Thank you, hockey fans, for following our inaugural Puck Drop Sweet Sweaters competition. We’ve received photos of fans’ favorite hockey jerseys and the stories that accompany them and narrowed the field to 16 for an NCAA-style tournament. Today, we crown a champion.
The matchups we have are a Minnesota Warriors sweater submitted by Michael Ullmer and Roger Fredsall against a Minneapolis West High School jersey submitted by Joe Rockhead. In the other semifinal, a 1960 U.S. Olympic jersey worn by gold medalist Rod Paavola and submitted by his son, Boyd, squares off against a beer league championship team named the Mastodons submitted by Tom Mclaughlin.
The tournament commissioner, Puck Drop editor Randy Johnson, picked the field and seeded the regionals. The Puck Drop team also consists of editors Joe Christensen and Jim Foster, and they joined Randy in voting on the winners.
The Fabulous Four
First semifinal: Minnesota Warriors, Michael Ullmer and Roger Fredsall vs. Minneapolis West High School, Joe Rockhead
Story lines: These were a pair of No. 1 seeds, with the Warriors, representing the program for wounded, injured or otherwise disabled veterans of the U.S. military, winning the Ikola Regional. “These jerseys are still stand out when we play with other teams within the state,’’ Michael said. The Minneapolis West Cowboys won the Brooks Regional and represent a school that closed in 1982. “It was a great time to play high school hockey in Minneapolis,’’ Joe said. “The rivalries were fierce.’’
Winner: Minnesota Warriors, 3-0
Randy’s vote: I have a soft spot in my heart for old-time high school sweaters, especially from a school that no longer exists. However, I have a softer spot in my heart for the military and those who have sacrificed for our country. My vote goes to the Minnesota Warriors.
Joe’s vote: What a great opener for the Fabulous Four, two great sweaters and a tough choice, but I have to go with the Warriors.
Jim’s vote: On a purely aesthetic level, the Cowboys sweater is clean and hard to beat. But the Warriors sweater represents a greater cause and it’s because of that, it moves on to the final in my mind.
Second semifinal: 1960 U.S. Olympic jersey worn by Rod Paavola and submitted by his son, Boyd vs. Mastodons beer league champions, submitted by Tom Mclaughlin
Story lines: The 1960 team often is overshadowed by the 1980 Miracle on Ice squad, but it was the country’s first Olympic hockey gold medal, and Boyd is keeping the legacy going with an entry that won the Sandelin Regional. The Mastodons won their beer league title in 2016, and Tom celebrated with his sons. Their sweater was a No. 4 seed and knocked off a No. 1-seed White Bear Mariner entry to win the Darwitz/Wendell Regional.
Winner: 1960 U.S. Olympic jersey, 3-0
Randy’s vote: It’s midnight, Cinderella. Sorry, Mastodons, but a game-worn Olympic gold medal sweater is almost impossible to beat.
Joe’s vote: That 1960 Olympic jersey is timeless. It looks unbeatable heading into the final.
Jim’s vote: A semifinal pitting of classic vs. current, with the well-executed modern Mastodons logo against the timeless look of the 1960 Olympic sweater. It all depends on what you like, and while I like them both, I like the classic Olympic sweater a little bit more.
Minnesota Warriors vs. 1960 U.S. Olympic jersey
Winner: 1960 U.S. Olympic jersey, 2-1
Randy’s vote: These are two incredibly deserving finalists, and strong arguments can be made for both. I’ll give a slight nod to the Minnesota Warriors because of the great work the organization does.
Joe’s vote: When Team USA won gold in 1960, that was a stunner. This was not a surprise, as that jersey had me from the start of this tournament.
Jim’s vote: It’s tough to go against the Warriors because of the back story, but that Olympic sweater is the classic look.
Congratulations, Boyd Paavola! And thanks to all the hockey fans who submitted sweaters and to those who followed the tournament.