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Friday, May 12, 2006

Hall of Fame closed

The board of directors announced today that the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in Eveleth, Minn., will be closed.

This comes as disappointing news to me, as my family comes from the area and I know what a great hockey community it is.

There are a number of places in America that make the claim as "Hockeytown." Eveleth is as worthy of that title as any town in the country. It's hockey history is incredible. The town of fewer than 4,000 has produced many greats, including:
  • John Mayasich, a guy many people consider to be the best American-born hockey player ever. Mayasich turned down many offers to play in the NHL, and he won an Olympic gold medal in 1960. If you look through the Minnesota state high school hockey program (which featured Eveleth on the cover this year by the way), you will find Mayasich's name plastered all over the record book.
  • John Mariucci, the man who the University of Minnesota's hockey arena is named after. He was an All-America selection at Minnesota, and an NHLer. He also coached the Gophers, starting the tradition of recruiting Minnesotans. He's credited with helping high school hockey grow in Minnesota, too.
  • John Matchefts, a Hall of Famer and Olympic silver medal winner in 1956.
  • Doug Palazzari, a player, coach and administrator. He served as the USA Hockey executive director and is a Hall of Famer.
  • Oscar Almquist, the longtime Roseau High School coach and Hall of Famer.
  • Serge Gambucci, a hockey legend in Grand Forks. Gambucci, also a Hall of Famer, actually is an Eveleth native.
  • Mark Pavelich, the man who assisted on the most famous goal in U.S. hockey history.

The people in the town love hockey and are proud of its history. The Hall of Fame was a source of pride for the area, which also boasts the world's largest hockey stick.

But the truth is that the area is too small to efficiently support such a venue. The nearest "city" is Hibbing, which isn't even half the size of Grand Forks. Besides Lake Vermillion, the area doesn't get many tourists, either. It hardly has traffic going through it. And everyone living in the area has been to the Hall of Fame many times, which leaves the shrine empty.

There was talk of moving the Hall of Fame a few years ago. It now is a reality.

The next question is where will they move it? Word around Eveleth a few years back was that they were looking at moving it out east. I hope this does not happen.

The names of most inductees mean nothing to people out there. How many Philadelphians can tell you who Henry Boucha is? Are the Christians and Brotens going to draw in crowds in Boston?

Minneapolis, Duluth or even Grand Forks seem like more sensible options. If the New Horizons Decade group makes way in building a National Collegiate Hockey Hall of Fame in Grand Forks, would it be feasible for them to make an attempt at Eveleth's Hall of Fame, too?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Half the people in the Hall of Fame are from the East Coast so actually the East with 50 million people between Boston and D.C., a 400 mi. stretch, would be the most logical place. A location in N.Y.C. would put it only 300 mi. from Montreal, the birthplace of hockey. I would just as soon see it in Grand Forks though. Visiting Canadians and a fresh crop of UND students every year would give it an automatic clientele. I think the Hall of Fame directors are looking at a Mall of America location as they were a few years back.

3:13 AM  
Blogger Schlossman said...

There are many people from Massachusetts in the Hall, you are correct. Still, though, there are more Minnesotans in the Hall than the total number of Easterners. I believe if the Hall was placed out there, people would show up expecting to see Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito, while they get Cal Marvin and Mike Ramsey. The Mall of America seems like a decent option to me. For some reason, I think it still will end up out East because of the sheer number of people, as you point out. I hope it stays in the area, though.

9:16 AM  
Blogger Gopher Blogger said...

I doubt it will go out east. It wouldn't make much sense to move the HoF out of the state that is considered the USA's best hockey state. After all, the heartbeat of American hockey is in Minnesota.

If it were possible, I think adding a space onto the XCel Center (or neaby) to fit a Hall of Fame would be perfect considering the traffic the XCel gets with hockey fans over the year. But I don't know if that is a realistic possibility.

My father grew up in Midway (which I guess is technically considered Virginia) and I have been to the HoF a number of times. It is too bad that it is moving but it is completely understandable too. The weakened economy in that area as well as the lack of population made it inevitable. Frankly, I am surprised it stayed open up there as long as it has.

10:29 AM  
Blogger Schlossman said...

I completely agree with you, gopher blogger. The idea of putting the Hall of Fame in the Xcel Center is very interesting and I like it. The place is always packed with hockey fans... and different types of hockey fans. At the professional level, the Wild sell out the building every night. At the college level, the Xcel Center hosts the best conference tourney in the country, the WCHA Final Five. That always packs the place. And there obviously isn't a better state high school tournament than Minnesota's, which also is at the Xcel Center. I think if they could put it in the Xcel Center or even close by, it would attract a lot of fans and it would make a lot of sense.

5:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Hall of Fame needs to in a more accessible place with free parking like the MOA provides. They aren't going to put it in an NHL arena since it is the American Hockey Hall of Fame and not an NHL Hall which is in Toronto. The MOA is going to expand onto the site of the old Met Center with a skating/hockey rink inside. The present Camp Snoopy amusement park is superimposed on the old Met Stadium Twins field. Why not put the skating rink right where the old Northstar ice is and have the Hall of Fame a part of it with the advantage of free parking and the ability to be open 365 days/yr. with millions of potential visitors.

12:55 PM  
Blogger Schlossman said...

Another good idea, I like it.

1:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks to a little taconite tax money, the U-S Hockey Hall of Fame may not leave Eveleth after all.
A provision in the Gophers stadium bill that passed the
Legislature would set aside about 80-thousand dollars each year for
the museum. Hall of Fame officials said earlier this month they
needed a new place because of weak attendance.
But it's not certain the Hall will stay in Eveleth. The tax
money must be matched privately first.

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