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Greenway Hopes to Showcase the Resurgence of the Raiders at Hockey Day Minnesota

Updated: January 15, 2019 11:15 PM

"It was honestly scary. I couldn't think of playing anywhere else but here," said Greenway senior forward Nikolai Rajala.

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At one point, the Greenway boys hockey program needed assistance from guys in the community like Greenway senior forward Dante Lawson's father, Jim Lawson, and Pat Guyer to find players to fill the Raiders roster.

"He went door to door," said Donte about his father."He and Pat Guyer trying to get kids to come out that really never knew how to skate or anything like that and kept the program going."

Now, the program is leaps and bounds from even their lowest point.

"Thinking of not even having a program for Greenway and coming to this - making the section finals two years in a row," said Rajala. "This is my fourth year [playing for Greenway] and it's just awesome as a senior and to have younger guys coming up."

The success rate speaks volumes about hockey in the 218.

"I'm appreciative of their efforts and just for northern hockey in general," said Greenway head coach Grant Clafton and Lawson's and Guyer's effort. "The fact that there's a lot of storied programs up here on the Iron Range. You have Virginia, you have Eveleth, Internationals Falls, you have Hibbing, you have us, and to see any of those programs struggle is a sad situation for northern hockey.

From a program that was on the verge of not existing anymore, the Hockey Day Minnesota celebration is more than just special to the program, it's important to the Northern Minnesota rink rat hockey culture.

"It shows that that's where the game was played. You can show up to the rink from 3:30 to 5 every single day and go through youth hockey and play for an hour, but the way you're going to get your skills is on the outdoor rink. I think that that's what Hockey Day is supposed to symbolize," said Clafton.

Greenway will get to play outdoors on Lake Bemidji against the host team of Bemidji. With potential temperatures reaching below zero, it sounds all too familiar to Clafton. He was a part of the 2013 Hockey Day festivities when brutal temps took over Grand Rapids.

"I actually coached in Hibbing at that time with Mark DeCenzo, so we got to play. It was freezing, the wind was blowing. In a perfect world if I could ask anything I'd ask the hockey gods to put a pipe on the wind," added Clafton.

It will be a first for many of the Raiders and in some ways like the big stage they've been working toward getting to. Whether it's the face-offs or the festivities, Greenway plans to enjoy all the ice time they can get and showcase the resurgence of the Raiders.

"There's only so many kids that get to play in it and be a part of it, especially being a senior and being able to play in it, it's going to be something special," said Lawson.

"It will be exciting. Everyone around the community is like, 'Oh you'll be in Hockey Day, we'll be there.' Almost anyone you see will say that," added Rajala.

Copyright 2019 WDIO-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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