EDEN PRAIRIE, USA – Money magazine has frequently cited Eden Prairie as one of the best places to live in the United States. If you’re a young female hockey player or a girl who aspires to play this great sport, that certainly rings true.
There were close to 60 attendees at the well-organized World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend event on Sunday afternoon at the Eden Prairie Community Center, just southwest of Minneapolis. Twenty hockey newcomers got to skate with high school and youth players, while kids from the 6-and-under and 8-and-under programs dropped in as well.
Games of shinny with mini-nets took place cross-ice with hard dividers in place, which were obtained via a grant from Minnesota Hockey. The state’s governing body of hockey works closely with USA Hockey, which sponsors Try Hockey For Free events throughout the year. It was a fun afternoon in this community of 63,000 inhabitants, and the participants feasted on 12 large pizzas to cap off the session.
Michael Wagner, a coach and girls coordinator with Eden Prairie Hockey, had a special appreciation for this inaugural event. His wife Aimee coaches and plays on a women’s team, and all five of his daughters play hockey. The entire family enjoys attending Minnesota Wild games.
“We have a personal connection with one of the U.S. national team members, Gigi Marvin, who’s from Warroad, Minnesota,” said Wagner, whose father founded the hockey program in Long Prairie, Minnesota in 1973. “Warroad is about a seven-hour jaunt north from where we live. We’ve actually been up there three summers, skating at Gigi’s hockey camp and fishing for walleyes after training was over. I keep in close touch with Gigi. Two of my daughters also train with Mira Jalosuo, who’s on the Finnish Olympic team.”
With so many role models to choose from, the World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend will undoubtedly get even bigger and better in Eden Prairie next year.
“We have a proud tradition of girls’ ice hockey in Eden Prairie,” Wagner said. “We’ve produced high school championships. We’ve produced players for the national team and many Division I ice hockey teams. We have made significant investments over the last year in our weight training facility and our off-ice stickhandling and shooting facilities. We just received a $50,000 grant from a bank that one of our board members is associated with. So our commitment to girls’ ice hockey is continually supporting it. Outreach is everything, exposing the sport to new families. It’s the way we’re going to grow our sport.”
That statement is right on the money.