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Silver Bay Mite Hockey Jamboree

Coach Gus Engstrom spends a lot of time at the Frank Rukavina Arena in Silver Bay. The coach of the Mite 1 team and a member of the Blue Line Club Board has two daughters in mites and two daughters in 10U hockey. Even on a day off from games and practic­es, the girls beg to be brought down to the arena for open skate to go skating with their friends.

“It’s pretty much all we do in the winter,” Coach Engstrom said. “The kids just love it.”

There does seem to be an enthusiasm in young hockey players that can’t be easily matched. When you can capture the passion for the sport young, the mite-age kids become quickly dedicated to it. “It feels like at this age they get better so fast,” the coach told me. “The improvement that they see, and the joy that they have being there, just being excited to even come to practice… just going to the rink is a real privilege for these kids and they seem to really enjoy it.”

Photo courtesy of Kiera Wilson

As some of the mites can barely stand on skates when they first start, using pushers to shuffle around, they gain skills by leaps and bounds. Ac­cording to Coach Engstrom, “Even a month into the year and they’re out skating around, stopping, going back­wards, and flying all over the place.”

Recently Silver Bay hosted a Mites Jamboree, which brought togeth­er twenty teams from Hermantown, Woodland, Duluth Heights, Two Harbors, Silver Bay/Grand Marais, and Glen Avon. The annual event em­phasizes the fun of the game, rather than keeping score. There are no goalies and the games are refereed by older players (just to keep them skating the right way).

“The jamborees are what gets the kids hooked on hockey,” Coach Engstrom said. “They have just as much fun running around the arena, getting treats from the concession stands, and hanging out with their friends than they do playing the games.”

Silver Bay has two Mite 1 teams, with nine players on each. They also have a Mite 2 team with sixteen kids from Silver Bay and Grand Marais. Two Harbors had four teams participate in the jamboree.

Kiera Wilson, fundraising coordinator for the Two Harbors Youth Hockey Association and Mite team lead, attested that the kids attending the Silver Bay Mites Jamboree had a blast. “Each team played three games over the weekend,” she wrote in. “They played hard and had a ton of fun.”

Coach Engstrom stresses that parental in­volvement was crucial to the event’s success. Volunteers are needed to run the clock, run concessions, decorate, run the welcome table, amongst a lot of other moving parts. “There’s a lot of parents within the Silver Bay Blue Line Club program that volunteer their time to put these jamborees on,” he said. “We’re very appreciative of all the volunteer help we had to put the event on. It’s what makes our program pretty special. It kind of takes a vil­lage to put something like this together.”

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