MINNEAPOLIS — There is a perception that football and basketball rule the roost in the Big Ten conference, and everything else is secondary to those money-making, headline-grabbing sports. But nobody needs to explain the importance of hockey in the Big Ten to the league’s new commissioner.
Before taking over as the man in charge of the 14-team conference less than two months ago, Kevin Warren was a Twin Cities hockey dad when his son, Powers, played in Minneapolis. Warren, 56, spent 14 seasons with the Minnesota Vikings and left the position as their chief operating officer last year to take over the Big Ten leadership. He was back in the Twin Cities on Tuesday for a tour of the University of Minnesota, to meet with athletic department leaders there, and to address the media. He sees a great future for hockey in the Big Ten.
“I probably have seen more hockey games than I have football and basketball games in my life,” Warren said, noting that he has already attended men’s games at Ohio State and Michigan, and he will be at a Notre Dame game this weekend. “I love what it stands for, and when I came here I made it clear that hockey is a priority to me. We’re in the Midwest. We’re a legitimate hockey conference, and when you look at our schools, they’re hockey schools.”
Warren added that he feels the Big Ten has the nation’s best hockey facilities, and the goal is to create a conference that dominates college hockey. He said the plans to add staff in the coming months that will grow the “panache” of Big Ten hockey.
“It’s a sport I love. It’s a sport I admire. I love the student-athletes. I know what it has meant to my family,” Warren said. “But I want to make sure I have seasoned veterans around me who are hockey people and who can help me grow Big Ten hockey.”
The conference currently consists of seven teams, with much talk that Illinois will become the eighth program in the coming years. Michigan State in 2006 was the last Big Ten member to win a NCAA hockey title, although the Spartans played in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association at the time.
Motzko is all hockey dad come Thursday
Minnesota Gophers coach Bob Motzko wore a red Austin Packers pullover when he met with the media on Tuesday and talked about the pride he has in his hometown. The growing ethnic diversity in Austin, and how high school unites community residents from vastly different backgrounds, was the focus of a story in the Minneapolis Star Tribune over the weekend.
On Thursday he won’t be wearing red or maroon and gold, but will be clad in blue to cheer on his son Mack and St. Cloud Cathedral as the Crusaders face Alexandria in St. Cloud with a trip to the state tournament on the line.
“I am all dad Thursday night,” Motzko said, admitting that he gets vocal when he’s just a fan and a parent, unable to control or direct the action like when he is behind the bench. “I’m critical too of hockey parents, and I’m as guilty as all of them. You can’t help it. You just want everything for your kids and you’re there to cheer.”
The Motzkos younger son Beau is a bantam, and is starting playoffs this week as well.
“My wife’s a wreck right now,” Bob Motzko joked.
Hendrickson Foundation weekend raises $100k
A check for $100,000 will soon be written to benefit hockey programs in Minnesota thanks to another successful fund-raising hockey festival weekend put on by the Hendrickson Foundation. Brothers Darby and Danny Hendrickson — both played for the Gophers in the 1990s — are the driving forces behind the effort, which features a weekend hockey festival held in Blaine, Minn., each February.
Last weekend they hosted 55 hockey teams for all levels of the game, including warrior hockey (for military veterans), sled hockey, special hockey and blind hockey. The weekend also featured a celebrity game and a Saturday night reception for more than 1,000 players and fans.
“The money we raise through generous donations and our corporate sponsors is important, but the festival is more about treating people with respect and making sure everyone involved in hockey on any level and of any ability knows that they are important,” Danny Hendrickson said. “We believe that hockey changes lives, and it’s true.”
Additional information about the Hendrickson Foundation and their efforts can be found via their website, https://www.hendricksonfoundation.com/.