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Gigi Marvin, Matt Cullen hit the ice at Bemidji youth hockey clinic

Matt Cullen and Gigi Marvin were on hand for the Power with the Pros youth hockey clinic at the Sanford POWER Center within the Bemidji Community Arena.

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Professional hockey players Gigi Marvin and Matt Cullen talk with a group of young hockey players during a camp hosted by Sanford POWER on Wednesday, June 23, 2021, at the Bemidji Community Arena. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)
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Northern Minnesota hockey royalty was in town Wednesday for one of the first major events to take place at Bemidji’s newest ice rink.

Matt Cullen and Gigi Marvin were on hand for the Power with the Pros youth hockey clinic at the Sanford POWER Center within the Bemidji Community Arena. Collectively, the two stars offered the expertise that only three Stanley Cups, two Olympic silver medals and an Olympic gold medal can offer.

“I love doing this in the summer: going to camp and skating with kids,” said Marvin, a three-time Olympic medalist and defenseman with the U.S. women’s national team.

“I have three boys that play hockey, so I enjoy being on the ice with the kids,” said Cullen, who retired after a 21-season NHL career in 2019. “I grew up loving the game and I got to play it a lot longer than I expected. It’s fun for me to be out with the boys and girls just enjoying the game of hockey and seeing the smiles on their faces.”

Cullen and Marvin each have their own ties to Bemidji.

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Marvin was actually born in Bemidji but was raised in Warroad, where she suited up for the Warriors and was the 2005 Minnesota Ms. Hockey winner.

Cullen estimated he hadn’t been to Bemidji since his days as a Moorhead Spud in the 1990s. The former St. Cloud State Husky was able to reconnect with old friends, including Bemidji State coach and former SCSU assistant Tom Serratore.

Nowadays, Marvin can still be found on the ice playing for New Hampshire in the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association. Cullen lives with his family in Moorhead and now works in player development for the Pittsburgh Penguins, for whom he won two of his three Cups as a center.

The two pros drew about 250 kids between ages 5-14 to Wednesday’s camp.

“I’ve actually seen a couple kids today who have come to my hockey camps in the past,” Marvin said. “It’s cool that it left such an impression that they would remember me. I obviously remember those kids. It’s always enjoyable.”

Both Marvin and Cullen were impressed by Bemidji’s newest space for hockey.

“There’s so much time that the sport of hockey requires, and to have access to the best facilities is a big deal,” Cullen said. “And so now bringing that here, it gives these kids an opportunity to develop as far as they can.”

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Professional hockey player Gigi Marvin works on a drill during a camp hosted by Sanford POWER on Wednesday, June 23, 2021, at the Bemidji Community Arena. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

More in store for Sanford POWER Center

Wednesday’s camp is hoped to be the first of many such events that will take place in years to come at the Sanford POWER Center.

The new addition to the BCA was completed last fall and features a partnership with Sanford POWER to provide training services for athletes and community members.

Although summer is the offseason for most sports, that hasn’t meant a lack of activity.

“Summer, for us in POWER, is really busy,” said Brad Neis, executive director for Sanford orthopedics and sports medicine services. “Lots of student-athletes want to get going with their offseason conditioning program and get ramped up for the busy fall, winter and spring seasons.”

POWER programs have been offered in Bemidji for the last decade, but the program now has a permanent place to call home.

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A young hockey player toys with a hockey ring during a camp hosted by Sanford POWER on Wednesday, June 23, 2021, at the Bemidji Community Arena. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

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Hockey, of course, is at the forefront of the new facility. A hockey academy will soon open at the center that will provide on- and off-ice training opportunities.

“We have a hockey treadmill that we’ll be utilizing,” Neis said, “and then our POWER program, which involves strength and conditioning, fitness, flexibility, plyometrics and really just rounding our kids out to that well-rounded athlete, both from a hockey standpoint and also from an athletic standpoint.”

Former BSU captain Ben Kinne has been hired as a full-time coach at the academy. Kinne will return to Bemidji after most recently spending two seasons as director of hockey operations at Air Force.

“Due to COVID, we’re getting going a little bit later with some of our programs here,” Neis said. “But we’re really excited and we have a lot of exciting things on the horizon.”

Related Topics: HOCKEY
Austin Monteith is the former sports editor at the Bemidji Pioneer. A native of Bloomington, Ill., he is a 2015 graduate of Butler University. Follow him on Twitter at @amonteith92. Contact the Pioneer sports department at sports@bemidjipioneer.com.
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