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Coaches, players laud the pulse of SCSU hockey for his service, friendship behind the bench

Jeremiah Minkel has worked as an equipment manager in the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center since he was a freshman in college in 1995. He has been a full-time employee at the university since 2000 but his last games will be Saturday.

St. Cloud State equipment manager Jeremiah Minkel organizes jerseys before the start of a game against Minnesota State on Friday, Oct. 21, 2022, at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center in St. Cloud.
Jason Wachter/The Rink Live

ST. CLOUD, Minn. — Since 1995, the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center has gone through a major renovation, women's hockey has been added, there have been three men's head coaches, six women's head coaches, numerous assistant coaches and hundreds of players at St. Cloud State University.

One constant through all those changes has been hockey equipment manager Jeremiah Minkel.

But Minkel will be working his last games for the university on Saturday when the women's team plays St. Thomas at 2 p.m. and the men's team plays Bemidji State at 6 p.m. at the Brooks Center.

Minkel has accepted a job working for BHI Energy at Xcel Energy Monticello Nuclear Generating Plant, helping coordinate maintenance projects. Minkel and his wife, Amanda, have a 6 1/2-month-old daughter, Olivia.

"Me and my wife are just having one child and I want to be there for her and I don't want to miss her growing up," Minkel said. "I'm older and having a kid ... I thought that working Monday through Friday with weekends off was very appealing.


"I'll miss the competition, the games, the players and all the relationships I have. I still want to be involved and help the next person and still be involved with the alumni."

To people in and around the SCSU hockey programs, Minkel is seen as much more than being in charge of equipment. He is a touchstone through a majority of the university's NCAA Division I era, provides the people around him with advice, humor and friendship.

"The last 4 1/2 years with Minks has been unbelievable," said Brett Larson, who is in his fifth season as the men's head coach. "There's not a guy with a bigger heart for the program, who cares more about this program and the players than he does.

"I can see how hard it is on him now to walk away from this. But, part of our culture here at St. Cloud State, is that family comes first. I know he's making this decision for the right reasons."

St. Cloud State equipment manager Jeremiah Minkel grabs a spare stick during the game against Minnesota State on Friday, Oct. 21, 2022, at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center in St. Cloud.
Jason Wachter/The Rink Live

How he started at SCSU

Minkel arrived at St. Cloud State in the fall of 1995 after graduating from New London-Spicer High School, which is about an hour's drive to the south and west of the university. He ended up in the Brooks Center because of a work/study job.

"I was into outdoors and athletics as a young 18-year-old," said Minkel, who played football in high school. "I think I went to the athletic office and they told me that there was a position down with hockey. I was like, 'All right.' I knew about the hockey here because, for our high school letterman's club, we would come once a year to a hockey game. So I had been to a couple St. Cloud State hockey games.


"So I thought, that would be fun. It's crazy how things work out."

His first job in the arena was working in the athletic training room, filling water bottles.

"I didn't know anything about hockey," he said. "At New London-Spicer, we didn't have hockey.

"My second year, I helped Mark Miller in the equipment room."

St. Cloud State equipment manager Jeremiah Minkel grabs skate blades to sharpen before the start of a game against Minnesota State on Friday, Oct. 21, 2022, at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center in St. Cloud.
Jason Wachter/The Rink Live

Miller was the equipment manager for St. Cloud State before taking the same job for the NHL's Colorado Avalanche.

A fellow freshman at St. Cloud State was Geno Parrish, who was a defenseman and had to sit out his first season as he worked on becoming academically eligible to play. Parrish could not practice with the team, so he would skate on his own and ended up striking up a friendship with Minkel.

"I love Miah," said Parrish, who does color commentary for SCSU TV broadcasts. "When he first came in, he was so excited. 'Hey can I get you this? Can I get you that?'

"My first year, all I did was play ping pong whether it was with (student Chris Garner) or Minkel. I absolutely destroyed them because I played ping pong so many hours of the day," he said. "Before the players would practice, I would play ping pong with them. When they were on the ice, Minks and Garns and all the other guys would play ping pong against me and I loved them for it."


Minkel admits that Parrish was a very good table tennis player.

"I used to play a lot of ping pong and I was pretty good for a bigger guy," he said. "I had some pretty good upsets with some of these Division I players around here. Me and Bryce Macken used to play a lot because he had back surgery. Geno was really good.

"Those guys would come down here at night and play: Geno, Mark (Parrish) and (Matt) Bailey. It was big. We had a lot of good battles, lot of fun tournaments back in the day."

And when Minkel started working behind the bench during games, he was hooked on hockey.

"We were good, winning a lot of games. It was fun," Minkel said of the men's team. "I've always felt like a part of the team and we've always been pretty successful here.

"The atmosphere — when we have the building full, there isn't a building that's louder than the Hockey Center. I'm biased, but I think we have the best goal horn in college hockey."

St. Cloud State equipment manager Jeremiah Minkel grabs a spare stick during the game against Minnesota State on Friday, Oct. 21, 2022, at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center in St. Cloud.
Jason Wachter/The Rink Live

Leaving to take a job at Colorado College

St. Cloud State added women's hockey in 1998 and Minkel graduated with a degree in business management in the spring of 2000. After graduating, he left the university ... for a few months. He accepted the equipment manager job for Colorado College, but did not last long.


"I moved out there in August," he said. "All the equipment was there and a brand new (skate) sharpener. I was getting all that set up.

"It was the middle of October ... I got a call from (athletic director) Morris (Kurtz) and said, 'would you like to come back?' My first weekend full time here (at SCSU) and where do we go? Colorado College and we swept them, 6-3 and 3-2. That was kind of awkward because they were still mad at me for leaving."

He's just one of the treasures of St. Cloud State hockey. There's been no one person that's contributed more to the program than him.
Garrett Raboin, Augustana head coach and former SCSU player, assistant coach

That 2000-01 season, the Huskies set numerous program records on their way to winning their lone WCHA Final Five championship and a 31-9-1 record under head coach Craig Dahl.

"CD gave me an opportunity, so I can't thank him enough and we won our first championship, the (WCHA) Final Five, with him," said Minkel, who worked for men's head coach Bob Motzko from 2005-18. "All three (men's head coaches) are outstanding people, great people to work with. The program keeps making steps. CD brought us here and then Bob takes us to a Frozen Four and then Brett takes us to a national championship game (in 2021) ... we just keep climbing the ladder."

And Minkel kept adding players and coaches as lifelong friends along the way. Garrett Raboin played defense for the Huskies from 2006-10 and then was an assistant coach for the men's team from 2012-18.

"He's just one of the treasures of St. Cloud State hockey," Raboin said. "There's been no one person that's contributed more to the program than him.

"The special part about Jeremiah is he's such a special part of the culture. As a player and a coach, I don't know that I've been around a better teammate. He's willing do anything for the team through early mornings, late nights, weekends ... He's just always been there for us as players and to support student-athletes as a staff. His value away from the rink is even more impressive because he's just one heck of a guy."

Eric Rud was an assistant coach for the men's team from 2006-10 and then was the women's team's head coach from 2014-19.


"The biggest thing is that he will do anything for anyone at any time," said Rud, a former college and pro player who has coached since 2002. "He's the most selfless guy, a great friend. You never had to worry about anything in his department. I've been around a lot of guys in that role and he is the best.

"I've spent time with him in three different roles: an assistant coach on the men's team, head coach on the women's team and a really good friend to sit in the boat with and catch fish. I've seen him in all different capacities and he's the same all the time. He was just as helpful to me on the women's side or if I needed someone to move a couch."

St. Cloud State equipment manager Jeremiah Minkel watches the game against Minnesota State on Friday, Oct. 21, 2022, at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center in St. Cloud.
Jason Wachter/The Rink Live

Love of the outdoors

Rud is far from the only person associated with the hockey programs to spend time with Minkel outdoors. In recent years, he would hunt and fish with men's players like Easton Brodzinski and Luke Jaycox. Minkel and Jaycox would also do fish fries for the team.

"I spent my entire summers in St. Cloud (in college) and I got to know Jeremiah as a person and getting to know him — he's just got a giant heart and someone you can always count on," Raboin said. "Jeremiah is one of those guys that you look forward to getting to the rink a little bit early, so you can sit down and have a cup of coffee with him. Then we began to fish and pheasant hunt together."

To show you the consistency of this theme, defenseman Jack Peart began having coffee with Minkel last season as a freshman.

"Jack Peart was an 18-year-old freshman and a lot of this is overwhelming and new to him," Larson said of the Minnesota Wild draft pick. "Like most freshmen, he was going through some struggles. I noticed every morning, he would be in there having coffee with Jeremiah until the rest of the guys got there.

"Miah can take guys under his wing and help them. Help them adjust to college hockey, help them adjust to life here. Sometimes, when it seems like all anyone wants to talk to them about is hockey, Miah can talk to them about hunting and fishing and life away from the rink and help them settle into the college life."


Minkel will miss watching the players grow during their careers.

"The cool thing is they come in as kids and leave as men," Minkel said. "You just try to give them as much guidance as you can when they need it."

St. Cloud State equipment manager Jeremiah Minkel watches the game against Minnesota State on Friday, Oct. 21, 2022, at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center in St. Cloud.
Jason Wachter/The Rink Live

The long hours

What Minkel will not miss is the long hours and weekends. He said that when the men's and women's teams both have home series, he and his staff will do 27 loads of laundry in a weekend. The equipment manager is in charge of laundry for not only the home team, but also for the road team and officials.

Last weekend, the men's team had a series against Minnesota State University-Mankato and the women's team played at home against Minnesota on Friday. Both visiting teams came in on Thursday for practice.

So Minkel and his staff had to have the two visiting locker rooms set up with everything from towels to skate sharpeners, a refrigerator, a riveter, tape, a chop saw and coffee. On Thursday, Oct. 20, he said he started working at 7:30 a.m. and left at 6 p.m.

For the doubleheader on Friday, he began working at 9 a.m. and left at 1 a.m. When the team goes on the road, there are series when they leave on a Wednesday and do not get back until late Sunday. He has missed four men's games since 2000: two for a funeral and two because he had the flu.

"It's crazy how fast it goes," Minkel said. "It doesn't feel like years, it feels like — oh, just another season. But a whole year goes by."

And he does not want to miss the coming years with his family. Now, he wants to see the 6-0 Huskies continue their hot streak and send him off with two wins over Bemidji State.

But make no mistake, when Minkel leaves, the teams will miss him.

"He's an equipment manager by trade, but he doubles as a relationship psychologist, tutor, storyteller — he wears so many hats," Raboin said. "That's why he means so much to the program. As he moves on to his next adventure, he's going to be sorely missed."

St. Cloud State equipment manager Jeremiah Minkel carries the spare sticks after a game against Minnesota State on Friday, Oct. 21, 2022, at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center in St. Cloud.
Jason Wachter/The Rink Live
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Mick Hatten is a reporter and editor for Forum News Service and helps manage TheRinkLive.com, a website dedicated to hockey. He began working for Forum Communications in November 2018 and has covered St. Cloud State University hockey since 2010. A graduate of St. Cloud State, he has more than 30 years of experience as a journalist and has been a youth hockey coach since 2014. mhatten@forumcomm.com

For more coverage of St. Cloud and the surrounding communities, check out St. Cloud Live.
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