The Free Press, Mankato, MN

July 22, 2013

Hockey alums return to Mankato


The Mankato Free Press

---- — David Backes was named to the roster of the U.S. National Team orientation camp on Monday. The camp, which takes place next month in Arlington, Va., will help determine the group of National Hockey League players who will compete in next winter's Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

Backes, the former Minnesota State star, 2010 Olympian and current St. Louis Blues standout, has even had his name tossed out as a potential candidate for captain of Team USA.

Backes wasn't the only MSU alum to have a good day on Monday.

In Mankato, several former players, including a pair of NHLers, spent a perfect summer day at their old stomping grounds, participating in the Dan Meyer Blue Line Club Golf Classic at the Mankato Golf Club.

Ryan Carter of the New Jersey Devils and Tim Jackman of the Calgary Flames make a point of returning to their college town when they can, even if each spent just a pair of seasons as a Maverick before turning pro.

"I did what I had to do, but college in Mankato was the time of my life," said Carter, the only MSU alum with his name on the Stanley Cup. "It was awfully fun. I don't know if I was ready to leave personally, especially when I look at the guys who stayed for four years. But it was the right thing professionally."

Carter, 29, has a year remaining on his contract with the Devils, while Jackman, 31, has a year left with the Flames. It will be Jackman's 12th professional season.

"My college experience was second to none," Jackman said. "Nothing has matched it. It's fun to come back and see the town. There are some great memories here."

Carter and Jackman played in a group with former teamamte Aaron Forsythe, who is now a high school hockey coach at Forest Lake. One of Forsythe's former players, C.J. Franklin, is an MSU recruit and will suit up for the Mavericks starting in the fall of 2014.

Other alumni playing in the event included Andy Hedlund, who spent several seasons in the American Hockey League before playing in Germany and Austria, as well as Justin Martin, B.J. Anderson, Todd Kelzenberg, R.J. Linder, Brian Kilburg and Matt Tyree — all players from the Division I era.

Backes returned for an event last summer, as did Chad Brownlee, who's turning into quite the country music star in his home country of Canada.

Sometimes it's hard to forget that Minnesota State has been playing at the DI level for less than 20 years. Carter, who played for Team USA in this past spring's world championships, said that the years right out of college can be hectic, whether guys are still playing hockey or are starting a different pro career, and it's easy to miss events like Monday's tournament. But now, he's expecting to see more former players take the time to return.

Mavericks coach Mike Hastings, who is preparing for his second season, certainly isn't overlooking the players from the previous regime.

He had the alumni stand up to be acknowledged among the boosters and thanked them for returning.

"You're what Minnesota State is all about," Hastings said, "and what we'll continue to build on."

Shane Frederick is a Free Press staff writer. Read his blog at mankatofreepresshockey.blogspot.com and follow him on Twitter @puckato.