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BEST PICKUP HOCKEY GAME Minneapolis 2000 -

In 1996 the Bagley/Fosston Flyers skated their final game on an outdoor rink, putting an end to one of the state's greatest, most rugged traditions: high school hockey played in the elements. It ought to go without saying that God intended hockey to be played thus--not in some antiseptic heated rink on a suburban frontage road. But respect for His will is waning in these uncertain times. Nowadays most kids learn their fundamentals indoors, under the overly watchful eyes of parents and coaches. One notable feature of this new more regimented hockey culture is scarce ice time, giving rise to what critics refer to as "the one-hour hockey player." Fortunately, the decline of the old-school rink rat is not absolute, and in a few choice spots the game is still played as it was meant to be. In our view, nothing quite compares with the winter-long free-for-all on the little finger at the north end of Minneapolis's Lake of the Isles. At night the spectacle is dazzling: a well-lighted rink, the city skyline to the east, brats on the grill, figure skaters gliding in a loop under the starry skies. For decades, some of the top hockey players in the state (including former Gopher star and NHL journeyman Tom Chorske) have honed their chops in this idyllic setting. There's no league play here, and certainly no joyless one-hour drills. Just bring your skates and your stick and prepare to learn from the best.

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