Minnesota's high school hockey tournament finally gets its own history book

The Hermantown student section is reflected in the glass
The Hermantown student section is reflected in the glass of the Xcel Energy Center during the Minnesota State High School League Hockey Tournament in St. Paul in 2018. A new book highlights the 75-year tournament's memorable moments and great Minnesota players.
Evan Frost | MPR News

The annual boys state high school hockey tournament is underway this week at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. It’s been 75 years since the tournament began in 1945, when Eveleth sealed its place in Minnesota hockey history as the state’s first champion.

A new book, “Tourney Time: Stories from the Minnesota Boys' State Hockey Tournament,” takes a year-by-year look at the tournament, with stories of every game and some of its most historical moments.

“That type of book didn't exist, so we wanted to fill a need that we thought the tournament deserved,” said co-author David La Vaque. “I had done a few 20-year retrospectives for the Star Tribune where I went back and was fascinated at how much more there is to learn.”

La Vaque has covered boys hockey for the paper for more than a decade, but wanted to go back to the beginning and take a deep dive into all 75 years. He recruited L.R. Nelson, founder of Legacy Hockey, a website devoted to high school hockey, to help him write the book, and the two set out to explore the tournament's extensive history.

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The book is an ode to Herb Brooks, John Mayasich, Neal Broten and other Minnesota hockey greats. It details memorable moments, including the 1955 quarterfinal game between Minneapolis South and Thief River Falls — a game that went into 11 overtimes, a record for most overtimes that stands today.

Although it’s a book about the boys state hockey tournament, a few girls needed to be in the history books, too, La Vaque said.

Amber Hegland, a center from Farmington, was the first girl to play in the tournament in 1994, a year before the girls tournament would get underway.

Then there is Amy Murphy, a goalie who once played in a tournament consolation game — but there was no record of her playing in the tournament. La Vaque didn’t know about her until a friend happened to mention that a girl had played for St. Paul Johnson in 1995. Former head coach, Steve “Moose” Younghans — who La Vaque had interviewed several times — had never mentioned her in their earlier conversations.

“She would’ve continued to be lost to history because she wasn't in any box scores, for whatever reason,” La Vaque said. “So I called up Moose and I said, 'Did you have a girl play goal for you?' And he goes, ‘Yeah.’ And I’m thinking, 'Well now you tell me! We’ve been talking for months.’"

Thanks to La Vaque’s friend, Murphy’s place in hockey history has been cemented.

“It wasn't noted that she entered the third period of that game and played, but we found her,” he said. “Amy's in the book where she belongs.”

While rule changes and gear improvements have helped shape the tournament over the years, La Vaque said the joy of play remains a constant.

“I think what hasn't changed in why I think we still love the tournament. You get the same passion and it means the same thing to the same kids,” he said. “This is still one of the key points of their lives and there they were very happy to reflect on that.”