PREP HOCKEY: Foley honored at Hockey Day Minnesota

ELK RIVER – Longtime Marshall resident and Elk River High School alumnus Pat Foley celebrated Hockey Day Minnesota at festivities Friday and Saturday in Elk River.

Foley was honored at a banquet Friday night and was one of several ERHS hockey alumni who led the Elk River/Zimmerman Elks to the ice surface of the Handke Pit, an outdoor rink built into the side of a hill, on Saturday afternoon.

“It was just amazing. I saw friends and old teammates that I had not seen in a long time and we were able to reminisce about the old days,” Foley said.

Foley said the reason the alumni led the Elks onto the ice was a way to represent the players who came before the current players.

Foley holds a special place in Elk River hockey history. He scored the Elks’ first goal, which came in a game against Stillwater in 1958.

“Our coach, Walt Schumacher, said he would give a new hockey stick to the player who got the first goal” Foley said. “I still have that stick. He wrote, ‘To Pat Foley, first goal, 1958’ on it.”

Foley said Hockey Day Minnesota was filled with thrilling events, including the banquet, where the emcee was WCCO news anchor Bill Hudson, an Elk River native.

“I was able to sit at the head table and Bill Hudson introduced me to speak before the keynote address,” Foley said. “Bill told us a story about how he and his friends would go down to the Handke Pit and bang pucks against the boards late at night. He also said an old woman from the hotel across the street would yell at them to stop because her guests were not getting any sleep. When I got up to speak, I knew the name of that old woman and I was going to tell Bill who she was. When he found out that it was my father’s sister my aunt who owned the Landmark Hotel, Bill could not stop laughing.”

The current Elks also recognized Foley’s stick, which was featured in a picture in The Star News, Elk River’s weekly newspaper.

“They were all excited to see a piece of Elk River hockey history,” Foley said.

Foley also said it was amazing to able to reminisce with Coach Schumacher, who is now 89.

The Elks defeated Stillwater Area 4-1 on Saturday.

In 1981, Foley and his family moved to Marshall, where he and his sons, Mike and Chris, became interested in hockey. Pat served as a coach for traveling youth teams, while his sons both played the game all the way through high school.

Foley, who came here to become the proprietor of EcoWater Systems of Marshall, was also one of several people who helped to promote hockey and has watched it expand here for more than 30 years.

“When I came here in 1981, the youth hockey program was still playing its games at an outdoor rink,” Foley said. “Our first attempt at indoor hockey was to build a tin structure we had on the north side of Marshall.”

In 1987, Foley said Marshall’s youth hockey organizers decided to have games played at a rink inside a “bubble” at the Lyon County Fairgrounds.

“A bunch of us flew in a small plane from here to Palatine, Ill., where a man was selling this thing he called a bubble,” Foley said. “It was an air-supported enclosure that was large enough to cover the hockey rink that we also bought as a package deal.”

The bubble and the hockey rink were disassembled and hauled from Illinois to southwest Minnesota by semitrucks.

Foley said the Marshall Amateur Hockey Association was able to pay for the bubble and hockey rink by agreeing to finance it without interest in several installments. He said they collected money from selling pull tabs at events, which was a form of legalized gambling at the time.

“I was the one who handled the financing for the bubble,” Foley said. “The man in Palatine would call and ask if we could swing a payment of $3,000. I told him that we had $2,000 and that I would send him a check, even though we had enough money to pay for the entire sum.”

The bubble lasted as a covering into the 1990s before Marshall’s youth hockey organization was able to build the current construction, which is known as Lockwood Motors Ice Arena.

As for the growth of Marshall’s hockey program, Foley said he had much excitement when the Tigers qualified for the 2013 MSHSL State Tournament.

“We were pretty proud last year, when the Marshall boys made it to the (Class A) state tournament,” Foley said.