John's Journal: Learning The Right Lessons At Wadena-Deer Creek
Facing Low Numbers, Wolverines Persist In Setting A Strong Example
Posted: Wednesday, January 24, 2024 - 1:34 PM
Important lessons can be learned through athletics, and the boys hockey team at Wadena-Deer Creek provides a great example of this. This story was written for the Wadena Pioneer Journal by correspondent Norm Gallant, who is the activities director at Wadena-Deer Creek. It is posted here with permission.
WADENA — A four-goal second period pushed the Willmar Cardinals past the Wadena-Deer Creek Wolverines 8-3 in a Section 6-1A tilt Thursday, Jan. 18, at the Wadena Ice Arena.
WDC’s Cooper Ness, Carson Davis and Aden Krell all found the net, while Gunner Olson stopped 54 shots in the net.
The Wolverines have faced more than their share of adversity this season and Thursday night’s game was no different. The Wolverines have been playing with limited numbers all season, but Thursday they finished the game with just eight skaters.
Despite the adversity, WDC coaches Robby Grendahl and Cory Sarago have installed a system to maximize the players they have and keep things in perspective.
“Ultimately, what sports do is prepare students for life,” Grendahl said. “We face adversity in every facet of life and persevering and learning to work through challenges are important.
“Everyone will remember the state team of 2004, and rightly so. But, to me, as a person that was on the very first high school team we ever had here, I think that the 2010-11 team and this team are just as important.”
Fans will remember that the 2010-11 team did not have a home arena as the EF-4 tornado that hit Wadena in June wrapped most of the arena around what was left of the high school and the surrounding neighborhood. The team traveled to Long Prairie for practice or practiced on outdoor ice.
“Those players sacrificed a lot,” Grendahl said. “It would have been easy to fold things up and not have a program, but they kept it alive.”
This year’s team has faced different, but no less daunting challenges. Programs ebb and flow numbers-wise and right now the Wolverines are in a position where not many players are at the varsity level. Injuries have knocked the numbers down further, making each night a challenge.
Hard decisions had to be contemplated regarding the future of the Wolverine program last offseason. Ultimately, it was decided to keep independent hockey in the WDC co-op. The schedule was changed, and the Wolverines have been battling all season.
“I’m proud of us,” senior captain Gunner Olson said. “Our guys show up every day. We work hard and we’ve had fun.”
Grendahl sees this year’s team as a “Legacy team,” one that is very important in the history of the program.
“They are playing for all of those players at the mite and squirt levels, so they can wear a WDC sweater in high school,” Grendahl said. “I am proud of their work and sacrifice not only for themselves, but for the future of hockey at WDC.”
While an 8-3 loss isn’t the result the Wolverines like to see, Grendahl and his team know what they are doing is much bigger than what the scoreboard shows.
With numbers at a critical point, the coaches and administration will continue to make decisions based on player safety and health. On Friday, Jan. 19, WDC canceled its upcoming game with Detroit Lakes on Thursday, Jan. 25.
Win or lose, this year’s team has a lot to be proud of. They represent their school and community well on and off the ice and when they face challenges in their future, you can bet that the lessons from the ice will serve them well.