Old days of Fergus hockey recalled [UPDATED]Published 10:13am Monday, March 12, 2012 Updated 12:14pm Monday, March 12, 2012
John Erickson, Fergus Falls High School Class of 1964, recalls the old days of youth hockey in this community. Specifically, he fondly remembers the very first youth coaches (Lee Holten, Fran Conito, Willard Erickson and Don Ashworth) who started the first four teams.
“They coached the very first Pee Wee teams the winter of 1964-65,” said Erickson. “Willard (Erickson) went on to coach for six years as the first Bantam coach in Fergus Falls.”
During the 1950s, high school games were played at Lake Alice. Those games later shifted to Cleveland School’s rink during the 1960s.
“I played on the 1963-64 Otter high school team and was assistant
coach with my dad’s Pee Wee team in 1964-65,” said Erickson. “That very first year, down at Cleveland School, we had Dave Balfour on our PW team who later went on and played at Bemidji State, on national championship teams.”
Fergus Falls experienced its first inside game, in 1964, at Jamestown, N.D., in a hockey rink that Erickson’s father, Willard, built in 1952. That year Willard was player-coach of the Jamestown Desotos minor league pro team.
That squad played in the Canadian league against Medicine Hat, Estevan and other teams that numerous NHL players came from.
Dick Werner, Rollie Lake, Mark Olson and George Townsend were the first college hockey players from Fergus Falls.
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Two former high school basketball players who played on different teams in the 1957 state tournament, including Fergus Falls native Curt Reinan, have reunited via the Internet for the first time in 55 years.
A few days ago Reinan connected with Tom Nordland, whose Minneapolis Roosevelt team defeated the Otters in the 1957 state semi-finals. Fergus took third place the following evening, finishing with a 27-1 record.
Nordland has operated basketball camps for many years. The orientation of his coaching is to learn to control the flight of a basketball, rather than specific rules and formulas about where the feet should point or how the fingers should be placed on the ball.
“My coaching addresses the so-called fundamentals of the game,” says Nordland on his website. “The most important fundamental is to put the ball into the basket.”
Reinan, who lives in Las Vegas after retiring form the U.S. Air Force, said that Nordland’s 1957 squad, which won the state title, was by far the best team in the state tournament.
“We knew going in that Curt (Reinan) was the best shooter that Fergus had,” said Nordland. “We both loved basketball 55 years ago, and we still love the game today.”
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Long-time Minnesota Twins fans were saddened to learn this past week about the passing of former Twins first baseman, Don Mincher.
He was a member of the 1965 Twins World Series team that lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers in seven games.
Mincher, 73, had recently served as Southern League president.
The first baseman hit 22 home runs for the Twins, in 1965, when Minnesota won the American League pennant.
He later played for the California Angels, Oakland Athletics and Texas Rangers.
The funeral was held Wednesday in Huntsville, Ala.