Worthington Ice Arena promoting hockey to SW MinnesotaWORTHINGTON — This weekend marks the fifth celebration of Hockey Weekend Across America.
WORTHINGTON — This weekend marks the fifth celebration of Hockey Weekend Across America.
Since 2008, USA Hockey has promoted the weekend to both celebrate the sport of hockey and provide opportunities for people who wouldn’t normally be able to participate in the sport to try it in hopes of expanding the appreciation for the sport.
The Worthington community is celebrating the weekend by hosting the Peewee “B” District Tournament from Friday to Sunday.
But the community has been working hard for the past year to expand the sport of hockey in Southwest Minnesota, not just this weekend.
“In the Southwest corner of our state you just don’t see that much youth hockey,” said Kris Hohensee, assistant manager of the Worthington Ice Arena. “Hockey is a very disciplined sport that is both very individual and very team-oriented. You need to learn your given position while still learning how your position works in regards to the whole team.
“Hockey is a unique sport that can carry over into other aspects of a person’s life. You need to be able to multi-task, you learn to work as a team. The sport builds much more than someone’s athleticism, it builds their character too.”
Last summer, the hockey program in Worthington received both money from the city and a grant from the Worthington Healthcare Foundation to make improvements to both the youth program and the facility.
The $10,000 grant from the Healthcare Foundation was used to purchase equipment to give to kids who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford it. Hohensee and the others involved in the improving process were able to buy 25 sets of equipment. That, along with the 12 sets they already had on hand, provided 27 youngsters gear this season — 10 sets weren’t used this year.
With the $120,000-plus received from the city, improvements were made to the Worthington Ice Arena. New heaters were installed, new showers were put into the locker rooms, new toilets were put in the public facilities, improved fire doors were installed and the money paid for improvements to the cooling system—the system that makes the ice and keeps it at the right temperature.
“This doesn’t just improve hockey in Worthington,” Hohensee said. “It improves things for the figure skaters, it provides a better facility for the church groups that come and play broomball here, it makes things better for open skate. We’re not just improving the hockey program, we’re providing the community with a number of programs they can do here.”
Last summer, Jason Johnson led a committee that put the proposal together for the city. The members of the committee made sure to figure out what the most important stuff the arena needed so they could be specific in the dollar amount when they approached the city for money.
Although they have since used up all of the grant money and the money from the city, the committee continues to try to raise funds to make further improvements.
Next on the list, according to Hohensee, are new bleachers.
The capital campaign the committee is running now sells raffle tickets for various prizes, and some of the money from that goes to making improvements to the arena. The committee also goes to various members for pledges and has a handful of businesses that would match certain dollar amounts depending on what the members pledge.
“We keep finding new things to help increase our funds,” Hohensee said. “It’s a work in progress. We work with our budget too. We just need to make sure we plan accordingly so we still have the money to play the electrical bills and whatnot.”
With the community “celebrating” hockey for nearly the past year with all the improvements, the celebration culminates with the Peewee “B” District Tournament this weekend, the same weekend as Hockey Weekend Across America.
Six teams will be competing in the tournament; Worthington, Luverne, Windom, Fairmont and two teams from New Ulm.
There are two games on Friday, with the first beginning at 6:30 p.m. Play will continue Saturday with the first game starting at 9 a.m. and the last game starting at 4 p.m. Sunday will hold the championship round and action begins at 10 a.m. that day.
“We’re excited to be hosting this tournament and to help promote USA Hockey’s Hockey Weekend Across America,” Hohensee said. “Just to be able to promote the game of hockey, just to be part of all that, is very cool. And to celebrate it in a facility we’ve put so much work into lately is exciting.”
Daily Globe Sports Reporter Jocelyn Syrstad can be reached at 376-7335.
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