Northland deserves to see Hermantown-East hockey matchupRICK LUBBERS: It’s mind-boggling why a game between the Hawks and Greyhounds can’t be an annual event. And in this town, that’s exactly what it would be — an event.
By: Rick Lubbers, Duluth News Tribune
The hottest ticket in Twin Ports high school sports never gets printed, sold or punched: Duluth East vs. Hermantown in boys hockey.
Local puck fans have craved that matchup for years, but how much would they pay to see the undefeated Greyhounds (17-0) play the undefeated Hawks (17-0) this season? The top-ranked schools in Class AA and A are only miles apart, but they may as well be located on different planets.
It’s mind-boggling why that game can’t be an annual event. And in this town, that’s exactly what it would be — an event.
For those of you who don’t paste my columns into scrapbooks for posterity, I suggested in print a year ago that “Now that Amsoil Arena is the epicenter of all things hockey in Duluth, why not pit Duluth Denfeld, Duluth East, Duluth Marshall and Hermantown against each other in a frigid four-team battle royale? Local hockey fans would flip their breezers.”
I still love that idea, but this year I’m whittling that wish list to arguably the best two teams in Minnesota — Duluth East and Hermantown. They’re the only two undefeated squads left in either class, but bragging rights won’t be determined in their phantom rivalry.
I’ve heard the same tired excuses before; especially from fans who spout off that Duluth East doesn’t stand to gain anything from playing a small-class school. But the Greyhounds do play Class A teams in the annual Schwan Cup tournament, including St. Thomas Academy last month. Besides, the Hawks might be a Class A team on paper, but they clearly could handle themselves against a steady diet of Class AA foes.
It doesn’t help that the Greyhounds get snubbed yearly by most members of the Lake Superior Conference whenever they petition for inclusion into the league that features all prep sports but football. Get a few schools to change their votes and Duluth East-Hermantown would be a yearly fixture on the prep hockey calendar.
But even Division I college football might have a playoff system before that happens.
Local hockey fans deserve a chance to see those two powerhouses collide.
Ironically, the Duluth East boys basketball team will give local hoops fanatics the chance to see Lakeview Christian Academy scoring phenom Anders Broman share the court with Greyhound talents Johnny Woodard and Taylor Stafford (It’s Feb. 23, if you haven’t marked your calendar already.). That’s a school of roughly 60 students facing a Goliath-sized school of more than 1,300.
Hermantown has 10 times the amount of students that Lakeview Christian Academy has. Why can’t they line up against the Greyhounds on the ice?
If fan pressure isn’t enough to get those two squads together, why not do it for the players? They would relish the chance to re-ignite a rivalry they started as youngsters. East and Hermantown players compete against each other all the way up the youth hockey ladder, so why stop abruptly at the high school level?
Besides, athletes from those two schools already play each other in pretty much everything else. For 2011-12, that list includes:
Yeah, pretty much everything but boys hockey. Oh, I almost forgot. The Proctor-Hermantown and Duluth Northern Stars girls hockey teams play twice this season. OK, it’s not a Hawks-Greyhounds matchup, but at least they’re playing each other.
If high school athletics is a natural extension of the education the student-athletes receive, why not give the kids an experience they’ll truly remember for a lifetime? —a rivalry game played before a crowd at Amsoil Arena.
It’s time for the coaches and athletic directors at Duluth East and Hermantown to sit down and find a way to schedule this game yearly.
It’s time to print, sell and punch the hottest ticket in town.
Contact News Tribune sports editor Rick Lubbers at firstname.lastname@example.org or (218) 723-5317.