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Year of the Ram: A northern homecoming

Bernie “Krunk” Foss, who played with the Broten Bros. and Bryan Erickson, skates during the recent Roseau old-timers game. (Photo by Cary Olson)

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Bernie “Krunk” Foss, who played with the Broten Bros. and Bryan Erickson, skates during the recent Roseau old-timers game. (Photo by Cary Olson)

The sixth annual Roseau old-timers tournament took place on the weekend, a gathering that has doubled the number of teams since its inception and draws a wide array of former Rams and other Northern Minnesota hockey folk.

Headed up by Rams assistant coach Bill Lund, the tourney now involves 16 teams broken up by skill level into two brackets: gold and silver. And in a town famous for its love of hockey, all ages are welcome.

“My dad plays in the silver bracket,” Lund noted. “And he’s 68.”

Along with a cadre of Roseau and Warroad-based teams, towns such as Bemidji and Detroit Lakes also put together squads.

This year’s installment even featured some of the high school seniors who helped lead Roseau to an undefeated regular season and third straight appearance at the state championship tournament: Mitch Martinson, Jason Fabian, Dustin Moser and Ben Nelson all suited up, with Moser and Nelson winning the gold bracket final on a team featuring some Warroad Lakers alum and Lund’s brother, Greg.

Two famous names who couldn’t make this year’s tournament were Aaron Broten – who was in New Jersey for a Devils reunion – and Bryan ‘Butsy’ Erickson, who played nine seasons in the NHL with Washington, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh and Winnipeg.

Erickson, who coaches the Roseau bantam boys team, has seen many of the high school squad’s stars on their way up and sees a great future for many of them.

Not surprisingly, defenseman Aaron Ness caught Erickson’s eye.

“He is everything that people say,” the coach said. “I played with Bernie Nicholls and Marcel Dionne and Aaron is just as phenomenal a passer as anyone I’ve seen.”

Erickson also pointed out goaltender Mike Lee’s remarkable 41-game win streak, which ran from the beginning of his high school career. “And he didn’t get the cake games, either.”

‘Butsy’ is a legend in Roseau. In his heyday in the late 1970s with the high school squad, he played on a line with his next-door neighbors, Neal and Aaron Broten. With competition not the same as it is today, the Rams trio often blitzed opponents into submission and coach Gary Hokanson had a unique way of maintaining sportsmanship in blowouts.

“He had us take our equipment off for the third period,” Erickson recalled. “And we’d watch the rest of the game from the stands.”

The Roseau three came close, but never won a state title. Their next destination was the University of Minnesota, where the offensive parade continued. In his sophomore year, Erickson put up 86 points in 44 games, while Neal tallied 71 in 36 games and Aaron blew the doors off the hinges with 106 points in 45 contests.

After his NHL career ended, Erickson eventually made his way back to Roseau.

“It’s a pretty unique town,” he said. “We have arts, three-act plays, talent shows, it’s very cultured.”

And of course, the hockey’s not bad.

“For our little community, we have some depth we may not have had in the past,” Erickson noted. “But these kids are still pretty darned humble. They appreciate the opportunity they’ve been given.”

As for the origins of his ‘Butsy’ moniker, Erickson is just as shy.

“This town’s horrible for nicknames,” he said. “Everyone has one and I’ve had mine since I got out of diapers. There’s no great story, I’m afraid.”

No great story? That might be a first around these parts.

The Hockey News will be following the Roseau Rams high school hockey team every week, chronicling its journey on the road back to the state championship and providing an inside look at what its like to be a teenager on one of the most fabled varsity teams in America.

Click HERE to read previous Year of the Ram stories.

For more great stories and features like this, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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