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Youth Hockey Tournaments make a difference: Guest Blogger Mitch Loomis

We host hockey tournaments here at the Walker Area Community Center (WACC).  We have just one sheet of ice, so our hockey tournaments can accommodate a bracket of no more than eight teams.  Our tournaments almost always fill.  Teams come from the north shore, from Duluth, from the range, the Canadian border, North Dakota, the twin cities and all over Minnesota.  They fill hotel rooms and chairs in our restaurants.  Why?

Why would a hockey team comprised of 9 and 10 year old children travel 200 or more miles to spend the weekend playing hockey in Walker?

First, you need to understand a little about hockey in Minnesota.

Our kids play hockey in a league adroitly named Minnesota Hockey.  Minnesota Hockey is an affiliate of USA Hockey.  In the 2013/14 season (most recent numbers found), Minnesota Hockey included 54,507 youth players.  Minnesota ranks first in the nation in number of players, although hockey in Minnesota is mature and hockey in several other states is growing quickly.

That Minnesota ranks #1 with USA Hockey is especially impressive considering we play high school hockey.  In general, only our kids ages 14 and under play hockey in a USA Hockey / community-based program.  Then, our kids play hockey in high school in the Minnesota State High School League.

OK, so that is a little bit about the organizing of youth hockey here.  To answer the question we started with, you only need to understand one other thing.  People love to visit Walker.

Walker Youth Hockey deserves great credit for hosting tournaments bringing eight visiting hockey teams into our community for a weekend.  But, good volunteers and a well-run tournament isn’t enough.  Regional cities like Duluth, Bemidji and Brainerd attract teams into invitational tournaments.  However, many (most) small towns would love to draw teams to spend a weekend in their town like we do here in Walker.

Our town is quaint with lots of great little shops, choice in restaurants and plenty of great lodging; nice hotels with swimming pools for the hockey kids.

We’ve been hosting hockey tournaments for quite a few winters now.  Walker businesses have seen the value of these tournaments.  The visiting hockey families enjoy their time here.  We are fortunate to have an indoor rink and a town people love to visit.  Hockey gives the families in our part of the country another reason to spend a wonderful winter weekend in Walker.

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