By Mike Max

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It’s hockey season for many high school players.

That’s right, since the Minnesota State High School League allowed coaches to work with their teams in the off-season, July is a competitive month. WCCO’s Mike Max paid a visit to the biggest tournament featuring some of the top area teams.

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It’s the middle of July, and high school hockey is heating up. It’s the annual Summer Festival, and it’s grown over the years.

“There is 20 varsity teams and 10 junior varsity teams, and they play in a pool and if they win their pool they advance,” John Barger, the tournament director for the Summer Festival, said.

Since the high School league allowed for high school coaches to work with their players in the summer, it’s changed. Duluth East’s Mike Randolph has been coaching for better than four decades. He sees the difference.

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“Oh it’s the best rule they ever made in high school hockey, allowing the coaches to work with their kids. I know everybody doesn’t do that and that’s their prerogative, but the ones that want to do it really enjoy it,” Randolph said. “We skate a lot at home, scrimmage mostly.”

You might think this is the summer vacation version, a little more laid back. The wins don’t mean as much, but the internal competition, it’s paramount.

“It’s definitely more competitive because you’ve got guys trying to make the team. You’ve got those third-line grinders that are trying to make their way up to the second and first so it’s definitely more competitive now,” Maple Grove senior Colin Monk said.

Remember this is still considered the off-season, but in a hockey hot bed like Minnesota, they are able to get an idea who will be there this winter in the real season.

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“It really is and all the other coaches know it too. They kind of watch each other and all the good teams are basically here,” Barger said.

Mike Max