by ADAM GRUENEWALD
With the season winding down and playoffs looming, competition was fierce on the ice at the Norwood Young America ice rink as broomball athletes defended, passed and scored on Sunday.
DaBoars ended up taking the first of four 60-minute games over Fugarwe, 7-0. Volunteer referees were Neil Klingelhutz and Blair Bollig, members of the Klingelhutz team, set to play the second game.
While the location and participants have changed over the years, the intensity and camaraderie remain as they did for the original members of this league over 30 years ago.
The casual adult broomball league started in the early 1980’s when a group of friends got together to play broomball in Cologne on hockey rinks made by the Cologne Lions.
Previous league president Alan Tellers, who played from 1982 to 1997, recalled fondly his time on the league.
“It was a lot of fun,” he said. “People played pretty hard during a game and it was a really big social event. We would play and then go down to the bar afterwards.”
Tellers first joined when the team run by his sister Patty Mellgren, who used to own P.T.s Place in Cologne, needed players.
As president of the league from 1985 to 1995, the league was short a team one year so Tellers and Rocky Meuleners founded the P7’s in 1987. The group remains close knit, he said.
“We were just friends on and off the ice,” he said. “We’d go just about everywhere together all year long.”
Tellers said the team was pretty bad when it started, but they were able to celebrate a championship in future years. In addition to that year’s party, most memorable was the seventh anniversary party in 1994 held in the Cologne Pavilion. The party featured a band and seven hours of free beer.
The competition also stood out to Tellers though, who played goalie for the P7’s in games where the average competitive game featured a score of 4-2.
“People tried hard but nobody wanted to hurt each other,” he said. “Then when it was the playoffs it got more intense. You could tell when the season was ending it increased, and again when the playoffs came.”
Fierce rivalries developed and Tellers said goalie Gerry Beutow and the Beutow Bombers stood out as each game seemed to end 2-1. Some of the other original teams included the D & P Pounders, Greenlites, Shep’s-Cologne, Shep’s-Hamburg, Smith Grocery and P.T.s Place.
While he didn’t come in with a hockey background, Tellers recalled playing well, saying, “In my younger days, I had my moments.”
Unlike Beutow, who played goalie on his knees, Tellers recalled his strategy in goal was different.
“I stood on my feet,” he said, laughing. “It wasn’t pretty. I was not well trained and there was a lot of flopping going on.”
Tellers, now 51, said he retired in 1997 because of age, as the games took their toll physically.
Safety equipment is now required, but wasn’t in the past.
“When we played, the goalies were the only ones who wore helmets and not all the goalies wore helmets,” he said. “We were out there winging it for the most part.”
Even with the equipment, as a goalie Tellers still has battle scars, getting caps after getting his two front teeth knocked out by his hockey mask in 1995 or 1996. He recalls the injury kept him out for a few weeks. His sister however, broke her leg.
“It wasn’t rare to really have injuries,” he said. “When you’re on the ice, it can happen.”
For Tellers and others, he appreciates that the league is still going on.
“I think it’s really great it made it 34 years,” he said. “I think it’s awesome … I went to a game a year ago and some of my old opponents are still playing.”
CONNECTING THE PAST WITH THE PRESENT
One of the mainstays of the league is Bonie Sedio, 52, of Carver who joined the league when she was 18.
Asked by friends, Sedio said she wanted to keep active and hang out with her friends, so she joined the league. Years later, Sedio, who also plays in a 60-team league on Lake Minnetonka, remains a fan.
“It’s just doing something in the winter instead of sitting on the couch,” said Sedio, who remains committed to the Cologne league and wants to keep it going.
“We’re trying to get more of the younger kids to play,” she said, adding they would appreciate fans as well. “It would be nice to get some people to come out and watch. It’s pretty interesting.”
Besides, her retirement would let her team’s goalie, Luke Schrempp of Rogers, off the hook.
“I’ll keep playing until I can’t anymore,” she said. “He keeps wanting to retire, but I told him we have to retire at the same time… He’s getting mad at me for that.”
Also connecting the modern game with the past is Angela Lueck of Hamburg, who is on the Saloon team sponsored by Unkle Thirstys. She first joined the league 20 years ago, forming a team with her high school friends at the time.
“My parents (Harlan and Joan Anderson) used to play,” she said. “I remember going to the rink and playing in the snow.”
Now it is Angela and her husband Kelly’s three girls who get to come to the rink with their parents, a tradition she hopes will continue.
“My husband and I love the game,” she said. “It makes winter go by a lot quicker.”
Last year Angela’s winter slowed down when she tore her MCL and was out for the season.
She certainly remains committed to the league.
“It’s something that gets people together and the socializing afterwards is a lot of fun,” she said. “I just like that it’s competitive, it’s fast-paced and it just gets you outside and enjoying the weather when you’re stuck and have to deal with four seasons in Minnesota.”
Helping the league stay going, despite only five teams, are Laura and Tom King of Waconia.
Laura, who is on the DaBoars team, first started playing in 2002 when her friend Joey Herrmann asked her if she wanted to play. It was a few years later in 2003 when she met Tom, playing opposite him in the league.
“We spent time hanging out afterwards in the warming house,” she said. The couple then formed their own team.
While the league started in Cologne, the location has changed in recent years as members have played in Waconia, Norwood Young America, Carver and the Lake House in Waconia the last three to four years before returning to NYA this year.
When asked, Laura said they will play “wherever” with “whomever will take us.”
The five teams currently taking part in the league – DaBoars, Klingelhutz, Saloon, Fugarwe and Extreme Electric – play about 10 to 15 games each season, and King said they are looking for more.
“We have had kind of the same core teams that we have left,” she said. “We have some teams join and not stick it out.”
For those concerned about injuries, helmets and facemasks are now required to limit injuries, but Laura said they do still happen.
“Every time, the first time I get on the ice… you get major soreness no matter who you are,” she said. “You use muscles you don’t normally use for balancing on the ice.”
Laura said a lack of teams is somewhat of a concern, but she and Tom remain committed to keeping it going.
“I would say it’s getting to be a little bit of work,” she said, adding the city of NYA has been a great help because city crews are paid overtime to clear the ice. “The city of Norwood Young America has been great.”
Looking ahead, she said she remains focused on keeping the league going to give others a chance to take part, including her two kids, Kylee and Landon.
“We’d always love more teams,” she said, adding she expects the league to remain in NYA next year. “We appreciate and thank the city.”
To become part of the league or for questions, contact Laura King at [email protected] The registration deadline is mid to late December of next year.
Contact Adam Gruenewald at [email protected]