Kids get chance to skate with Gophers

by Rebecca Teale

Six-year-old Nick Krier insists he will be on the Gophers hockey team in a few years.
“Make that about 15 years,” Coach Doug Woog told him.
Krier, a kindergartener at Holy Trinity Catholic School in St. Paul, got a chance to meet his idols at the annual “Skate with the Gophers” community event at Mariucci Arena on Sunday.
“I play hockey,” he emphatically told goalie Willy Marvin, who was autographing Krier’s hockey jersey.
“Nick and his dad watch the Gophers every weekend,” mom Debbie Krier explained. “They won’t go anywhere.”
Krier was just one of more than 200 children at the event. Kids could sign up for one of four time slots to skate with a few Gophers and a few cheerleaders.
While most of the kids got the opportunity to skate, Krier and others were disappointed to find out all the time slots were filled.
For the kids that couldn’t get into a time slot to skate, there were other activities to occupy the time.
Cheerleaders put Gophers tattoos on willing children’s cheeks and volunteers gave shooting tips to kids participating in a shoot-out. The kids could also sign a giant good luck banner for the players, and much to their delight, there was free candy.
Hockey fan Carol Ebersole said the kids love to skate on the same ice as the Gophers — especially because it’s the same one with the big “M” they see on TV.
“We remember when we were that age,” Marvin said. “We’re just giving back to the community, they do so much for us.”
It wasn’t just the little kids who were anxious to get an up-close look at their favorite skaters.
Many teenage girls made their ways around Mariucci to get autographs and chat with the players.
“If you go up to professional athletes, they won’t talk to you,” said 16-year-old Kristin Thieding. “But the players here are always so nice.”
Thieding said forward Ryan Kraft is her idol, whom she’s already met. But to most, the event was a rare chance to meet players they admire from afar.
“The players appreciate knowing these kids care about them,” Woog said. “And it’s a way for the kids to meet their role models.”