Long hockey game teaches what the game is all about
It started as just another chapter in the long-storied history of the rivalry between Fergus Falls and Detroit Lakes, but it ended as a history-making game.
There have been numerous intensity-filled games in all the sports between the two towns -- from the gridiron to the basketball court.
But on March 1, the rivalry picked it up a notch during the Fargo Flyers' Squirt International Hockey Tournament.
Yes, even the nine and 10-year-olds of DL and Fergus Falls get involved in the rivalry, and this one game in particular ranks right up there -- believe it or not.
It wasn't about who came out as the victor, but what message was learned by the players and coaches involved.
It was the last game of the season for each of the Laker Squirt B's and the Fergus Falls Minnesota Motors B's, as the two squads squared off in the 25th Annual Fargo Flyers' Squirt Tournament.
It started at 10 a.m. on that Sunday morning and lasted until early afternoon, to the 1 p.m. hour, after three overtimes and two shootouts.
In the end, it became the longest game ever played in the 25-year tournament, but more importantly for the DL players, it was a display of some hard-work ethic and never-say-die attitude which was being implemented in them throughout the entire season by DL Squirts head coach Bruce Paskey.
That attitude and mentality came to a head on that Sunday, in the form of a three-hour-plus hockey game.
Even by the end of the second and final shootout, there were still questions of which team actually won the game.
Here's a synopsis of the long-winded game, as written by Kelly Longtin and published on the Fergus Falls Hockey Association website (Longtin's words are in italics):
"The game started at a little after 10 a.m. on Sunday morning.
The first and second periods were played even up, with neither team getting a goal. In the third period, Dyson Thacker got the Fergus team on the board with an unassisted goal at the 6:36 mark. DL tied it up 3 minutes later, and the game ended in regulation tied 1-1.
The first overtime was played for 5 minutes, with each team having 5 skaters on the ice. At the end of the first overtime, it was still tied 1-1.
In the second overtime, another 5 minutes were played, but this time each team had 4 players on the ice.
Again, when the buzzer sounded, it was still tied 1-1. The third overtime was played with each team having 3 players on the ice.
No time was entered on the clock, as the rules read that the game is played 3 on 3 until someone scores.
After over 25 minutes of 3 on 3 hockey, both teams having scoring opportunities, and both goalies making stellar saves, play was stopped due to the number of games still to be played.
A shootout was decided. On the first shootout, each team was allowed 5 players to shoot against the goalie. DL, being the visiting team, went first.
Their first player missed. The Otters' first player, Adam Swanson, made a good move and found the back of the net. DL's next player scored to even up the score. The next two Otter players and one DL player missed.
The third DL player scored to put DL up by one. The next Otter and DL skaters missed. With one skater left for the Otters, Dyson Thacker made a great move and scored to tie the game and send it into another 5-person shoot out.
In the second shoot out, the Otters started play.
The Otters' first player missed. DL's first player scored, putting DL up by one. The second Otter player, Dan Anderson, made a nice move across the goalie and found the five hole to tie the score.
The Otters' third shooter missed. DL's third shooter put DL up by one. With the Otters down by one, Bryce McGary skated in and made a move to find the upper right hand corner of the net to tie the game. DL's fourth skater missed.
With the score tied and one skater left for each team, the Otters' Alex Evenson skated in, made a quick move and buried the puck in the back of the net to put the Otters up by one."
From there, the outcome of the game comes into question.
Matt Wimmer, who was coaching in the place of Paskey that day (because Paskey couldn't make it due to a prior commitment), said there was doubt whether the second shootout was sudden-death -- meaning the first team to score wins.
In that case, DL would have been ruled the winner, since the Lakers scored first.
Fergus Falls could claim the win if it wasn't a sudden-death shootout, because they had more goals at 6-5.
But either way, it didn't matter.
"For all practical purposes, it was a draw," said Wimmer, who has been active in DL's youth hockey program and whose son, Tristan, was playing goalie in the game. "This game was a perfect example of not if you win or lose, but about playing the game flat out hard and going all out and not giving up.
"It was fun to see our kids have that kind of mentality."
Wimmer credits Paskey for grooming the team to take on that type of mentality throughout the entire season.
"Bruce is the guy who prepared these kids, giving them a never quit, a never say die attitude," Wimmer said. "He prepared them to play hard all the time. I called him after the game and told him he'd be proud of how the kids played."
The game had a little extra motivation for both squads, since it was DL vs. Fergus Falls, as well coming in a big tournament atmosphere.
"You see 18-year-old players understand how big a game it is in those circumstances, and to see 10 to 12 year olds understand that, it's phenomenal," Wimmer said.
"It was a good experience for the kids about not giving up."
There wasn't much celebration from either side after the game, just due to the fact everyone was exhausted after playing for over three hours.
"That's something to see, a 10-year-old out of energy," Wimmer added.
For both teams to give an all-out effort after such an energy-draining and long experience, the game definitely belongs as a great memory in a strong rivalry.
"We ended up playing a team to our caliber and it happened to be Fergus Falls, which magnifies the importance," Wimmer said.
"It was just a fun game and one which showed a great mentality from both teams."
It was a game which lasted long, but one which will be remembered much longer.
But more importantly, it was a game which proved it's not all about who wins or loses, but how the game is played.