Mason City celebrates 50 years of youth hockey

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(ABC 6 News) — On Saturday, an official proclamation was made, declaring March 25 Mason City Youth Hockey 50th Anniversary Day.

50 years since a group of individuals got together to make hockey as evergreen as it can be like in Minnesota.

“We were able to build our first arena in 1983,” former MCYH coach Mitch Morrison said. “And that changed the face of Mason City considerably because all of a sudden we have all this indoor ice. And we attracted a lot more kids playing.”

Countless young hockey lovers have had the good fortune of skating in a rink all to their own. From squirts to the high school level, Mason City Youth Hockey has helped jumpstart many players toward competing at higher levels.

“From these junior programs and from our own high school program, people can go on to gain D-I scholarships, D-II scholarships,” former MYCH board member Bob Klocke noted. “Eventually, we’ve had some people go to the pros.”

“Kids from Clear Lake and Charles City and some of their surrounding communities that — they try out for the team and they make the team,” Morrison added. “So, that’s gratifying too.”

It’s also been a place for coaches to garner experience, such as former NHL coach Kevin Constantine. Even Minnesota men’s hockey head coach Bob Motzko saw his coaching pedigree grow by leading the Mason City Huskies to a 1989 Junior A national championship title.

“He was here a couple of times,” Morrison remembered. “The second time he came back here, he won the national championship and right now, he’s vying for the national championship in the NCAA, so that’s the kind of (thing) that can happen.”

The youth presence continues to gradually expand as well. During the 25th anniversary, MCYH had 350 skaters between the ages of 3 through 18; today, that number is 375. But that’s actually a significant spike considering that number hovered around 225 during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Covid, covid came in march and the building shut down for two years and that put a dent in the program but now it’s rebounding,” founding MCYH board member Ron Hanna recounted.

Now, as current youth players enjoy the confines of a friendly and state-of-the-art Mason City Arena; hockey continues to have a home in North Iowa. The hope is that history and memories will continue to be made for another 50 years.

“We’ve had two state champion high school teams and several — probably three, four — JV champions,” Hanna mentioned. “So, hockey’s really cemented and grown in this town.”