By John Lauritsen

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — There’s a town in the State of Hockey where pucks and sticks are as common as stop signs and sidewalks.

Eveleth is also home to the world’s largest hockey stick — which is fitting considering how much success they’ve had on the ice.

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“I hate to name names because there are a lot of them. People in Minnesota understand the Eveleth thing because back in the day they were impressive,” said Doug Palazzari, executive director of the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame.

Add Palazzari to the town’s list of hockey greats. In fact, Palazzari is one of more than a dozen players from Eveleth whose been inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame. The most of any city in the country. The museum is right in Palazzari’s backyard.

Credit: CBS

In 1973, the Hockey Hall of Fame opened its doors in Eveleth after the town of 3,600 beat out Boston, a city of more than 680,000. The only people who weren’t surprised were the ones who grew up here.

“They had hockey up here since the late 1800’s. So they’ve been playing up here since then. They had indoor ice in 1917,” said Palazzari.

The sport’s history is honored from the first floor to the third, showcasing America’s all-stars and legends, like Brett Hull, Keith Tkachuk, Phil Housley, and Mike Modano.

Memories from the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” game can be found at every turn. There’s a shrine to Olympic coach and Minnesota legend, Herb Brooks.

“I don’t know if anyone else could have pulled that off. They don’t call it a miracle for nothing,” said Palazzari.

“I’m proud to be from Minnesota. I don’t think I’d be the hockey player I am today if I hadn’t grown up in the state,” said Natalie Darwitz.

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Darwitz had her own Olympic moments. A former captain of the U.S. Women’s National Team, she won back-to-back national titles for the University of Minnesota, where she’s now an assistant coach.

In 2018, Darwitz became the fifth woman to be inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame.

“I think when people go up to Eveleth and send me pictures, I don’t actually believe it’s in there and real,” said Darwitz. “It’s really special.”

Here, hockey history is both real and cinematic. There’s a tribute to John Wayne’s 1937 hockey movie “Idol of the Crowds.” And more recently, the scoreboard from the first Mighty Ducks movie was added. The goal of the museum is to honor those who made the game what it is today.

Credit: CBS

“I think, overall, I just hope they have a good time and learn a little bit about the history of American hockey,” said Palazzari.

There are 190 inductees in the Hall of Fame and four teams- all are U.S. citizens.

A national committee votes on new inductees each year and in December, seven new members will be enshrined.

To learn more about the U.S. Hockey Hall Of Fame, click here.

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John Lauritsen