The cheers of “U-Rah for Roseau” echoed throughout the arena for yet another championship appearance for a team out of the small northern Minnesota town.
While the sights and sounds had the makings of a Roseau High School State Championship appearance, the Byfuglien Trucking team that took the ice was light years from their youth hockey days. But with the help of their very own “fan club,” they had rediscovered their own fountain of youth on the ice in Ellenton, Fla.
“My wife gets the cheers going along with a bunch of the other wives. [They] all act like they are teenybopper-kids again,” joked the 70-year-old team leader Bob Lund. “But I’ll tell ya what, it makes us old guys feel young again, too.”
Byfuglien Trucking used the crowd’s energy to push themselves to a 6-4 victory over the SNVC Gerihatricks at the USA Hockey 60 & Over Adult National Championship, clinching the title for the third straight year.
“They come in loaded every year,” said tournament chairman Ray Kraemer. “They are a team that has a target on their back and deservingly so because they really are that good.”
The National Championship tournament is a yearly reunion of sorts as it brings these Roseau natives together again to play the game they have been playing for more than a half a century.
“We have roughly 10 of us that still live in the Roseau area while a couple others have moved down to the [Twin] Cities and beyond,” said Lund. “But at Nationals we all get back together again and play like the old days. It’s like we never left the pond back home.”
Byfuglien Trucking is not the only adult team on a hot streak. Thirty years their junior, No Bull has also enjoyed a threepeat on the Nationals stage. The Tampa-area team that competes in the 30 & Over division doesn’t have far to travel to defend its title at the rink in nearby Brandon, Fla.
“We all play on various teams in our adult league on Tuesdays and Wednesdays,” said goaltender John Finnie. “To be able to get together and compete in a national tournament like this and then play against them again when it’s all over, makes it that much more fun.”
Having a home ice advantage is not the only thing going for this team that is made up of a number of former college and professional players, including Chris Dingman, who settled in the area after a playing career with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
“John [Finnie] does a great job with the program here in Brandon, and that shows with the team he puts together on the ice,” Kraemer said. “In the 30 & Over division a lot of the teams are in here year after year, but there is always great competition. You never see one team completely rout another, even the No Bull team.”
That was the case in the finals of this year’s tournament as No Bull scored a hard-fought 5-4 overtime victory against the Tuscola Energy to earn a third straight title.
And while the age divisions may change and the pace of the game may slow down, the camaraderie and the joy that comes with hoisting the National Championship trophy never gets old.
“A lot of people look at it and comment on all us ‘old guys’ playing,” Lund said.
“And at our age the doctors are always telling us to exercise, and really what better way to do that than to play a good game of hockey that we’ve always loved? The winning part just makes it that much more fun.”