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‘You never know with old ice hockey players’

I happened to pull into International Falls recently on my way to a speaking engagement. I was scheduled to talk about my hockey book at the Koochiching County Historical Society based in the ‘Falls. It was the society’s annual meeting.
As you can see, we northerners have no problem with political correctness. We already had a Native American name for the county — Koochiching. We never had an opportunity to name anything after a controversial slave owner like Vice President John C. Calhoun or alleged anti-Semites like those now under scrutiny at the University of Minnesota for whom buildings are named.
We northerners realized early the Swedes, Norwegians, Finns, Slavs and Italians were all interlopers. The Native Americans beat us to the punch, by hundreds of years.
Actually, Koochiching County was originally a part of Itasca County (another Native American name), but split in the early-1900s because it was too far to travel from the Canadian border to the Itasca County seat in Grand Rapids.
Of course, back then there were few roads, no trains, no navigable waters to speak of. People came and went mostly by foot through the dense forests and mosquito-infested swamps along old animal trails or those left by earlier Native Americans.
The least the newcomer Europeans could do was to name things after Native Americans. If only those sophisticated “big-city” folks had been so thoughtful with Lake Calhoun or Coffman Center at the ‘U.’ It would have saved them a lot of time and avoided obnoxious, noisy protesters, who continue to try to right all the wrongs of white Americans’ history.
But I digress.
I wrote a book about International Falls ice hockey in its heydays of 1964-‘66. The Broncos ice hockey teams won 59-straight games and three straight single-class state titles. They nearly won five in a row.
I was asked to speak to the historical society about my book and how it came about.
As I pulled into the ‘Falls, I got the call from my wife, who had stayed at home.
“Forget something?” she asked.
“Ah, don’t think so,” I replied.
“Your good clothes are still hanging on the chair,” she added.
I think she could hear the forehead slap over the phone. “Dang!”
So there I was: My dress socks and shoes were with me in the ‘Falls, and my dress shirt and pants 350 miles away in Glencoe.
It was another senior moment in a long line of them lately.
But I didn’t have to worry. Later that night, before a crowd of about 50 local history buffs, I realized dressing up is still optional in northern Minnesota. I fit right in with my blue jeans and plaid shirt … with dress shoes and black socks.
I also realized early, looking around the room, my topic may not fit the audience. Most were older than me, and most were not from International Falls. Most of the people were from throughout Koochiching County where ice hockey is a rarity outside of the ‘Falls. Some may not have known what a hockey puck looked like. They were more interested in logging or pioneer history, but they remained polite. I’m not sure any of them nodded off during my talk, but it was hard to tell.
All kidding aside, I had a blast. It was fun to talk about a project I worked at for over two years. It was a topic dear to my heart. I grew up with most of the hockey guys I interviewed (including my older brother), so it was like a trip down memory lane for me.
And those old hockey stories were great, and perhaps one or two were even true. You never know with old hockey players.

Rich Glennie was the editor of The Chronicle for 23 years. He retired Aug. 1, 2014.