Rochester is Proud of its Pee Wee Hockey Program

(Source: Rochester Mustangs Game Program from the 1957-1958 season. Author unknown.)

     Take several interested fathers and enthusiastic youngsters, mix well with civic organizations thinking about the welfare of local kids ... and then combine with the Park Board. The result? ... The Rochester Juvenile Hockey Association, considered among the finest groups of its kind in the state of Minnesota.

     The association begins its fifth year of official operations this winter, providing once again excellent recreation for boys 15 years and younger.

     Purposes of the program are threefold -- to keep the kids off the streets and give them something to do during the long winter months -- teach boys good sportsmanship -- and finally, give them some basic knowledge of the sport of hockey, fastest game in the world.

     As early as 1950, plans for pee wee hockey were formulated here by several fathers living in southwest Rochester. These men organized the first kid team at Bamber Valley and maintained their own rink. However, the youngsters had no competition, so an effort was made to get two leagues going -- one for pee wees (boys 15 and younger), and another for midgets (boys 12 years and under).

     Four men got together to start the ball rolling -- Bernie Lusk, Bennie Benson and Drs. Mark Coventry and Joe Janes. Then Dr. Coventry and Lusk presented the plan to the Rochester Park Board for its consideration.

     The plan was to get the Park Board's okay to use funds from the Williams Estate to underwrite the cost of supplying the four proposed teams with uniforms, and to build outdoor rinks in the four sections of the city. The Park Board greeted the proposal with much enthusiasm, and before long William Van Hook, superintendent of parks, had four rinks set up, complete with lights and boards.

     Next came the problem of supplying uniforms for the four pee wee teams. This was solved very quickly by the Junior Chamber of Commerce, Odd Fellows, Elks Lodge and the now defunct Optimists Club, which purchased uniforms for the teams.

     The first officers of the association were Lusk, president; Dr. Janes, vice president; and Benson, secretary.

     More than 120 boys have participated in the program each year under the guidance of local men who have coached without monetary compensation. Included among the many are Squeak Swanger, Ray Purvis, Bill Taylor, Dr. Janes, Dr. Coventry, Dr. Bruce Hohn, Arley Carlson, Art Strobel, Bob Ford, Norman Hoover, Robert W. Fleming, Charles Dornack, Dave Alexander, and Hod Nelson. The Mustang Hockey team has provided referees at the games.

     Currently a bantam program is being formulated. This league will be for little fellows who are too young for the midgets.

     The local juvenile program has a been a boon to the High School Hockey team. Last year Coach Merle Davey had more than 60 boys turn out for hockey -- more than at any time in history. This year the high school hockey team's captains, Jim Hamilton & Steve Gray came out of the pee wee ranks.

     In four years of operation, the local All-City Pee Wee team has won regional tourney four times -- an amazing feat -- and then has gone on to play in State Tournaments held in Thief River Falls, Hibbing, Duluth and Rochester. The Police Benevolent Assn. has paid team expenses to the tournaments.

     It is hoped this year that the residents of Rochester will again get behind these youngsters, by giving them support and coming out to watch them play. The Rochester Pee Wees are hoping to take a state championship this year -- or one in the near future -- and a national title is not out of the realm of possibility with such able and interested men coaching and lending their services in numerous other ways.

     Current officers of the association are Scotty Jack, president; Dr. Janes, vice president; and Lusk, secretary-treasurer.

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