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Willmar notebook: Minn. Hockey proposed move jolts WHA

Tribune photo by Rand Middleton The Willmar Girls 10u, shown at Jan. 8 game in Cardinal Arena, is one of six WHA traveling teams comprising 95 youth. Additionally, there are about 55 in the WCER Mite program.

Minnesota Hockey, Inc. proposes moving Willmar traveling youth hockey out of its home district and sending it south.

The governing body will discuss district realignment on Sunday during its quarterly meeting at the Marriot West in St. Louis Park.

District 5 has been Willmar's hockey home forever. The 10-program district extends from Hutchinson to St. Cloud to Buffalo and includes familiar high-school rivals like Sauk Rapids, River Lakes, and Sartell.

The proposal is to push Willmar, Hutchinson and Litchfield/Dassel-Cokato down to District 4. The southwest district, the last part of the state to generate full-scale organized hockey, has seven programs. District 5 has 11.

"They want to shore up District 4," said Nate Weber, president of the Willmar Hockey Association board.

WHA's board is opposed to the move as are many parents. Weber said a representative will attend Sunday's meeting. A petition is being circulated to parents and will be presented to the Minnesota Hockey board.

WHA board members calculated that redistricting will add nearly 600 miles to overall travel for the youth teams. It's feared the extra time and mileage to reach Luverne, Worthington, Windom and Fairmont will discourage families from joining traveling hockey.

Other District 4 programs are somewhat nearer in Marshall, Redwood Falls and Sleepy Eye.

It's expected that Litchfield and Hutchinson also will oppose realignment.

What could soften the impact, if the measure passes, is the likelihood of a north and south division. Willmar teams could form a north division with Hutchinson, Litchfield, Redwood and Marshall. Visits to teams in the south half would be every other year.

From a state viewpoint, there may not be a lot of sympathy when it comes to the travel card. The board might point out that teams in the far north, particularly District 16, also must put up with many long trips.

Willmar sports programs have faced extended travel ever since its size forced it to leave the cozy West Central Conference to help form the new Central Lakes Conference in the mid-seventies.

But being told by a higher power to move out of the neighborhood where you have grown up and made many friends is something no one wants to hear. A vote is expected at Sunday's meeting.

Stephen Reynolds's

death linked to virus

Here is news on the unexpected death on Nov. 29 of Stephen James Reynolds, 20, a three-sport athlete at Willmar High School who was attending Ridgewater College:

Mike Reynolds informed me that his son died of a viral heart infection. Dr. Robert Boyd II, at ACMC, "Determined that Stephen passed away from Viral Myocarditis.

"According to Dr. Boyd, he contracted a virus that the majority of us would just get over, but this one, for some reason, attacked his heart and disrupted the electrical function of the heart which causes sudden death" by cardiac arrest.

Knowing this does nothing to ease the profound hurt, Mike concedes, but at least there is closure to what caused the tragic loss and "We know he did not suffer or have pain. He died peacefully in his sleep."

This girl can kick

Jeni Peterson lettered four years in the mid-1980's playing on the girls basketball team coached by her father, Lynn Peterson.

Jeni and Lisa Hanson were Tribune All-area guards as sophomores on the first Willmar Cardinals team to win a region title in girls basketball and advance to the state basketball tournament in 1984. She also earned two letters each in volleyball and fast-pitch.

Jeni's daughter, Sydney Palmer, won the girls 14-15 age division in the NFL's national Punt, Pass & Kick tournament. It's the second national title for Sydney, who won the 8/9 Division in 2007, her second year in PP&K.

The Pierre, S.D., resident was one of two national champions from South Dakota, both of who qualified at the Metrodome Team Competition for the 50th annual PP&K Nationals.

Sydney's father is Todd Palmer, who played sports at Clara City.

The winners were introduced on national television, in Baltimore, during the AFC Sunday playoff game between the Ravens and Houston.

The 40 national finalists competed in five classes each for boys and girls.

These national qualifiers had advanced through three levels to reach nationals. It's a tremendous feat to make it to the Team level let alone gain a National finals top 4 ranking when your distance is compared to all the other NFL stadium competitions.

To win twice, as Sydney has, must be very rare.

In an on-line PP&K interview, Sydney said she doesn't practice often because "I'm busy with other sports," including girls varsity basketball for the Pierre Lady Govs. She also is in soccer -- no surprise there -- and track.

Pond Hockey

New this year at Spicer WinterFest is a 4-on-4 Green Lake Pond Hockey Tournament on Jan. 28. Jon Olson at O'Neil's Restaurant has organized an event that seems overdue. The all-day games will feature up to 10 teams. Jon said a few openings remain. Call him at 320-295-1241 or O'Neil's at 796-6524. The entry fee per team is $300 with proceeds to the Spicer outdoor rink.

Volunteers are also needed, especially to officiate.

On the run again

The Frozen 5k Run/Walk Feb. 4 at Spicer kicks off the Glacial Lakes Running Series and also the 2012 schedule. The race headquarters are at Zorbaz, formerly Melvin's. Lori Gehrking and Marty Janning, both of Willmar, are the 2011 series champions.

Added to the 12-event Glacial calendar is the St. Patrick's Day Red Beard 7k on March 17 from the Oaks at Eagle Creek. Complete information and registration for the Series is at

'54 revisited

Last week's notebook wrote about the 1951-52 basketball season and how the youngsters on that team later grew into leading roles on Willmar's first state tournament team since the 1929 season.

Ralph Howell, the starting right forward on the '53-54 team, called to add the name of John Eid to the list. He was listed with the Bombers (B-squad) in 1951 but was a starting guard with Augie Schmidt in '53-54.

The Cardinals beat heavily favored Patrick Henry 60-49 for the Region 5 championship and go to 23-0. Just before that game at a packed Williams Arena, head coach Ace Hoberg had craftily waved the Minneapolis and St. Paul papers at his boys, each a bundle of nerves: "They pick you to lose by 10 or 11 points, so all ya' gotta do is lose by 9 and you'll prove them both wrong." With that crack, Hoberg put the team at ease, recalled Howell.

In addition to the players mentioned last week, other lettermen were Marlin Berg, Paul Iverson, Charles Nelson and Dean Wanner. Center Dean Anderstrom, the only junior in the starting five, was the state tournament's high scorer with 72 points or 24 ppg.

On the fly

- Two Willmar Cardinals received shout outs as CLC Performers of the Week: Girls Basketball-Defense, Anne Dunham, a junior forward, compiled 19 rebounds, 3 steals and 4 blocks in two games ... Boys Nordic Skiing, Jack Erickson, an eighth-grader, placed 90th of 171 skiers at the Mesabi East Invitational in a 5k freestyle time of 16:43.

- Junior basketball forward Alex Grove's broken knuckle on his right hand could keep him out 5 to 8 weeks. The injury occurred Jan. 5 at Brainerd when he slammed his hand into the wall.

- Edina dropped its first 4 games this season but has won 9 straight going into tonight's game with Minneapolis Southwest. Patrick Dorsey (WHS '88) brings the Hornets to Willmar Saturday evening in the annual series, which the Hornets lead 5 wins to 1. The Cardinals play another Class 4A opponent tonight at St. Cloud Tech. One of those early Hornet losses was to Woodbury, 63-52, on Dec. 13. The Royals (11-2), coached by Scott Swansson (WHS '74) rank No. 5 in the Minnesota Score QRF.

- Elijah Lee, a two-year Ridgewater College wide receiver from Cedar Falls, Iowa, has enrolled for second semester at Colorado State-Pueblo and is preparing for spring football.

- The Willmar Youth Boys Basketball Tourney on Feb. 25 has openings for grades 4, 6 and 8, as well as 7 with a team drop.

Rand Middleton
Tribune photographer/videographer. Began working in radio and at weekly newspaper in Munising, Michigan, in 1972. Started parttime at West Central Daily Tribune Sept. 1974. Fulltime news/sports beginning Feb. 1979. Married to Tribune news clerk Donna (Miller) Middleton, formerly of Kerkhoven. 2 grown children. 
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