For the Red River Valley Hawks, a trip to Plano, Texas was more than just a chance to compete for a USA Hockey National Championship title. It was a nice getaway from the harsh realities facing them back home.
With much of the Red River Valley in and around Fargo, N.D., plagued by massive flooding, a handful of players had to be evacuated from their homes the week before heading to the Dallas suburb for the USA Hockey National Championship 14 & Under tournament in early April.
While it was difficult to leave homes that could very well have been underwater when they returned, being able to focus on just hockey was also a nice respite from all the hard work they put in trying to fend off the rising waters.
“I was looking to get away because I was getting sick of just sandbagging all day,” said forward Garrett Brossart, who helped build a large earth dike around his house to keep out the water.
“I actually spent my last week sandbagging houses, my friends’ houses and stuff. They canceled school so they could get kids out there to help with the sandbags.”
“I would think that for some, it’s a relief to get out of there and come and enjoy yourself,” added Hawks coach Steve Johnson. “But I think it’s always in the back of people’s minds. I’m sure the kids are probably thinking, ‘Are we going to have school when we get back or am I going to have to sandbag some more?’ And we do have a group of parents that, literally, if a dike broke in their yard, they’d probably have six feet of water in their home.”
“I was looking to get away because I was getting sick of just sandbagging all day.”
Until arriving in Dallas, the Hawks, representing the Northern Plains region, weren’t even sure they would have a full contingent of players available because some parents strongly considered not leaving their homes. But in the end, the chance to see their kids compete in the National Championships was too alluring.
“We were calling each other,” said Gerald Brossart, team manager and Garrett’s father. “We had practice scheduled during the week, and we couldn’t practice because the rinks weren’t available. You either couldn’t get to them or our boys weren’t available. If we would have had to fly out about a day earlier, there would have been a lot of us that would have elected not to go, because there was just too much riding on it.
“But the weather kind of came to our favor just for a little bit and we felt our houses were protected, so we all kind of coaxed each other into going.”
In the end, the team certainly didn’t look distracted on the ice, advancing to the semifinals before falling, 3-1, to the Allen Park (Mich.) Huskies. All in all, they were glad they came and resolved to deal with the flood’s aftermath once they got home.
“This is a really big deal for these kids,” said Steve Wurzer, father of defenseman Cole Wurzer. “We’re happy to be here, and we’re just trusting that when it’s over and we head back home, that we’ll still have a house there – or a house that’s not full of water, anyway.”