MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — On a beautiful Minnesota winter day, they skate, with snow banks for boards and no red line, but hockey. This is the Richfield club program.
“This is a group of Richfield Middle School students. These students come from all different grade levels, and some of them have a background in the sport, some of them have never played before,” said coach Brenton Parsons.
And when he needed help with coaching he turned to the past. The Minnesota North Stars played just a slap shot away, and helping coach these kids are a pair: Tom Younghans and Brad Maxwell.
“The Richfield community, you know, the high school, the grade [school], all the youth [hockey programs], it’s kind of disappeared, and they’re trying to make a comeback,” Younghans said. “They’re bringing a lot of kids out that hadn’t skated before.”
For students that never saw them play, they still know that they played, and they’re in awe.
“It’s crazy,” said Richfield seventh grader Ryan Palmer. “I don’t even know how to describe it.”
In the middle of it is Parsons, an English teacher at Richfield who just wanted more kids to have opportunity. He partnered with Maxwell to get equipment.
“Initially we had students that were interested but we had no gear. And so [we] put the word out on the internet through various hockey communities and the community of Richfield, and somebody connected us to Brad Maxwell, who came through with a massive gear donation, working with some other organizations,” Parsons said.
The varsity program is still alive at Richfield, but paired with Southwest Christian High School because of declining numbers. That’s why they wanted to encourage it.
“They just got to come and play,” Maxwell said. “And I know [Parsons] has more kids sometimes than other times and stuff like that, but you know, Richfield used to be such a dominate hockey place. And just getting kids out, you know, skate around and shoot a puck and have fun outside is, you know, to me that’s a great feeling.”
And so they gather just to play unstructured hockey, but hockey nonetheless. And for these kids, that’s a pretty good deal.
“We all love hockey,” Palmer said. “We’re all trying it, and hopefully all of us can have a passion for it and keep going.”