From the Re-Echo Spring 2006 – Vol. 5, No. 2
In 1945, a group of high school sophomores got the City of St. Louis Park to divide a big skating rink on Dakota Avenue so they could play “shinny” games (hockey without many rules). These boys thought they were good enough to try the get the high school to sponsor them as a team. They approached Principal Milton Kuhlman, who was also the athletic director. They were told that this would require academic eligibility, good school behavior, and a coach that was on the faculty. In addition, they needed a rink for which the school did not have money.
To the group it was a challenge. They also knew that they had to prove they could play. They entered the St. Louis Park Rangers in the Minneapolis Park Board League for 15 and 16 year olds. Now they had two new problems. The first was protection. They solved this by improvising and using magazines and rubber bands for shin guards. Another problem was to find a player with access to a car so they could get to games.
The shinny games were gone forever. They had never before played with nets, boards, body checks, and referees. In the 1945-46 school year they went on to a season record of 10 wins and two losses. With this record, the Village Council provided a rink with boards and nets. For a faculty coach they recruited the boy’s gym teacher. Now they had another problem because Mr. Peter Zanna did not know how to skate. However with this addition, they had an official St. Louis Park High School team for the 1946-47 school year. The team played to a record of 10 wins, two losses and one tie. This included two wins over Robbinsdale and a win over Wayzata. These were the original Lake Conference schools. In spite of their record, they were not invited to the second state tournament. This was an oversight because the tournament organizers did not know the team existed.
The next year the team started with some experience, some new players, and a goal of getting to the State tournament. The first games were hard fought losses to Minneapolis high school teams. The season got better with the emergence of Jimmie Mattson. When he showed for practice the first year he did not know how to skate. With his remarkable quickness and intense desire he developed into a great goal tender. The goal of getting into the State tournament was accomplished, but had very little to do with the season record. There were no other eligible teams in the Lake Conference, so St. Louis Park was seeded into the tournament. It would be the first time they had skated indoors and had real uniforms. They did not play well in the tournament. They played Warroad in their first game and were beaten 10 to 0. Nevertheless, Jimmie Mattson set a record for saves that still stands. They also lost the consolation game to St. Paul Harding, again with a score of 10 to 0.
From the beginning, interest grew. Other Lake Conference schools took up hockey. Good coaching developed, and arenas were built.
The information for this story was taken from an article written by Rex Pickett for “Lets Play Hockey,” published in a hockey newspaper. Rex was one of the original “shinny” kids.
Also see Sports in the Park.