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Minneapolis enjoys spotlight during first state boys' tournament appearance since 1994

Fans, parents, and former players hope it's the start of an even brighter era in Minneapolis high school hockey.

ST PAUL, Minn. — Tom Chorske couldn’t help but feel a little nostalgic.

The former Southwest High School star, who was named Minnesota’s “Mr. Hockey” in 1985, gathered with old friends on West Seventh Street early Wednesday evening before heading into the Xcel Energy Center, where a Minneapolis public high school team would play in the state boys’ hockey tournament for the first time since 1994.

“These boys are just on the ride of a lifetime, getting to play at the X,” Chorske said. “It’s something they’ll carry with them the rest of their lives.”

Wearing his vintage Southwest jacket, Chorske blended in with the many fans representing South, Washburn, Roosevelt, Edison and several other high schools that all once had their own teams in Minneapolis. Now, they are a program without a nickname, simply competing as “Minneapolis” after the city consolidated all of its teams in 2010.

Chorske, a stellar college and pro hockey player, has a long-standing relationship with head coach Joe Dziedzic and even spoke to the team earlier this season before a game.

“This group of kids has been hanging together for a long time now. They’ve seen it through,” Chorkse said. “Playing in the state tournament is huge.”

With their team competing in a Class A quarterfinal against Alexandria, students from competing Minneapolis Public Schools banded together to fill an entire corner of the Xcel Energy Center, having had all day to prepare for the festivities due to an ongoing teacher strike.

“It is super fun,” Southwest High senior Isabel Wyatt said, “to be unified as one city.”

Fans in Minneapolis had waited years for this moment, but the team’s 21-win season and qualifying victory over Delano last week wasn’t necessarily a fluke. 

Many parents and players credit the development of a strong youth program in Minneapolis, which has helped retain talented hockey players within the public school system.

“I think it’s a combination of a lot of things. Working hard, playing with skill, playing as a team,” said Rocco Karlsen, who graduated from South High last year and played for the Minneapolis hockey team for three years. “Those hockey students that would go out to the suburban schools are sticking around.”

Although Tom Chorske himself never played in a state tournament, and no longer has a specific Southwest High team to root for, he’s proud of what this Minneapolis team has accomplished in 2021-2022.

And he’s hoping for an even brighter future.

“It’s a really cool story,” Chorske said, “and it’s bound to happen again.”

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