Up North: Spirit of Duluth Attracts Youth Hockey Teams From Near and Far

Eyewitness Sports
December 06, 2017 11:17 PM

Duluth, Minn. - For over 40 years, the annual Spirit of Duluth Tournament has brought numerous youth hockey teams to the Northland. It has a rich history and that is a reason teams continue to return years later.

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Some big names once played in the tournament.

"Just about anyone if they made pro hockey and were born in Minnesota came through the spirit of Duluth," says tournament chairman Bill Oswald.

The alumni includes Minnesota Wild left winger Zach Parise, right winger and Pittburgh Penguin Phil Kessel. The history and tradition is why Duluth native Jerry Pickar brought his junior gold team from Everett, Washington to compete in this tournament.

"Played in the very first tournament and played in the third tournament with the old squirts, peewees, and bantams. The opportunity to come back - we don't get a lot of opportunities and a lot of tournaments in the midwest," says Pickar, who is the Associate Coach for his squad.

"He wants to come back to his hometown, bring his team and show them the tournament he played in when he was a pee wee and a bantam. So that's cool," says Oswald.

Pickar and his team traveled over 1,600 miles from Washington to Duluth. He says most of the time his team competes in tournaments in Washington and even in Canada, but he wanted to expose them to something outside of what they're used to.

"Our goal when we started picking our team this summer was to make the national tournament for Tier II for USA hockey. We have a couple teams that are very competitive, so we have to win our state tournament to go on. This gives us a chance to play higher caliber teams. To really get our kids focusing on what would a national tournament look like," says Pickar.

Growing up, Pickar played hockey at Duluth East and St. Scholastica, but his team before the tournament had only heard stories of how teams play hockey in Minnesota. This past weekend, they had a chance to experience it.

"They're recognizing it with White Bear Lake. They play the same system and we were having a hard time in the first period adjusting to it. So it's really about exposure and seeing what they're being taught and learning this really good hockey," says Pickar.

For more details on the Spirit of Duluth, click here.


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