Up North: Minnesota Wilderness skate and smile with Northland youth
In the Northlands, and the state of Minnesota as a whole, skating isn’t an activity that is taken lightly. With hockey being such an integral part of the state, it’s important that those that are younger get their first taste of the ice at an early age. Members of the Minnesota Wilderness made that happen last week,
For some, it was reminiscent of their first time on the ice.
“I loved hockey all my life,” said Daniel Astapovich, a forward for the Wilderness. “So it’s cool seeing them skate on the ice for the first time because I remember with my dad growing up, he picked me up and would skate me around. I have good memories of that.”
In its first year of existence, over 40 four year olds laced up their skates, and most of them for the first time in their lives. While it was a good time for the preschoolers, there were also many smiles on the faces of Wilderness players.
“I love the feeling of being together and making someone’s day,” said Gustavs Ozolins, a Wilderness defenseman. “Honestly, I just try to inspire every day. I try to be a good human being every day, and if the kids had fun, I know we did our job and I’m happy about that.”
“I saw a lot of joy,” added Wilderness General Manager, Dave Boitz. “They were having the time of their lives, some of them were skating and some of them getting pushed on the chairs. It was just a lot of fun for all the kids. It was just really, really neat to see. I know our guys had a kind of a tough weekend and a tough practice early this morning, so I think it was great for them to get out and see that joy as well.”
While the mechanics are skating were important to the event, it was more important that those in attendance had themselves a good time, according to Astapovich.
“It’s about having fun. I feel like at this age it’s less about skills, you know, just having a good time. I feel like especially having all of them out here locally, they had a great time. So, I mean, just getting the skates on and moving around.”
Dave Boitz shared that the team plans on having similar events in the future.