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Hockey Day in America: Two tiny Minnesota towns present best rivalry in high school hockey

Feb 18, 2012, 10:10 PM EDT

roseau vs warroad

Happy Hockey Day in America! Be sure to check out PHT throughout the day as we bring you features and previews of all the events, including a nine-hour NHL block of programming across NBC and NBC Sports Network.

People often call Minnesota the “State of Hockey.” If that’s true, one could say that the rivalry between Roseau and Warroad represents both its bleeding heart and its hockey-obsessed mind.

As this great little trailer shows, the two towns likely generated the best hockey success per capita of any in the United States. Want more proof? Just take a look at some of the simple numbers:

Warroad, MN
Population: 1,722
two indoor ice rinks
five state titles

Roseau, MN
Population: 2,879
three indoor ice rinks
seven state titles

The trailer provides some mind-numbing perspective on the ratio of population-to-NHL-players: if New York City generated pros at the same level, the city would produce 27,693 NHL players. (That’s enough for “41 National Hockey Leagues.”)

Perhaps it can be explained by the fact that the two towns are a mere stone’s throw from Canada, but their rivalry generates the kind of white-hot focus that earns them the designation of being hockey’s answer to “Friday Night Lights.”

Dustin Byfuglien is the most notable contemporary NHL player to emerge from Roseau, but he’s far from the only guy to make a big impact on the sport. Here’s a list of some of the NHL players from the slightly larger town:


Earl Anderson
Mike Baumgartner
Neal Broten
Aaron Broten
Paul Broten
Dustin Byfuglien
Bryan Erickson
Aaron Ness
Dale Smedsmo

Aside from Byfuglien, the Broten family stands out – particularly Neal. He was a significant contributor to the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” team, scored 923 points in 1,099 NHL games and had his number retired by the Dallas Stars.

Meanwhile, T.J. Oshie is the most noteworthy modern Warroad product, but that town has its own historic heroes. Check out some of their most noteworthy NHL players:


Henry Boucha
Dave Christian
Al Hangleben
T.J. Oshie

Much like Roseau, Warroad has a “Miracle on Ice” connection in Christian, who also managed to score 773 points in his 1,009-game NHL career.


If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to experience the passion that Texans have for high school football or the hockey equivalent of Indiana’s obsession with basketball, look no further than those two small northern Minnesota towns. They’re small in size and population, but it’s clear that they have a Byfuglien-sized love for the game.

(Image courtesy

  1. pavelfitzgerald - Feb 19, 2012 at 10:50 AM

    Great story & great comparison of Friday Night Lights

  2. eyoung11 - Feb 19, 2012 at 12:03 PM

    What about Phillips Exeter Academy and Phillips Andover Academy. Sister schools that have been around way linger than either of these schools and have produced many nhl players and are the top prep schools in the country if not the world.

    • greatminnesotasportsmind - Feb 19, 2012 at 12:18 PM

      if you wanna compare prep schools, Minnesota has the best one too called Shattuck- St. Mary’s who has produced Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Towes just to name a couple.

      • greatminnesotasportsmind - Feb 19, 2012 at 1:28 PM

        I guess the player most presumes in free agency this summer comes from shattuck too. Guess nobody has heard of Zach Parise.

        Or coach Andy Murray who started at Shattuck

  3. cgonz00cc - Feb 19, 2012 at 12:19 PM

    Detroit Catholic Central checking in

    • greatminnesotasportsmind - Feb 19, 2012 at 2:42 PM


  4. Derek Felska - Feb 19, 2012 at 3:19 PM

    They should add Wyatt Smith to the list of Warroad NHL players. Also, if Aaron Ness is included with Roseau, they should include Brock Nelson for Warroad. I would say this is the best rivalry in high school hockey. It is certainly the most heated, and the most historic, when you consider the size of the communities and their proximity its quite incredible what they’ve done both in terms of the quality of the players but also the state titles.

    The Prep School garbage? Who cares, its apples to oranges. The Prep school recruit talent from all over the country and internationally as well. Shattuck-St. Mary’s is just as good as Exeter or any of the other school’s listed but they’re only loosely consider high school programs.

    Warroad and Roseau can’t really recruit from anywhere, since there is nothing nearby. These two schools are the perfect personification of Minnesota High School Hockey in my opinion.

    • charphel - Feb 19, 2012 at 6:31 PM

      Actually, with open enrollment, Warroad had a Little Falls kid a few years back when his Mom got a job at Marvin Windws; correct?

      …Also, look out for single A Breck this year – they just tied Shattuck at Shattuck!

    • charphel - Feb 19, 2012 at 6:33 PM

      Shattuck would mop up Exeter.

  5. johnnydillinger - Feb 19, 2012 at 8:13 PM

    There are a couple of solid rivalries in MA, too.

    ,Boston College High School (Pat Leahy, Jack O’Callahan, Mike Ryan, Mike Sullivan, BC coach Jerry York) -vs- Catholic Memorial (Jim Carey, Ted Donato, Jim Fahey, Chris O’Sullivan, BU coach Jack Parker) in MIAA hockey.

    St. Sebastian’s (Brian Boyle, NYR, Rick DiPietro, NYI, Mike Grier, Sean Sullivan, Noah Welch) – vs – .Belmont Hill (Mark and Scott Fusco, Paul Mara, Ian Moran, Bob Cleary) for Prep schools (ISL).

  6. hawkey18 - Feb 19, 2012 at 8:53 PM

    No I don’t think two towns that barely anyone outside of Minnesota has heard off is the best rivalry. Just because they have the highest NHL players per capita and thats the only stat??? More people used to come to my hometown rivalry games then are in these two towns combined. If your gonna say size doesn’t matter then I guess that throws out their per capita stat Rivalries are about bad blood and you can’t stand the other town for the simple fact their the other town.

    BTW Im from New Hampshire and exeter academy sucks just about any prep school in MA and CT is better

    • captjak69 - Feb 20, 2012 at 10:24 AM

      Bring your Cake Eating Prep school Teams up North where the hockey is real and Warroad Roseau Thief River Falls and East Grand Forks Would ALL polish the ice with their Charmin ultra soft BUTTS all with LOCAL talent … the rivalry between these teams and the HOCKEY is TOP QUALITY

  7. beantownbear - Feb 19, 2012 at 9:06 PM

    Think hockey talk should have looked at more than 1 state. Try Mount saint Charles vs Bishop Hendricken. As a New England resident I can’t think of a better 1. Not to mention 26 Titles to Mount and the players it has brought to the Nhl.

    • captjak69 - Feb 20, 2012 at 10:25 AM

      Wake UP Minnesota hockey is the best in the nation

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