Last winter there was a great high school boy’s basketball game that took place at Duluth East High School and 2,200 people got to watch it. Duluth East took on Lakeview Christian Academy and there was plenty of reason why the game sparked so much interest. The game included three potential Division 1 players, Johnny Woodard, Taylor Stafford, and Anders Broman. Anyone who loves basketball had to love this game. Duluth East was able to win the game, but I wonder why Duluth is considered just a hockey town when Duluth has produced some pretty good basketball players and state team participants in the last 10 years.
Let’s break down the numbers and try and figure out if that makes Duluth a hockey town. Duluth East and Duluth Marshall as of late have made some pretty deep runs in the Hockey State Tournament but does that determine Duluth to be a hockey town? Does a state championship determine if Duluth is a hockey town? The last hockey championship was in 1998 by Duluth East. Duluth East also won the state championship in 1995. The last basketball state champion was the 1978 squad from the recently closed Duluth Central High School. However, if we wanted to compare other numbers Duluth East boy’s basketball and hockey teams have the same number of second place finishes in the last 10 years, but the hockey team does have more 3rd place finishes with two. Duluth Marshall has not won a hockey state championship, but does have 3 second place finishes in the past 10 years. Duluth Marshall hasn’t been to the state tournament since 2007-2008. Duluth Marshalls boy’s basketball team has never made a trip to the state tournament. I don’t think these numbers cleared up anything.
Can Duluth be called a hockey town because of the athletes that have went on to play college hockey? I don’t like this argument either because then one would have to consider does it matter more if they played Division 1 compared to Division 2 or 3? There certainly have been too many Duluth basketball and hockey players to count who have went on to have great collegiate careers in Division 1, 2 and 3.
What about being named the top player in their respective sport? Well, Duluth has produced one for each sport. Dave Spehar won Mr. Hockey in 1996, and Rick Rickert won Mr. Basketball in 2001.
What about being in the top of career scoring for their respective sport? Duluth has produced 3 hockey athletes in the top 20 all time scoring leaders for the state. Dave Spehar, Chris Locker and Jake Johnson in the year 1996 broke into the top 20. Basketball has a slight edge in this area because Anders Broman, Cory Johnson, Dyami Starks, Rick Rickert, and Johnny Woodard are all in the top 20 for career scoring.
Do these comparisons make it ok to call Duluth a hockey town? Not in my mind, but it all boils down to popularity and in Minnesota the self proclaimed “State of Hockey,” hockey will always grab the headlines in any type of media over basketball. Even during the recent sell out at Duluth East, the two local news channels had no interviews of players, coaches or fans. One local news station even had the basketball story run after a story about the Wild. The Wild weren’t even playing that day in Minnesota.
The sad part about Duluth is, no matter how many great basketball athletes, state ranked basketball teams, or high school basketball rivalry games, any type of hockey “story” will always dominate the headlines and the local news broadcasts.