MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Saturday mornings tend to hold a scene repeated in ice arenas all across the state. Parents stand with skates between their knees and tighten up laces before sending their future stars onto the ice. But it’s not only suburban or outstate rinks where the scene plays out. There’s a growing resurgence in Minneapolis youth hockey.

Loryn Follrath is a hockey mom and wife who spends her Saturdays watching from the bleachers, and she has a lot to say about the sport’s benefits.

” It’s a good way for the kids to meet other kids outside of school and also for families to come together,” Follrath said.

From the heydays of Minneapolis amateur hockey back in the 1950s and 60s, interest and success in the sport gradually declined. In fact, it’s been over 40 years since a city team, Minneapolis Southwest High School, won a state title. That’s just one reason there’s an effort to restore pride and opportunities in the city’s youth hockey program.

The resurgence really began to show progress over the past few years. It’s clearly evident by the steady rise in the number of kids being registered for the mite, squirt, pewee and bantam programs. For instance, in 2002 there were 410 kids playing organized youth hockey in the Southwest and Washburn programs. Since then the two areas merged into one program called Minneapolis Storm Hockey. This year some 700 boys and girls are playing Storm youth hockey.

The program’s executive director Paul Larson said the brand was created five years ago to be “an all inclusive brand of youth hockey in Minneapolis.”

Larson said that by consolidating into one unified youth program there are more kids to choose from when organizing the competitive travel teams. But it also gives parents and players a chance for more ice time and rinks at which to play.

“If we hadn’t done that, the Minneapolis kids who attend 61 different schools in our program would be so fractured that I don’t think any single program would be able to build the scale necessary to participate in traveling hockey in Minnesota,” he said.

Parents like Lisa Brezonik said it’s a smart investment in their kids.

“The reason we signed up for the program is that it teaches great fundamentals and confidence,” Brezonik said. “So whether they play in high school or just recreation they’ll have confidence and love the game for the rest of their lives.”

Registration for the 2011-12 season of Minneapolis Storm youth hockey will remain open through Thanksgiving.


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