Terrence Fogarty can barely skate, and he never played organized hockey. But winters playing boot hockey at an outdoor playground on St. Paul's East Side provided inspiration for artwork that has become a part of the high school state tournament's fabric.
Since 1998, Fogarty's paintings have graced the cover of the boys' state tournament program. Thousands of fans will enter Xcel Energy Center for the state's signature tournament, beginning Wednesday with Class 1A quarterfinals, and a large number of them will use Fogarty's 20th cover creation to start conversations or allow for quiet reminiscing.
Fogarty — "Please, call me Terry," he said — and his wife, Karen, will use the four-day tournament as their art gallery. There's a TV monitor near their booth on the main concourse across from the Hockey Lodge, but the Fogartys rarely see the on-ice action while trading pleasantries with customers and old friends.
"People tell me they look forward to coming down to see the work, and I guess that's what you want," Fogarty said. "You like that affirmation that they associate seeing the artwork at the tournament with the whole experience of going to the tournament. That means a lot to any artist."
Fogarty's paintings are part documentary, part daydream. His second tournament program cover, "Tribute," depicts players representing some of the tournament's best-known teams on the old St. Paul Civic Center ice, surrounded by the arena's clear boards. Released in 1999 as the tournament left its beloved locale, "Tribute" remains one of his most popular works.
Hockey's spirit also permeates his work. While the 2010 "Mork's Pond" is a fictional place, scores of puck chasers see themselves on the frozen ponds of their youth. Then there's "Sons of March" from 2007, where tiny players dressed in team jerseys from around the state line up to shake hands after an evening on a flooded outdoor rink.
Fogarty, a 1978 graduate of St. Paul Johnson, had a little fun at an old East Side rival's expense. The one kid who fell wears Harding colors and that's no accident.
"Well, that's true, I did do that," Fogarty said. "I did it for laughs, not because I really hated Harding."
Lou Nanne, back to call state tournament games on television for the 54th year, said Fogarty's covers rank as "one of the highlights of the tournament." A part of state tournament tradition himself, Nanne owns 15 of Fogarty's works and has two hanging in his Edina restaurant.
Tim Poehling, whose sons Nick, Jack and Ryan helped Lakeville North win the 2015 state title, bought original prints for each year they played in the state tournament (2013-15). The elder Poehling kept programs from tournaments he skipped school to attend in the 1970s and later began collecting them. Fogarty's touch have made the past two decades special, he said.
"When I think of the state tournament, I think of things like Cossetta's [restaurant] and the work of Terrence Fogarty," Poehling said. "He's essentially kind of a folk artist that lets people harken back to simpler times, to what the essence of what the sport is, I suppose."
One year after his first boys' tournament program, Fogarty created the girls' hockey tournament program art. His 19th work blended nostalgia with the now — a young girl barely taller than her equipment bag shows off her medal to dad. Her gold stocking hat features Wayzata's blue W. The historic Eveleth Hippodrome provides the setting.
"They are so awesome and unique," said Winny Brodt Brown, who won a state title in 1996 at Roseville and now directs OS Hockey Training. "They tell real-life stories."
The 2005 girls' program cover "Boot" caught former Gov. Tim Pawlenty's eye. A framed thank you note hangs in Fogarty's studio on the second floor of his Victoria home. Pawlenty said the work conjured "fond memories of growing up playing hockey in the alleys of South St Paul."
Sometimes the work is ambiguous. The boys' program cover this year features a young player standing in the snow and watching the action on the pond. His skates hang from his stick. His coat has an indecipherable team name on the back.
He's none of us. He's any of us. And that's why the work resonates, said Bill Kronschnabel, a St. Paul native and longtime director of tournament officials.
"He's become very much a part of the tournament fabric," said Kronschnabel, a 1967 Cretin graduate who owns a numbered print of a Fogarty painting. "I get asked by people, 'What's the program going to look like this year?' "
On wintertime Saturdays, Fogarty walked 2½ blocks to Prosperity Playground, where he would usually play goalie in a boot hockey game. He couldn't really skate but the hockey memories were carved in his brain like a blade cutting ice.
"So much of the hockey stuff is based on the old memories of the northern teams coming down to the tournament, the TV wheeled into the classroom, usually by a coach who taught some type of class," Fogarty said. "That's not lore, that really happened. Having never played, I don't think it's given me any disadvantage, really. Because I've just observed so much of that stuff and it gives me material for paintings."