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Eveleth Trophy is Minnesota new prep Stanley Cup

This is a view of a new traveling trophy for Minnesota high school hockey state champions. Special to Forum News Service1 / 3
This is a view of a new traveling trophy for Minnesota high school hockey state champions. Special to Forum News Service2 / 3
This is a view of a new traveling trophy for Minnesota high school hockey state champions. Special to Forum News Service3 / 3

ST. PAUL - Legendary Edina hockey coach Willard Ikola clearly recalls the first time he saw the Eveleth Golden Bears return to the Iron Range with the 1945 state championship trophy. This week he got to see a modern version of that coveted prize again.

“There was a parade into town with the winning team. They were riding on the running boards and sitting on the fenders, holding that trophy up,” Ikola recalled, while wearing a replica of his black and gold Eveleth High School hockey sweater. “I was with my hockey buddies, sixth-graders, seventh-graders at the time, and we said, ‘We’re gonna do that too at the high school level,’ and it happened.”

Starting this weekend, the next two Minnesota state high school hockey champions will have a new bit of hardware inspired by that first trophy to show off back at the home rink, as the Eveleth Trophy was unveiled on ice level of Xcel Energy Center on Tuesday, Feb. 19.

Made from that original marble trophy won by Eveleth at the conclusion of the first Minnesota State Boys Hockey Tournament, in the waning days of World War II, the new prize will be a traveling trophy that each of the four state prep champions (boys’ and girls’ teams at the Class A and Class AA levels) will get to spend roughly a month with each off-season.

With the blessing of Eveleth High School and the one surviving member of that 1945 Golden Bears team, the original trophy was redesigned by the folks at Owatonna-based Jostens to include an expandable base, similar to the Stanley Cup, where the name of each year’s state champion can be added.

The idea was a collaboration between people from the Minnesota State High School League, the Minnesota Wild and the state’s boys and girls hockey coaches. Representatives of each were on hand Tuesday for the press conference unveiling the trophy. It was noted that nobody from Jostens was in attendance on Tuesday because they were meeting with New England Patriots reps to design the team’s most recent Super Bowl ring.

“This trophy will go to each one of the winning boys and girls teams after the tournament for a month apiece and they’ll get to celebrate with their community, have some fun and raise it up like the Stanley Cup,” said Mike MacMillan, executive director of the Minnesota Hockey Coaches Association.

He noted that Jostens actually made two trophies -- the original which will remain on display at the legendary Eveleth Hippodrome, and a replica which will be shared by the four state championship teams each year.

Eveleth, which is home to the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame and the world’s largest hockey stick, also produced five of the first seven state champion hockey teams, including a four-year run in which the Golden Bears went 69-0 between 1948 and 1951.

Ikola backstopped two of those titles in goal, then was the goalie for two NCAA title teams at the University of Michigan. As a coach, he led Edina to eight state titles before retiring in 1991.

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