OTSEGO, Minn. (WCCO) — In the hockey crazy city of Elk River, site of the 2014 Hockey Day Minnesota, stories and relics of the games’ past are literally coming out of the woodwork.
So, when an Otsego family discovered a handmade hockey stick hidden in the attic of an old farmhouse, the detective work began. The questions began: Who made it, where did he play and why did he love the game so much?
It’s only been since the mid-1950s that Elk River kids have been playing organized ice hockey. The first high school team wasn’t fielded for a schedule of games until 1958. But the discovery of a crude hockey stick in the Otsego farmhouse reveals strong evidence that kids were playing the game long before then.
“I didn’t think much of it at first. Then I looked at the date and name on the stick and thought it was pretty interesting,” John DeMars said.
What DeMars discovered in the attic of the farmhouse his folks have lived in since 1945 was a crudely carved, hand crafted hockey stick. It appears made from a tree branch and etched with an intricate cross-hatched pattern on the shaft.
The boy, who apparently made it, Leslie Holt, burned his name onto one side of the stick’s blade. On the flip side is the date that reads, Jan. 1, 1914.
“I thought this kid must have really loved hockey to have taken the time to do all this carving and burning,” DeMars said.
Not knowing much about the origins of the game, DeMars showed the stick to someone who does – former Elk River hockey player and longtime booster, Rick Durant.
“This is a 100-year-old handmade hockey stick – there’s no doubt about it!” Durant said.
The perfectly shaped and carved stick is obviously made from a tree branch and was made decades before the local school even had a team.
“And I thought of a young kid 100 years ago out in Otsego playing pond hockey. He didn’t have a stick so he found a tree branch that looked like a stick,” Durant points out.
Not only is the stick 100 years old, it also might be Elk River’s first and oldest hockey stick. As words spreads of its’ existence hockey players and fans are clamoring to lay eyes on it.
But it wasn’t until a very close examination of the stick was it noticed that the original owner had ties to the local high school. Hidden within the cross hatched design on the handle are the initials, ERHS. It’s a clear and definite reference to Elk River High School.
But what’s so clearly obvious when examining the stick is the love and determination to play a game that was just beginning to interest Minnesota kids statewide. Now, it’s a piece of hockey history that was a century in the making.
“I tell you what, it feels good in my hands and If I wouldn’t break it, I’d be willing to still use it,” Durant said.
DeMars says he will attend Hockey Day in Minnesota on Saturday and intends to bring the stick with for others to see.