A family tradition: John Glas Fieldhouse bridges two generations of Bemidji pucksters
When asked what he likes about hockey, 12-year-old Erik Fitzgerald grins, "Everything."
It is, perhaps, in his blood.
Erik is the son of Bemidji's Bob Fitzgerald, who was a wing with the Bemidji State University men's team from 1980 to 1984.
Fitzgerald recalled that Erik received his first pair of ice skates in December 1996 - and the boy wasn't born until May 1997.
Erik, along with his brother, Matt, 10, are continuing the Fitzgerald hockey tradition. Erik plays defense with the Bemidji pee wee team; Matt is a goalie with the squirts.
It's a similar story for the Johnsons: dad Scott Johnson of Bemidji was a center with the Beavers from 1987 to 1991. His children, Janie, 16, Jack, 11, and Olivia, 7, all play hockey in Bemidji.
But, for one, it wasn't an immediate love.
Janie, a center with the Bemidji High girls team, said she started skating when she was 9 and initially "hated" hockey.
"Now I love it," recalled Janie, who before hockey was involved in gymnastics. "I love being on a team - it's like a family."
Jack, a wing, is a pee wee and has been playing hockey since he was about 4 years old.
As for first-year player Olivia, who is a mite, she beamed while recalling a recent game. She notched two goals that day, by the way.
Recalling 'The Glas'
It's not just current Beavers who are preparing to bid farewell to the John Glas Fieldhouse this weekend following the final men's game at the facility.
Previous players, too, note their times in The Glas with warm memories.
"The camaraderie with the guys," Fitzgerald recalled. "The crowd was always phenomenal, too."
The Glas, as it is often called, hosted its first Beaver games in 1967.
"The tradition started here," noted Johnson. The facility has been the only home building for BSU hockey.
"The crowd was great," Johnson said. "We always had great fan support."
"What made the place special was the program, obviously, and the success that it had," Fitzgerald said.
He, particularly, remembered having to install the first layers of ice in the arena.
"That was pretty cool," he said. "It gave us ownership."