State high school hockey tournament turns Hermantown into ghost town... sort of

By KBJR News 1

March 7, 2014 Updated Mar 7, 2014 at 7:50 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) - The halls of Hermantown High School were eerily empty Friday morning... well, partly because it's spring break for ISD 700 students.

But even if school was in session, these quiet halls probably wouldn't change much.

That's what happens at schools and businesses every year in the Northland when the holiday known as the state high school hockey tournaments draws thousands of fans to Saint Paul.

But don't take my word for it. The locked door at the Hermantown Chamber of Commerce offices says it all.

"You plan your schedule weeks if not months in advance around the holy grail of the state hockey tournament," said Chamber Executive Director Mike Lundstrom, "because in Hermantown, hockey is sacred."

Lundstrom says the die–hard level of commitment that draws Northlanders down to the tournaments creates a sort of "feast or famine" for area businesses.

While typical foot traffic slows throughout the town, "the bars, the restaurants that have the TVs—they're popping, they're happening," laughed Lundstrom. "It's good business for them."

Just down the road from the Chamber at Dave's Pizza, Hermantown fans that stayed behind like Iron Range native Jill Sundbom sat shoulder to shoulder as the Hawks sealed Friday's win against New Prague.

But even if it wasn't the Hawks on the screen, Sundbom says they'd still be there.

"Having a northern team in the state tournaments is awesome anyway; any northern team in the state tournaments," said Sundbom. "If Hermantown would've lost, we'd have been cheering for East."

And while some Hermantown businesses can essentially take five this week, Lundstrom says there's no denying the reputation that high school hockey brings in from the outside.

"They'll say, 'where do you work?' And I'll [say] Hermantown. [They'll say], 'oh yeah, isn't that the hockey town?' It's our brand," said a proud Lundstrom, "it's who we are up here."

...a brand that cities, like Hermantown, wear with pride.

Billy Wagness
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