The Free Press, Mankato, MN

September 5, 2012

Rueda: ’95 rematch is ‘Best of Times’ for local hockey teams

By Jim Rueda
Free Press Sports Editor

— If you played any kind of team sport in high school, it’s likely there’s a game or match that sticks in your memory that you wish you could do over.

Maybe it was the game you lost that prevented you from getting into the playoffs or into the state tournament or perhaps even winning a state championship. It may not be something you carry with you all the time, but every once in awhile, it resurfaces and you wish you had another shot.

Back in 1986, Robin Williams and Kurt Russell made a movie about such a moment called “The Best of Times.” It wasn’t a particularly good movie, but a lot of people could relate to the idea.

Williams plays a former high school football player who wants to atone for a missed catch in the end zone 12 years after the fact.

Instead of beating his team’s hated rival, Taft High School had to settle for a tie, and most of the movie centers on Williams trying to assuage his guilt by setting up a rematch.

In about six weeks, some former high school hockey players from Mankato West and New Ulm will be getting their “Best of Times” moment. There will be a rematch of a playoff game between the teams from 1995.

That game was the subject of a recent book by a former colleague, Roger Dier, called “Scarlet Ice.” The book chronicled the 1994-95 seasons for both teams, including the death of Mankato West sophomore John Janavaras to a meningitis outbreak.

The story culminated with a 3-1 upset by a four-win Scarlets team over heavily favored New Ulm (19-3) in the section playoffs.

Unlike the Robin Williams movie, the players on both teams are not holding grudges or trying to obtain some sort of redemption. Instead, it’s a chance for the players from both squads to reconnect with old teammates for a good cause.

The rematch will be a two-game event on Oct. 26-27, and proceeds will benefit local hockey organizations, as well as the John Janavaras Scholarship. The first game will be played Friday, Oct. 26, at 7 p.m. at Mankato’s All Seasons Arena.

The main event will follow at 7 p.m. Saturday at New Ulm’s Vogel Arena, the site of the inspired upset in 1995 which was witnessed by more than 1,000 fans.

Most of the players from both teams have signed on for the rematch, including New Ulm’s Dayton Larson who led the state in scoring that year with 46 goals in 22 regular-season games.

Considering the worthy cause and the notoriety from the book, the rematch is bound to attract some attention.

Author Dier will be on hand to sell and sign some of the few hard copies of the book he has left (it’s available as an eBook), and it’s likely most of the players will be willing to sign as well.

It should be a fun weekend. Stay tuned for more details.

Jim Rueda is the Free Press sports editor. To contact him, call 344-6381 or email him at