There is hockey in Perham
As one of the more athletically successful small towns in the state of Minnesota, Perham is missing one thing. The sport of the state: hockey.
Trent Swanson and the Perham Area Youth Hockey Association (PAYHA) are out to change that from the ground up. In hockey, the ground up starts with the mites and squirts: the little guys and girls.
"If you give kids another outlet to do something, it's better for the community," Swanson said.
PAYHA is in its fifth year of instructing kids ages 4-9 in the fundamentals of hockey.
Indoor practices are scheduled to begin Tuesday, Nov. 16 from 6-7 p.m. at the PACC back gym.
Indoor practice consists of land training for learning basic fundamentals like how to handle the stick.
Young Yellowjacket hockey players have opportunities to advance to squirts, peewees and bantams, via a pairing agreement between Detroit Lakes and Perham-Dent Public Schools.
"Our goal is to grow hockey. Fundraising has been very good and people have been very generous with us for a non-hockey town. We want to get consistent numbers and we can move on from mites to squirts," Swanson said.
Growing the program will necessitate growing more ice in town, a subject that could appear rather hair-raising in a year of school budget talks.
"Our long-term goal is building an arena and indoor ice," Assistant Coach Ryan Nelson said. "That's what we struggle with as a board."
The duo are quick to point out this goal is long term, even a couple decades out. They also point out early talks about a Perham ice arena are not just about hockey.
"Ultimately we see possibilities of it being a multi-purpose facility," Nelson said.
"Our biggest goal is to have high school hockey in Perham, even if it's a 20-year plan," Nelson said. "This is a dream; this is what we wish."
Ice time in Perham is at a premium with the only rink in town being a two-thirds regulation-size rink behind the PACC.
"We'd love to be able to grow but we need a new spot," Swanson said. "We have no thought to make that site any bigger."
"When we're ready to move to squirts, we're going to need a regulation-sized rink," Nelson said.
Ideas have been kicked around about future ice in Perham. One is for PAYHA to do it alone, purchasing land and building the rink.
According to Nelson, talk has also been had about joining with the Fair Board and the city for a multi-purpose building.
"That would be the best case scenario and the right way to do it in a town this size." he said.
Currently, the Association maintains the ice at the PACC rink. They make the ice and purchased a Zamboni.
One of the adversities facing PAYHA is the long-standing idea that Perham is not a hockey town.
"You hear we're not a hockey town, but people are still supporting it," Swanson said. "What's really cool is I had wrestlers and football players, baseball players and other kids call me up for pick up games last year."
Both Nelson and Swanson cited a pick-up game consisting of 40 players of all ages that went into the wee hours of the morning.
"I couldn't believe it," Nelson said. "I did not know that there were that many into hockey around here. It was a real eye opener for me. There's hockey in Perham there's just no program."
As hockey grows in Perham, players, as they get older, will need a place to go and that place is Detroit Lakes.
"DL Hockey is behind us 100 percent. The DL program has been totally supportive," Swanson said. "Basically we're a feeder program for them."
Both Nelson and Swanson emphasized the nature of their program, realizing it is in its infancy and are condoning to the nature of athletics currently provided in Perham.
"Were not trying to poach (players)," Nelson said. "We just want to provide something else."
Currently, both coaches hope to have this year's crop of players scheduled for scrimmages and possibly a mite jamboree in the region.
"It's fun watching them go from pushing a chair to screaming around the ice at the end of the season," Swanson said.
While hockey is renowned as an expensive sport, costs to participate in PAYHA's program are close to nothing.
Learn to skate participants, ages six and under are free.
All players must register with USAHockey.com for insurance purposes and the site charges a $40 fee payable to USA Hockey per player. PAYHA charges nothing. All funds for PAYHA are from received donations. The $40 does not go back to the program.
"We can outfit any kid," Swanson said.
Kids who want to participate in the program must supply only sticks and skates.
"If they can't find skates, we'll find them," Swanson said.
For more information about PAYHA and the hockey program contact Trent Swanson at 218-234-9737.