford the time commitment because they have a job or something else going on,” Reynolds said.
Along with practicing and playing regular games, most of the levels play in several tournaments throughout the year, going to such places as Wayzata and Waseca.
“We go all over the place,” Reynolds said.
CRYHA also brings in special instructors to teach power skating and goaltending. The goaltending instructor, Bill Manuel from the International Goalie Camp in Detroit Lakes, has a lot of experience.
He worked under the three-time Olympic gold medal winner Vladislav Tretiak.
Tretiak is best known, with American hockey fans, as the goaltender who played against the USA in the 1980 Miracle on Ice game in Lake Placid. He was considered the best goalie in the world. Manuel worked with him for 15 years, and is now passing all of his knowledge to Delano’s youth.
“They receive very good instruction,” Reynolds said.
In order to raise funds for the CRYHA, a new fundraiser is planned for Saturday, Jan. 27, called “DA Shiver.”
It is an ice fishing tournament held on the west end of Lake Sarah. Activities include a bonfire, cookout, open skating, games, and music.
“It’s brand-spanking new,” Reynolds said.
Prizes for the the fundraiser include a portable fishhouse, hunting gear, cash, a Mark Parrish Wild jersey signed by players, Gopher jersey signed by players, Wild tickets, and a Vexilar fish locator, to name a few items.
Along with “DA Shiver,” an Ice Castle fishhouse, painted Tiger orange, is being raffled off at Lake Sarah. The fish house is on display by Coborn’s Sunday afternoons, and tickets can be bought at the display, at the fishing tournament, and at the sports arena.
The CRYHA is continuing to improve its program every year, and is always excited to have new players coming in.
“We are always excited to add new players and families to our program,” Reynolds said.
The Delano Area Sports Arena has been entertaining hockey players, fans, and skaters alike for the last 17 years, and now is looking to make some changes to the facility in the near future.
The decision to build a sports arena came in the late 1980s, when hockey parents and hockey enthusiasts got together and realized that the time had come to get indoor ice for the players in Delano.
Up until the arena was built, youth hockey was traveling to Buffalo to play, and when ice time became scarce, they proceeded to go to rinks in Litchfield and Minnetonka.
The varsity high school team was also suffering from limited ice time, spending a majority of its time on busses. They would have to travel to Buffalo and practice at 10 p.m. on school nights, because that was the only time available to them.
“The varsity team would practice at 10 in Buffalo, and would only get four or five home games a year; the rest they would have to play on the road,” DASA President Lindsay Wallace said.
It was obvious something had to be done for the players, as well as the program, if hockey was going to be successful in Delano.
Several community members got together, and decided to build the Delano Area Sports Arena in 1989, and put up much of their own money to do so. Construction started in 1989, and the arena was opened in January 1990.
“DASA was one of the first arenas in the state to be built without tax payer assistance, and to this day, operates as a user-funded entity, without tax dollars,” Wallace said.
DASA continues to run the arena, without tax dollars or funding from the school. The organization make a majority of their money from advertising, and ice time payments from the Crow River Youth Hockey Association, and the high school.
DASA continues to work closely with the organizations, giving them rates that are affordable.
“We make a majority of our money from the CRYHA, and the high school would be number two,” Wallace said.
Last year, DASA hired Larry Hunter as its rink manager, which helped the arena more smoothly. Hunter runs the day-to-day operations, as DASA can now focus on broader goals.
“He keeps the place operating,” Wallace said about Hunter.
As the arena gets older, more and more upkeep projects pop up, which cost money. DASA is looking to make improvements to the facility, and is looking to expand to the arena at the same time.
“We need constant upkeep, and need more money to keep up,” Wallace said.
DASA is now looking to get a $600,000 bond from the city, which DASA is responsible for paying for. The bond will be used for making changes to the current facility, and hopefully using it as a springboard for the future adding of a second ice sheet to the facility.
“Our initial vision is to use the $600,000 as a jump start,” Wallace said.
DASA’s goal is to begin its remodeling phase sometime in April. Their possible projects are to put in new bleachers, cold compliance equipment, sprinklers, and possibly a new locker room, with showers.
“The locker rooms we have were built by volunteer dads, and they don’t have showers,” Wallace said.
DASA’s broader goals are to add on to the facility, putting in another ice sheet that would be playable year-round. Its goal is to put a common area on the east end of the building, which would lead to the second ice sheet, which would be built to the east or south of the commons.
The second sheet would provide DASA the ability to offer the community more open skating times, as well as the opportunity to skate year-round.
“This process will take time as we will need to raise the funds to complete any further work,” Wallace said.
DASA’s goal for adding on to the arena are long-term, and still need to be approved by the city and school, in order to find the funding to complete them.
As the arena is used primarily for hockey in the winter, DASA is looking into new possibilities for the summer months. The arena is now used for people who want to Roller-blade and play baseball. DASA is looking into using the arena for soccer, lacrosse, and possibly, batting cages.
The Delano Area Sports Arena has been around for 17 years, and has a lot of memories. It has hosted numerous hockey games, and even an All Star Wrestling match.
Reynolds’ most memorable moment in the arena took place last year, during Delano’s playoff victory over Hutchinson.
“Last year’s playoff game, when we beat Hutch, was the most people I have ever seen in the arena,” Reynolds recalled.
DASA is looking on improving the arena in Delano, working closely with the school and city, trying to find ways to help players and the community enjoy hockey and skating right here in Delano.