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Bemidji to host state Bantam B tournament

Bemidji Squirt A hockey player Jaret Lalli, 11, tapes his stick prior to a 3-on-3 hockey game Monday afternoon at Bemidji Community Arena. The BCA will wrap up its second full year of hockey play this weekend with the Bantam B Hockey Tournament. Pioneer Photo/Eric Stromgren

For the first time since 1968, a state boys hockey tournament is coming to Bemidji.

The Minnesota Bantam B State Tournament begins at noon Friday at the Bemidji Community Arena and ends Sunday with the championship game at 1:15 p.m.

Eight teams are participating in the tournament: Tartan, Woodbury Blue, Wayzata Blue, Elk River, Edina Green, White Bear Lake, Blaine and Osseo/Maple Grove.

"I think it's going to be a good thing for Bemidji and it will be a nice event to showcase Bemidji," Bemidji Youth Hockey Tournament Director Jill Andersen said.

Anderson, part of an active hockey family with her coach husband Scott and son Taylor, has been busy this week taking care of the details to make the event memorable for the visiting teams.

Out of financial concerns cited Minnesota Hockey, the traditional Thursday night banquet was cancelled.

"But we wanted to make the teams and their families feel welcome, so we've decided to go with a root beer float social after each game on Friday. We've also paired up each visiting player with a host family, so if they have questions on what they can do, where they can go eat or anything else about Bemidji, they'll know where to go."

We're pretty excited to have them come up here."

Planning includes picking national anthem singers for the games. Selected to sing the Star Spangled Banner are Dan Will, Hannah Olson, Shayanne Kaml and Maggie Buckanaga.

The weekend will conclude the second full season of hockey activity at the Bemidji Community Arena, which is owned by Bemidji Youth Hockey and is the only arena in Minnesota operated by a Youth Hockey Association.

The BCA has taken steps forward in interior development with lobby improvements and expanded advertising signage inside the arena.

Bemidji Youth Hockey continues to have long-term goals of having Bemidji High School games played in the arena along with the construction of a secondary rink added to the building.

For now, Bemidji Youth Hockey and the Bemidji Community Arena remains a bustling area of activity in the winter months.

"Every weekend we have different teams in town here for tournaments and during the week we have home games here,' Bemidji Youth Hockey President Tracy Pogue said. "There's something going on here seven days a week from Halloween to March 15th. Our tournaments fill up fast and we already have bookings for next year."

On Monday, the BCA hosted the start of a week-long 3-on-3 youth tournament for BYH Members. Because of the incoming state bantam tournament, the ice remained in the building for another week to give local kids the opportunity for an extended season.

Pogue pointed out Bemidji Youth Hockey's economic contribution to the city of $6.2 million, a number he cited from Gayle Quistgaard, the recently retired executive director Visit Bemidji.

"We have a great working relationship with the innkeepers here in town and we always point our visiting teams to our local hotels," Pogue said.

BYH has also developed a membership benefits card and partnered with local businesses to provide card members with discounts at area businesses.

It is part of a modern, proactive approach for the youth hockey program, which has a home on the Internet. The Web site organizes volunteers, hosts a calendar and uses other ways to keep the program connected.

"We're always looking for moms and pops and grandmas and grandpas to come out and help," Pogue said. "We're doing good ... for now we're looking forward to this weekend because it could be another several years before we get the rotation back here to host a state tournament again."