Sunday, November 20, 2016

Emerson Hockey Memories

Photo Source:  James McClelland

The team in the picture above is from the early 1960s. It was made up of players from Emerson, Dominion City, Letellier, Noyes, and players from UND.

Back row, left-right: John Mathes, Al Hayden-Luck, Ben Comeault, Unknown, Tony Loiselle (Goalie), Unknown, Ed Mackay, Alfred "Babe" Ayotte, Doug Gruenke, Gary Beckstead1.

Front Row left-right: Clayton Grey, Tom Forrest, Dean Beckstead, Donny Kernihan, Barry Solnes, Sam Leathers, Wilf Beaulieu (playing coach). "The unknown players probably were imports from Grand Forks; the team was often accused of bringing in imports", says James McClelland

James McClelland [formerly of Emerson] shared the photo with me, and the following commentary:
I am grateful for the opportunity to share some stories about hockey in Emerson. The town has a long history with the sport. The old corrugated steel rink built in the 1920's has seen a lot of hockey.  "The Barn", as it is lovingly known, is still used every winter and it still has natural ice. In late, out early.

An interesting feature of the old rink is that it was very narrow. The ice surface was narrow and the stands were very close to the boards. In the days before Plexiglas, fans were very close to the action. As a result it was not uncommon for fans to be injured by errant pucks and flying sticks. This narrow ice surface often gave the home team a bit of an advantage since they were accustomed to the narrow surface and used it to advantage in their game plan. Renovations however widened the rink and the installation of Plexiglas has made it safer for the spectators. 
Over the years teams from Emerson have played in various leagues and at different levels. In the 1940s they played in an international league called, I believe, the States-Dominion League. Teams from Crookston, Thief River Falls, Grand Forks and Winnipeg played at a very competitive and skilled level.
Old Emerson A's team bus, put out to pasture (literally) - but all is not lost!  (Read Below...)

As a promising side-note to the memories above, there is exciting news about NEW hockey coming back to Emerson!!

Fighting Sioux, Gar Beckstead
Circa 1956
1 - Gary Beckstead came from a hockey family in Emerson.  His older brother Gar (Garfield Beckstead) was scouted by a number of NHL teams from the time he was 12 years old, attending several of their summer camps.

At age 17, he was invited by the Boston Bruins to join their farm team in Barry, Ontario, with the prospect of moving up to the National Hockey League.  At the same time, he was offered scholarships to several colleges, including the University of Colorado, the University of Minnesota, and the University of North Dakota. It was a hard decision since he could make $500 a week playing on the farm team, a large sum for a young man in the late 1950s.

In the end, he decided to attend college, and chose UND on an athletic scholarship.  During his time at UND, he was a star hockey player for the Fighting Sioux...

[Source:  Useppa:  An Ongoing Journey, by Ken and Pat Birt]