Hotels, bars and restaurants were busy, Riopelle says

    It goes without saying that the St. Paul Highland Central Capitals pee wee "A" hockey team had a great time in Crookston this past weekend, which they culminated on Sunday with a 2-1 victory over Mahtomedi and a Minnesota Hockey State Pee Wee A championship.   

    But maybe it needs to be said, Parks & Recreation Director Scott Riopelle told the Crookston Park Board this week, that just about everyone who had something to say about their experience in Crookston over the weekend said something good.  

    "It was just one big compliment to the community," he said.   

    Crookston Sports Center received positive reviews, Riopelle continued, including specific compliments for the quality of the Event Arena ice. Minnesota Hockey officials were also impressed that adults ran the clock during the games and adults and, at the youngest, high school students served as goal judges.    

    Maybe the most telling compliments came from those associated with the two teams who lost their first two games, Spring Lake Park and Farmington, and, therefore, were eliminated on Saturday and went home a day early. "If anyone could have been negative and you might understand their point of view, it would be those two teams," Riopelle said. "But they were all as happy as can be with their experience."   

    Riopelle added that even the Sartell coach, who was kicked out of the CSC by the referees during a Saturday game and was not allowed to coach in Sartell's Sunday game, told him it was a great event.   

    The hotels were full, Drafts Sports Bar & Grill next to the CSC was packed most of the weekend, and various bars and other restaurants reported an uptick in activity. Mayor Dave Genereux said that a Crookston resident reported having to park a larger than normal distance from a store downtown on Saturday because there were "too many people" around. "So that's a good thing," Genereux said.   

    "That's the key, they were not just here, they spent money here," Riopelle said.   

    He thanked all of the volunteers, including those from the Blue Line Club, and the Crookston pee wee players who served as "hosts" for each of the eight teams that competed. "The youth hosts were extremely popular," he said.    

    Riopelle said Alexandria and Sartell representatives were especially interested in touring the CSC, as both communities are looking to expand their current arena facilities.   

    BLC President Steve Erickson added his thanks to all of the volunteers and staff who made the event a success. "Volunteers put in a lot of time, and their work made the whole event better," he said. "It was a great weekend to showcase Crookston."   

    "I think what we saw was people who were very impressed with our facility and what was happening in our community," Riopelle added.   

    Oh, and no one should forget about the hockey that was played, either, he continued. “It was some pretty incredible hockey at that level,” Riopelle said.   

    Despite the positive reviews, Park Board President Larry Brekken suggested that a post-tournament meeting be held to go over what went well and what could have gone better last weekend.   

    "That way, the next time we get something like this, we'll be even more prepared to put on a great event," Brekken said.   

    Note: See Friday's Times for a letter to the editor from the Sartell team praising the community's efforts during the tournament.