By Mike Max

RICHFIELD, Minn. (WCCO) — The Richfield Magicians have one thing in common — they love hockey.

The Tier II Junior League team is the first in the Twin Cities since the St. Paul Vulcans, and all their players have ambition to hit the rink in college — hopefully with a scholarship at their backs.

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“If you really love the game, this is what you do to get to the next level — hopefully play in the NHL one day,” Magicians forward Casey Jerry said. “That’s what we’re all trying to achieve.”

All sports have become international these days, including hockey — players hunt for opportunities anywhere they can. A Tier II Junior League team keeps hope alive, and pays the players’ expenses.

“It’s a great opportunity being in a hockey city,” Magicians forward Pierce Crawford said. “So I thought it was the best fit for me to move on and develop into better and better things.”

To play at any college, many players are expected to play at the juniors first.

“A scholarship in Division I just depends on the team and the year,” Magicians head coach Scott Meyer said. “Nowadays, kids have to play junior hockey just to have a chance to play Division III.”

Some of the players can still find time to hold down a part-time job.

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“I work a job from 7 in the morning until 1 o’clock in the afternoon. I work in a warehouse,” Crawford said. “So I do that, and then I come into the rink, hang out with the guys, practice, and then after that I work out.”

Other players are trying to get a leg up on their academic career in college.

“I’m taking online classes right now, so I’m eligible to play next year, in college” Jerry said. “It’s kind of a requirement for older guys.”

The Magicians is not a team driven to make money, like many of the junior leagues have become.

“We obviously want to be able to operate, and make sure we’re not in the red,” Meyer said. “So we have a lot of different cash streams that we use to help subsidize the team, and make sure that we’re viable here.”

It speaks to the nature of the players, too — just holding on to keep hope alive. And for a post-high school hockey player, this is a pretty good life.

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“It’s definitely a time that I’ll cherish for years to come,” Crawford said. “These are years that I really enjoyed, and I made some friends that I’ll have for many, many years.”

Mike Max