At Da Beauty League, Gophers players compete with NHL talent

Casey Mittelstadt, Jake Guentzel and Nick Leddy all compete in the league.

Left defender for the Walser team and former Gopher Ryan Zuhlsdorf carries the puck against left defender for the RBC team Aaron Ness at Da Beauty League on Wednesday, part of a weekly series of games where college and professional athletes come together to play at Braemar Arena in Edina, Minnesota.

Alex Tuthill-Preus

Left defender for the Walser team and former Gopher Ryan Zuhlsdorf carries the puck against left defender for the RBC team Aaron Ness at Da Beauty League on Wednesday, part of a weekly series of games where college and professional athletes come together to play at Braemar Arena in Edina, Minnesota.

Jack Warrick

It’s a big Gophers hockey family reunion every Wednesday night at Braemar Arena in Edina, Minnesota.

Gophers from every era can be found at the arena playing, coaching and watching hockey.

“There’s a bunch of college guys out here, a lot of pro guys,” said Gophers player Tyler Nanne. “You can’t even pay to see those guys sometimes during the NHL season, so to see them here, locally, is pretty nice and convenient.”

A total of 65 players on the roster are from the state of Minnesota, and 25 are current or former Gophers hockey players.

Da Beauty League is a six-team, four-on-four summer league for college and professional hockey players. The league runs for about a month from July to August and is in its second year.

Players such as the New York Islanders’ Nick Leddy and the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Jake Guentzel play against competition from mostly local hockey players in Da Beauty League.

The Gophers’ newest freshman center, Casey Mittelstadt, was a crowd favorite. Young kids lined the tunnel shouting his name as he got off the ice. Mittelstadt said he was learning a lot from the other skaters in the league.

“I think you can learn a lot of things like what you need to work on,” Mittelstadt said. “For me, it’s just fun to play with guys I’ve never played with before and see where I need to go.”

Nanne is a native of Edina and returned home to his high school rink on Wednesday.

“Just looking forward to getting back on the ice,” Nanne said. “This is kind of the start to next season, so I think everyone’s starting to get anxious and get the rust off.”

A total of 65 players on the roster are from the state of Minnesota, and 25 are current or former Gophers hockey players.

Members of Octagon — a large sports and entertainment agency — started the league last year. Octagon provides agency services for many players in Da Beauty League and its members run the games.

Gophers hockey alumnus and ex-NHL player, Keith Ballard, is one of the founders of the league. He was the coach of Mittelstadt’s team on Wednesday night.

Ballard said there was nothing like Da Beauty League when he was with the Gophers from 2001-04, but he wish there had been.

“Whether it’s a Casey Mittelstadt watching a guy like Brock Nelson, or another top NHL guy, they can see what they do on the ice, how they create chances,” Ballard said. “It’s just really good for kids.”