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What’s buzzing, and what should be buzzed about, in the wide world of Minnesota high school sports.

Tradition-rich South St. Paul celebrates 75 seasons of boys' hockey

South St. Paul goaltender Gary McAlpine kissed teammate Doug Woog after the freshman scored the lone goal in the Packers' 1959 state tournament quarterfinal victory against Minneapolis Patrick Henry. Photo by Paul Siegel/Minneapolis Tribune

From 1945-1996, no team reached the Minnesota high school boys' hockey state tournament more often than South St. Paul.

The Packers never won the big one in 28 trips overall. But the meatpacking town earned its way into state tournament history with all of those appearances and some of the finest players of their respective eras: Doug Woog, Terry Abram, Jim Carter, Warren Miller and the incomparable Phil Housley.

The tradition is being celebrated this season, the 75th of South St. Paul hockey. The big day is Jan. 4, which begins with the South St. Paul junior varsity playing at 1 p.m., followed by the varsity’s 3 p.m. tilt with Rochester Century and an alumni game at 5 p.m. All the action takes place at Doug Woog Arena.

“To be part of this is a great thing,” said first-year Packers’ head coach Pete Schultz, a 1994 South St. Paul graduate and long-time assistant football coach. Schultz helped the Packers’ to the state hockey tournament as a senior and now teaches history at the high school. “It’s about pride and it runs deep.”

Schultz was in kindergarten challenging Housley and Tom Stiles to games of knee hockey when the duo would come by the house to hang out with Schultz’s older siblings.

Schultz and Kevin Gellerman, a Packers’ hockey dad whose wife, Pati, grew up in South St. Paul are pulling together statistics, stories and other tidbits – Did you know players wore football jersey until 1953? – as part of the celebration. Teamwear includes a commemorative logo. In addition, a 70-foot mural is being installed on the north wall of Doug Woog Arena.

The mural will include both the boys’ and girls’ programs. South St. Paul became an early dynasty in the girls’ game, winning state titles in 2002, 2003, 2005 and 2006.

“Being adopted into it, I’ve learned South St. Paul is a blue-collar town of hockey where the people take pride in working hard and grinding it out,” Gellerman said. “South St. Paul is one of the storied hockey programs in Minnesota, and we are proud of what we have accomplished.

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Ineligible this season, SMB star gets to play in football all-star game

Ruled ineligible for his senior year, top Minnesota prep football prospect Craig McDonald (pictured above, left) will get to suit up and play one more time in a high school uniform.
McDonald, a senior at Minnehaha Academy and a key member of SMB’s Class 4A championship team in 2018, ran afoul of a Minnesota State High School League bylaw limiting student-athletes to 12 consecutive semesters of eligibility from seventh through 12th grade.

But the 47th Minnesota High School All Star Game -- a partnership of the Minnesota Vikings and the Minnesota Football Coaches Association -- is played outside of high school league auspices.

The game kicks off at 1:05 p.m. Saturday at U.S. Bank Stadium.
McDonald started kindergarten at age 4 and attended public schools through eighth grade. When he enrolled at Minnehaha Academy, his parents chose to have him retake eighth grade to give him a chance to mature. Shaun’Rae McDonald said she wasn’t aware then that her son’s eligibility meter was running. The league denied the family’s two appeals.
McDonald, who verbally committed to Iowa State, is on the South team roster as a defensive back. Shaun’Rae McDonald received a phone call from her mother, who saw the news of Craig’s selection on television.
“Craig was so excited,” Shaun’Rae said. “He said to me, ‘I lost the battle but I won the war. I’m going to be able to play my last high school football game against all of my friends.’
“He was honored to be chosen,” Shaun’Rae said. “He earned the right for his prior three years.”
The inclusion of McDonald drew some grumbles, from metro-area activities directors to players left off the all-star rosters.

Minnetonka football coach Dave Nelson, chair of the Metro All-Star Committee, said his group of coaches “looked through the lens of ‘He’s got a Division I offer and he’s a great kid with no chemical violations.’ We thought he deserved to be in the game.”
Ron Stolski, Brainerd football coach and executive director of the Minnesota Football Coaches Association, wasn’t so certain.
“I see it as problematic,” Stolski said. “My concern is about precedent. I can understand people’s frustration. But we don’t specifically have a rule regarding a player who is ineligible absent a chemical violation.”
Nelson said McDonald was on the committee’s initial list of 22 top senior players, “so I don’t know that he really took anyone’s spot.”
SMB coach Chris Goodwin, who nominated McDonald for the all-star game, said, “It’s a sentimental thing for me. It’s nice that he gets to have one last high school game."

“He practiced with us all year and he’s bigger, faster and stronger,” Goodwin said. “He would have been a dominant player this year. When you watch him in the all-star game, you’ll see that he belongs there.”