Celebrating 50 Years of Owatonna High School Hockey
Owatonna hockey history was overflowing Saturday as every generation of OHS boys' hockey came together to celebrate 50 years of the sport as a varsity team in to. The culmination of the evening was the official announcement of naming the rinks at Four Seasons Centre after Ken Austin, Ken Wilcox and Dudley Otto who each had a big role in the addition of hockey in 1968 at OHS.
A crowd of several hundred filled the Foundation Building on the Steele County Fairgrounds to share stories and honor those that have worn the blue and silver and the Indians and Huskies nicknames. Former Athletic Director Jim Herzog handed out honorary OHS letters to individuals who played youth hockey before the sport was added as a varsity sport.
OHS Athletic Hall of Fame members Mark Kristo and Todd Hale shared the emcee duties. Hale, the longtime radio play-by-play and voice and former owner of KRFO radio, shared numerous stories of the early days of broadcasting the sport which included many outdoor games.
A large picture of Otto, who played goalie without a mask for North Dakota, was displayed at by the podium. Otto passed away in April, 2017 even as plans for this weekend's 50 anniversary were in the works. Austin died in May of 2004. Each is a member of the Owatonna High School Athletic Hall of Fame.
Former assistant coach Bill Ryden spoke of the excitement level for hockey in Owatonna when he joined inaugural coach Otto in coming to town. Former coach Dennis Will shared stories about the only OHS team to advance to the state high school hockey tournament in 1998, saying they were a group that played with a great emphasis on team first.
Current coach Josh Storm echoed the concept of "pack before pride" as his approach for this season's team. Storm missed a ceremony of his own coach being enshrined in the coaches hall of fame to attend Saturday. He expressed his thrill in being part of the Owatonna hockey community.
Doug Austin, son of Ken who helped found the youth hockey program and was a longtime midget coach, said one of his father's famous sayings was, "This is a great day for hockey. And if you have a kid in hockey, they'll never be in hot water."
Wilcox was instrumental in fundraising efforts for each rink at Four Seasons and was the longtime radio analyst for Hale. Wilcox, who hails from Canada, pushed for the spelling of Centre on the Four Seasons building.
The east rink at Four Seasons will be called the Otto Rink, while the west side will be the Austin-Wilcox Rink. Kristo thanked the Steele County Commissioners for allowing the honorary naming. He also thanked rink manager Steve Schroht who suggested putting the names into the ice at the start of the season eliminating the need for the cost and placement of signage.
Deb Mandt was honored before the crowd for her years of tireless work with hockey in Owatonna. The 50th anniversary weekend included a social gathering on Friday at the Elks and a golf tournament Saturday with a full field of 144 players.