The civic boosters in Warroad did some work earlier this year, trying to remind people that this village of 1,750 in northwest Minnesota is the true “Hockeytown USA,’’ and not Detroit, as zealots for the NHL Red Wings have claimed.
Warroad released a video featuring NHLer Brock Nelson and Olympian Gigi Marvin, making a low-volume yet effective presentation on this subject:
Nelson is connected to the Christians, with Olympic gold medalists Roger, Billy and Dave in their family tree, and the name Marvin is equally as synonymous with Warroad hockey.
There’s another name strongly linked to Warroad hockey, and that is the nickname carried by the high school athletes, the Warriors.
The Warriors made a huge splash in the Minnesota State Hockey Tournament of 1969. This was the first year the tournament was held at Met Center – a venue that allowed the hockey tournament to escape from the neighborhood feel of the cramped, dusty St. Paul Auditorium and began the ascent to a statewide event.
Much of the credit for the expansion of high school hockey (and youth hockey) in this state can be given to the arrival of the North Stars at Met Center in the fall of 1967.
It’s my contention that a share of the credit also can be given to the Warroad Warriors of 1969, for when those talented and yet outnumbered lads (three defensemen, two lines) from the distant north made it to the finals to take on Edina, the rich and powerful of the time, the one-class hockey tournament had its underdog story for the ages – had its version of Edgerton in the 1960 state basketball tournament.
That’s my theory, anyway, having covered every game in that dramatic tournament for the newspapers across the river in St. Paul.
The superstar that drew in Minnesota was Warroad’s Henry Boucha. I had seen him earlier that winter, playing SPA, and he was so fantastic flying across the ice that it gave me chills … and not simply because Drake Arena was freezing that night.
Boucha is an Ojibwe from the Warroad Indian Community. The family of T.J. Oshie, a U.S. hero of the victory over Russia in the Sochi Olympics, also is Ojibwe.
Henry takes great pride in having been a Warroad Warrior, and he has celebrated his roots recently with a book titled “Henry Boucha, Ojibwa, Native American Olympian.’’
And now American Indian activist Clyde Bellecourt and his followers have decided that Warroad’s use of Warriors is racist. Apparently, Clyde and his group put it in the same category as “Redskins,’’ the title that owner Daniel Snyder continues to embrace for his football franchise in the nation’s capital.
Clyde knows the game, of course. If you’re going to be an activist, you have to stay active, so he has sent a letter threatening to take the Warroad school district to Federal court if it does not announce it is dropping “Warriors’’ as its athletic nickname within the next month.
Henry Boucha offered this response on his Facebook page on Friday night:
“It the late ‘80s, early ‘90s, the Warroad Indian Community, the Indian Education Department and the Warroad Indian Parent Committee supported keeping the name Warroad Warriors. [The Warroad Indian Community] still does today!
“We are proud of what the Warriors represent. Warroad [Kay-Bay-Kah-Nong] is derived from War Road, a trail to the West where the Warriors (our ancestors) traveled down to fight and battle the Sioux. We fought many fierce battles and won the war, keeping our land on Lake of the Woods.
“This is what the name is all about, and we are proud to have it.
“The Indian Parent Committee and the Warroad Indian Community designed the logo for our school. We use it today and wear it with pride.
“We haven’t had a mascot in 40 years. No-May-Poke, a brother to KaKaGeesick and Little Thunder, sold part of his land allotment at a very reasonable price to the Warroad School. It was at [that] time the Warroad Warriors name was instilled, with pride.
“This issue should be left to the communities to decide. Warroad decided once, and we’ll keep the name!
“The National Coalition, with members David Glass, Clyde Bellecourt, Michelle Mills, Norman Renville and Alan Yansey, who instigated this issue with Warroad, along with their lawyers using donated monies and wasting it on this lawsuit, only want fame and national recognition. They should feed the homeless and use the money for something good.’’
Take the hint, Clyde, and go back to the noble task of getting rid of the Washington Redskins.