The Minneapolis Titans youth hockey program, now in its 14th year, is well into its 2022-2023 season, and practices will move into game play in November.
The Titans are a non-profit organization created to provide affordable co-ed youth hockey in North and Northeast Minneapolis regardless of skill level. The program depends on player fees, fund-raising, and tax-deductible donations. Ice time at rinks can cost $200 per hour, and hockey season starts two months before outdoor ice is available.
The Titans Learning to Skate program gets beginners together with coaches at the Northeast Ice Arena for four one-hour sessions, followed by two practices with other youngsters at their age levels. Titans’ Vice President Nancy Nordeen said, “We have an equipment closet full of pads, sticks, and skates ready to loan out free for the season, and we’re always happy to accept donations of hockey gear in good condition.”
The goal is to get kids on the ice with the possibility of signing up with the Titans for team play. The Titans subsidize all skaters’ association fees and charge families 30% less than many surrounding programs. About 15% of the participants receive additional scholarship support.
Before there were Titans, there was the Edison Area Youth Hockey Association, a strong program in Northeast Minneapolis until the early 2000s, when numbers began to decline. Most board members had children who had aged out of the program and were ready to move on from the organization when a new group of young kids, mini and mite level, started skating in the program. Their parents joined together with the few remaining older players’ families to push through a difficult transition period that led to rebranding and rebuilding. Wanting to honor the original mission to provide hockey for Northeast kids, parents and players voted to change the name to City of Lakes and the kids chose a Titan for their mascot. For a time, the hockey equipment was kept in the Northeast Ice Arena bathrooms and parents paid for ice time on their personal credit cards. City of Lakes expanded to include North, Southeast, and Downtown neighborhoods. The association was renamed once more, to the Minneapolis Titans.
The Titans get a lot of support from Larson Dental (the clinic’s Dr. Cory Larson is the current Titans President). New sponsors this year include Diamonds Coffee Shoppe, Village Orthodontics/Minneapolis Orthodontics, and Larson Buildings LLC. Community organizations that support the Titans include Northeast Kiwanis, Eastside Old Timers, and Northeast Lions.
Volunteers have done a lot of outreach to the community to spread the word about Titans hockey, including hosting tables at festivals and sending out fliers to Minneapolis Public Schools in the Titans’ service area. By now, every student in kindergarten through 3rd grade should have received an invitation to the Try Hockey for Free and Learn to Skate programs, which begin November 5th.
There are two Minneapolis hockey associations. Minneapolis Storm serves South and Southwest neighborhoods. If you live or go to school in a neighborhood north of Interstates 94 and 394, you can skate with the Titans.
Nordeen said she’s had three children participate in the program since 2010, adding, “Two are still playing hockey and one learned to skate quite well and can enjoy time on the ice at the park in the winter. I’m equally pleased with both outcomes! Our goal is for kids to be active, have fun, and grow a love for the sport.”
She noted that, with an average of 50-75 skaters returning to the next season, and about 50 kids trying hockey for the first time and/or doing the Learn to Skate program, “We’ve reached perhaps 800 to 1,000 kids.”
The Titans Try Hockey for Free and Learn to Skate programs run for six weeks. Ideally, Learn to Skate participants will join the Titans for the remainder of the season which goes until February. Playoffs and other tournaments continue through March.
Nordeen talked about the program’s changes during her tenure, noting that registration numbers are still down since the pandemic, but are slowly building back up. She said there’s been success in the growth of the girls program: “All Titan teams are co-ed, but starting at the 10U level, girls can choose to play in the girls-only program. We co-op with two other associations, Langford Park and Edgecumbe, sharing players, coaches, and costs.”
She said the Titans are “very proud” to provide a team for the 15U level for the first time. Until this year, all skaters had to find a new association to skate in for 8th and 9th grade. One of the programs hopes is to have the resources for a Bantam-level team for the boys in those grades.
Nordeen was asked what part of the program she liked the most. “It’s fun to see the kids win, but more than anything I appreciate seeing our skaters show good sportsmanship. It is a testament to the Titans coaching staff that the kids are learning to respect the game, win or lose. As a parent, getting to spend so much time with other families who share our values and commitment to our community has brought me a lot of joy over the last 10 years.”
She counts many Titans families among her closest friends, saying, “When my kids go down to the Windom Park to skate on Friday nights for the Fire and Ice events, I go down with them, and I always look forward to seeing my friends at the rink.”
Below: Fourth and fifth graders on the Titans Hockey Team. (Provided photo)