WDAZ: Your Home Team

Published January 27, 2014, 05:00 PM

A Day In The Life Of The Rivalry

The Roseau-Warroad boys hockey rivalry is one of the best in the country. WDAZ's Dan Corey spends a day capturing game day.

By: Dan Corey, WDAZ

It’s early morning in Warroad, Minnesota.

Steve Bengtson, Warroad Athletic Director, “When you drive into town and you see hockey sticks on the water tower, it doesn’t take long that it’s pretty important.”

For Kyle Sylvester, a forward on the Warrior hockey team, it’s game day against rival Roseau.

Sylvester, “There shouldn’t even be school. Playing Roseau is like a holiday.”

Kyle’s father, John, agrees.

“It’s pretty special. It’s quite the thing to experience and living here and being with it throughout the years. It’s fun.”

After some English muffins, it is off to school for the senior. And second period calls for an ice bath and some reminiscing on the loss to the Rams last season.

Kyle Sylvester, “In that hockey rink, you can hear just about anything in those locker rooms. So, we were getting undressed and getting ready to leave and all of the sudden we heard this chant that Roseau was doing and it made us all really upset. So, we have a little bit of payback to give them.”

Teammate and recent Duluth commit Kobe Roth, too, knows it’s a big night.

“It’s pretty exciting. This is the first game of the year we played them. We’re playing in their rink tonight so that will be pretty sweet, I like playing in their rink. Hopefully we get a big win.”

Not far from the ice bath, is a sheet of ice, known as the Gardens. But this rivalry started well before this home of the Warriors was built.

Henry Boucha, Olympic silver medalist and Warroad native, “The rivalry with Roseau started in the 40’s sometime and it became what it is today an absolute thriller.”

Jay Hardwick, Warroad Head Coach, “They say it’s the best in the state and it’s hard to argue that it isn’t. It’s been going on for a long time and every time we play it seems to be a real good game and a great crowd and atmosphere so you can’t ask for more.”

The Gardens will be quiet tonight as the game will be played in the North Star City at historic Memorial Arena.

Andy Lundbohm, Roseau Head Coach, “In some families, I think life revolves around the game of hockey and how much time they spend at the rink and how much time they spend going to games.”

Former Ram Olympian and current fourth grade teacher Gary Ross has played in his fair share of games against Warroad.

“It’s one of the games on the calendar that they look at, circle it, that this is an important game. They play them just two times a year, no longer in the playoffs. Back when they were in the playoffs, it was these were the games where we tested each other out. We knew that in order to go to state, either Warroad or Roseau had to go thru each other.”

Gary’s brother, Don, remembers back when.

“Before the snowmobiles and the televisions, something to do in the wintertime was find ice, go skate, and play the game. The intensity was there and so were the crowds. It got to be wild and woolly.”

The rink is anticipating another wild crowd this evening. Legendary Roseau peewee coach Dick Johnson recalls when the rivalry got really wild.

“We ended up with a brawl on the rink, on the ice. The players, the people, the parents, out there swinging the beating hell and the whole bit. Now that’s what you call a rivalry.”

As the game gets closer, the electricity increases.

Bryan Erickson, former NHL player and Roseau native, “When I came thru, Warroad was on a down cycle. I know one was 13-0 and my one memory of it was five Ericksons on the team and we put all five Ericksons out there to just to confuse the radio people.”

Zach Swanson, voice of the Rams is on tonight’s call.

“Even right now, walking into the arena and seeing the green and white and the black and gold you get a little more pumped up. It’s going to be a lot of fun tonight.”

Finally, it’s game time.

Swanson on radio call, “Welcome Roseau Rams and Warroad Warrior fans to Roseau’s Memorial Arena, the site of the 164th meeting between these two storied hockey towns along the Minnesota-Canadian border. Tonight will add another chapter to the greatest rivalry in Minnesota high school hockey.”

As the teams hop on the ice, good luck finding a seat.

After a back and forth affair, the night would belong to the Warriors winning six to four, leaving a rowdy Warroad locker room, until the next time they meet.