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Hockey Day Minnesota

The Rivalry

Roseau vs. Warroad: With two talented programs, the rivalry goes deeper.

Warroad goaltender Andy Foster (31) makes a save during a Jan. 12, 2012 loss at rival Roseau. (MHM Photo / Tim Kolehmainen)

The year was 1909.

William Howard Taft had just been elected President of the United States.

The Titanic was three years away from its ill-fated voyage in the Atlantic; and the University of Minnesota, which had been playing its hockey games on frozen Como Lake in St. Paul, was amid a nearly 20-year hiatus from competition.

But just a stone’s throw from the Canadian border, high school hockey teams from Warroad and Roseau were squaring off against one another for the very first time.

So, the origins of one of Minnesota’s greatest sports rivalries commenced long before official record-keeping began in the mid-1940s.

“Why would people say it’s the best rivalry? I think because everybody has something in the game,” said Larry Olimb, Warroad native and 1988 Mr. Hockey Award recipient. “In Warroad, everyone’s part of the hockey community, and Roseau is the same way. Then just being so close to each other, and being so competitive over the years.”

The U.S. Olympic team, as well as the NHL, have reaped the benefits of this far-north region of Minnesota.

But both hockey havens have perhaps shined brightest in youth and high school competition, regardless of the era.

“In 1999, my senior year, we won a double-A state championship,” Mike Klema said, looking back on the rivalry.

Klema, a Roseau native, went on to play four years at Yale, and is now vice president in the Roseau Youth League and coaching his two Mite-aged sons.

“I just looked back at it from my experience thinking what a great, great run of teams that Roseau and Warroad produced in the 90s,” he said. “And that’s not to shortchange any other decade, because obviously, going back to the 40s, Roseau and Warroad have had really strong histories.”

Past and present, the names are synonymous with Minnesota hockey: Marvin and Christian; Oshie and Nelson; Bjorkman, Boucha and Broten.

Both communities have consistently produced great players and even greater play on the ice.

“No matter if one program has a lot more talent than the other a certain year it doesn’t matter,” said Gigi Marvin, a Warroad native and three-time Olympian for Team USA. “It seems like everything goes out the window and you just play on character and heart and passion and so it’s a lot of fun.”

Rivalry by number
The towns are just 26 miles apart, with the population of Roseau eclipsing that of Warroad, 2,712 to 1,810 respectively.

By the numbers, as they pertain to hockey, Roseau holds the edge as well, with a series record of 107-71-5 since 1945. The two schools battled on 30 occasions throughout the 1960s, the most of any decade.

Roseau has 34 appearances in the boys’ state high school tournament, with seven championships. Two of those titles were won in Class 2A, after the advent of the two-class brackets.

Warroad has made it to the tourney 24 times, bringing home four Class 1A titles.

In the years before the 1991-92 season, schools competed in the single-class system. For Roseau and Warroad, that meant only one team would emerge from the Section 8 region and head to the state tournament.

“By the time we’re done playing each other in high school, we’ve probably played each other 30, 40 times,” said Bill Lund, a Roseau native who was part of the Rams’ 1990 state championship team.

Lund played his college hockey at St. Cloud State and later skated four seasons for Lake Charles in the Western Professional Hockey League.

“Back when we were squirts, we’d play them four times every year, all the way through,” Lund recalled. “And then obviously, in summer hockey, they used to come over to our camp.

“For a couple of weeks in the summer we got along. In the winter, we didn’t get along so well.”

The animosity was tempered for Lund after college when he played on Cal Marvin’s storied Warroad Lakers Senior A team.

“It was Roseau and Warroad guys along with a bunch of other guys playing for the Allan Cup up in Canada,” Lund recalled fondly. “It was one of the best memories ever, playing those two years with the Warroad Lakers.”

Talent throughout the decades
One common theme – regardless of era – rises above the battles: Players who competed in the rivalry still carry an appreciation for the level of competition and how it only raised their game.

“The thing about that rivalry is both teams are usually really good every year. So, that’s what makes it even better,” said Hampton Slukynsky, Warroad’s 2023 Goalie of the Year who now plays with the Fargo Force of the United States Hockey League.

“I think with having two really good teams in northern Minnesota, it makes it a lot more competitive. You want to be better than Roseau, if you’re from Warroad. Or if from Roseau, you want to be better than Warroad.”

Last season, Warroad had the unique distinction of not only having the Goalie of the Year in Slukynsky, but also Mr. Hockey Award recipient Jayson Shaugabay on their roster as well. The pair led the Warriors to Class 1A runner-up finishes the past two seasons.

For Shaugabay, the rivalry ranks as the pinnacle in his accomplished amateur career.

“Leading up to the Roseau-Warroad game has always been the most exciting time in my life,” Shaugabay said. “Even when I was 5 years old watching or, until I got to play in it, it was the most anticipated two games of the year.

“It’s pretty much just like playing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but the high school version and it’s just so fun.”

Ready for Hockey Day
Warroad is primed for the three-day event, which has far surpassed earlier incarnations in size and scope.

That excitement is no doubt taken up several notches this January when Hockeytown USA hosts Hockey Day Minnesota.

“Back when it started in Baudette, Minnesota, it was mainly just a game,” said Tad Palmquist, Hockey Day Minnesota co-chair. “Now it’s an entire village. So, it’s everything. We added everything from a big snow hill for the kids to sled down. We’ve added a mini version of the skate path we have on the river.”

The village will also feature exhibits honoring Warroad’s rich hockey history and that of the region. A tribute to Cal Marvin and his Warroad Lakers legacy will highlight the event, as will a ceremonial puck drop in tribute to Henry Boucha, who died on Sept. 18, 2023.

But Palmquist is quick to point out that the weekend will highlight not only Warroad but the entire region, including Hockeytown’s favorite rival.

“We know it’s hard to get the Hockey Day way up north like this, especially in a rural town like Warroad,” he said. “So we want to celebrate all the local towns and obviously Roseau being a key part of that.”

While Warroad will travel to Roseau for their first meeting of the season at the historic Roseau Memorial Arena on Jan. 9, the main event will face off on Jan. 27, for a Hockey Day Minnesota showdown no one will soon forget.

“One thing about our rivalry is it’s not always bitter,” Palmquist said. “On the ice, it’s bitter, maybe. But it’s also built on respect.

“And a lot of these people end up being friends along the way.”

Steve began playing hockey as a squirt in Bloomington, but when his family moved to Dallas, Denver and Des Moines, respectively – all by the time he was a freshman in high school – he adapted, developing an unconventional hockey background. Steve attended the U of M, where he lettered in football, before becoming a sports producer at WCCO TV, as well as writer and director of highlight films and content for the North Stars, Chicago Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins. Nowadays, when he’s not writing for MHM or Eden Prairie Local News, he’s a creative director for StoryTeller Media in the Twin Cities.

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