Cottage Grove's own March madness: youth hockey tournaments drawing hundreds to cityCottage Grove can tout its own slice of madness this month.
Cottage Grove can tout its own slice of madness this month.
March is a month traditionally packed with a busy schedule of high school and collegiate tournaments, from wrestling, to hockey to hoops. And with three tournaments in three weeks on its pair of game-quality ice sheets, the Cottage Grove Ice Arena is playing its part this month.
A trio of youth hockey tournaments — including the largest non-high school boys’ tournament in the state — is expected to bring hundreds of young hockey players and thousands of spectators to Cottage Grove. Zac Dockter, the city’s parks and recreation director, said he hopes it brings recognition to the city and its businesses, too.
“This is going to be about as busy as it gets,” Dockter said.
A girls’ under-12 tournament dropped the puck on the arena’s busy March the first weekend of the month. Then, peewee level 11- and 12-year-olds took to the ice last Sunday for a district tournament that runs through Sunday.
And starting Friday is the big one – the 2012 Minnesota Hockey State “A” Bantam boys tournament, a collection of some of the best under-15 teams in the state that are stocked with players just a step below the level of high school programs. Teams will travel to Cottage Grove from five metro cities as well as longer treks from East Grand Forks, Moorhead and Duluth.
“It’s always busy,” Dockter said of the arena’s tournament schedule. “But the ‘A’ Bantam is one of the more elite tournaments — or the most elite — we’ve ever had for youth hockey.”
The Cottage Grove Ice Arena draws around a dozen tournaments per year, Dockter said, including a Thanksgiving tournament and, this year, a Suburban East Conference tournament that saw Park and East Ridge high schools square off against their conference rivals.
The busy schedule wouldn’t be possible with the arena’s west rink, Dockter said, constructed during a more than $6 million expansion completed in 2008. That addition gave the city two full-size ice sheets in addition to the arena’s smaller practice rink, with seating for almost 2,000 spectators at a time.
“We never had anything close to this prior to (the expansion),” Dockter said. “I don’t think we had a state tournament (in Cottage Grove) since the ‘80s prior to that. It was pretty difficult to get anything here.”
Not anymore. Dockter said he believes “the word is out that when you play in Cottage Grove it’s a great place to play.” And that, Dockter said, is a good thing for the city.
“It all benefits the community as a whole, I believe,” he said.