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Mr. Hockey statue moves from John Glas Fieldhouse to outdoor location downtown

“Mr. Hockey,” by sculptor Wanda Reise Odegard, is ready to challenge opposing players or just on-lookers at his position on the lawn of the downtown Security BankUSA on Bemidji Avenue. Patt Rall | Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI – When the statue of the hockey player from the Bemidji State University John Glas Fieldhouse reappeared on the Bemidji Sculpture Walk this spring, it was spruced up and ready for action. 

The 9-foot-tall hockey player was sandblasted and sprayed with automotive paints to give a bronze effect. The color was chosen because the player is not meant to represent a particular person or team; he belongs to everyone.

An alumna of BSU with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts, Wanda Reise Odegard has been sculpting since the late 1980’s. She interned with Keith Johnson, a blacksmith here in Bemidji, and learned the craft and also how to use the tools of the trade properly. 

“I learned what metals do when they are heated,” said Odegard during a recent phone interview. “I work at home now with my big pieces but I am also a metal worker for smaller interior and exterior pieces.”

Odegard does not recall exactly why but back in the 1970s era she decided to build a hockey player. Perhaps it was because her father, Halvor Reise, is the man for whom the Neilsen-Reise Arena was co-named. Or perhaps that her bother played hockey.

Odegard began to study and research for her larger-than-life hockey player. The players were outfitted a bit differently than today so that is why her player has a mouth guard and no mask and the skates are the old style with a plastic cap at the end of the blade to prevent injuries and lots of obvious padding.

“I took photos of two different hockey players from all angles,” said Odegard. “The pieces of equipment were lying around so that I could understand how they were put together. You have to know that in order to depict it correctly; the different lines of the body that emulate movement.”

Odegard cannot recall when it happened or why, but someone asked if she would allow it to be displayed in the lobby of the Glas. It remained there for almost 20 years until the BSU hockey team moved to the Sanford Center and she got her piece back. 

Now, the sculpture stands at the ready; on display on a major roadway for everyone to see, not only hockey enthusiasts.

This past spring, Odegard heard from Albert Belleveau, one of the founders of the Bemidji Sculpture Walk. Belleveau inquired if she had another piece for this year’s walk of public art.

You may not recognize the name of the sculptor but everyone will recognize her other piece, “Niimi-He Dances,” a traditional powwow dancer. Niimi proudly dances through the days, nights and seasons of year on the shore of Lake Bemidji. 

The piece is a triumph in planning for Odegard as she was able to construct a life-size piece of sculpture so precisely designed that he appears to be balanced on one foot.

“I want my figures to look almost real, “said Odegard. “They are telling us what they are all about.” 

Odegard meets with her fellow artists from Studio 10 to continue working in other media: watercolors, acrylics and collage. But metal work remains an important part of her artistry.