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Coffee table book celebrates Minnesota's rinks, large and small

A three-year odyssey around Minnesota has produced a colorful coffee table book which features dozens of places people skate throughout the state. Matthew Jasper's work was inspired by a photo on his bedroom wall of one classic northern Minnesota rink from his youth.

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First released in December 2019, the coffee table book "Home Ice" by Matthew Jasper features nearly 300 pages of color photos of rinks from throughout Minnesota. Matthew Jasper photo.

While some hockey-playing kids in Minnesota have a picture of Xcel Energy Center or their favorite college team’s rink on their bedroom wall, Matthew Jasper’s childhood in Grand Rapids was a little different.

His love for the arenas that dot seemingly every little town throughout the State of Hockey was born in 1994, when his parents gave him a framed photo of Memorial Arena in Warroad, the World War II-era wooden barn, long since demolished, that was home to the little town’s youth, high school and senior teams for a half-century.

“As peewees we were able to play in there but you don’t think it’s that cool. You just think it’s an old building with gross locker rooms,” Jasper said. “But looking back, it’s a pretty badass place and they just don’t make them like that anymore.”

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A few decades later, those youth hockey memories, and that photo of the place Warroad fans called the “Castle on the Corner” spurred Jasper’s passion project. Over the course of three years, he traveled the state taking pictures and has compiled them into “Home Ice,” a nearly 300-page coffee table book featuring the diverse and unique places people skate in Minnesota.

“I originally had the idea about 15 years ago, but like any passion project, you’ve got to put it on hold, so it sat for about 12 years,” recalled Jasper, 41, who does videography work for advertising agencies and lives in St. Paul “Then I started using all of my (paid time off) in the winters. While all of my friends were going to Cancun and doing fun things, I was going up to Warroad and Roseau in the middle of the winter to shoot hockey rinks, and then finding places like Grygla and Roosevelt along the way. Red Lake Falls was another fun one to find.”

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There are 72 rinks featured in the book, which retails for $55 on Jasper’s website and at around 60 booksellers around the state. They vary in scope from a backyard rink that a family in Bemidji constructs every winter to Xcel Energy Center, the plush, modern 19,000-seat home of the Minnesota Wild and the renowned state hockey tournaments.

In between there are well-known community arenas in places like Roseau, Coleraine and Richfield, and even unique finds like the Schulz Rink of Dreams, an ice sheet complete with lights and boards inside a metal barn at a family farm outside Madison Lake, Minn.

Jasper got a warm welcome in nearly every community he visited, with most locals delighted to show off their rinks. In Thief River Falls, the local sheriff opened the doors to the community’s three arenas and left to book an inmate into jail, telling Jasper to switch the lights off when he was done. The lone exception came in the Twin Cities where the management of one well-known metro rink demanded that he rent the ice time and asked for a kickback on sales of the book. Jasper declined.

More than anything, the book celebrates character. The older rinks, built in the 1950s or earlier have become Minnesota’s equivalent of Fenway Park in Boston or Wrigley Field in Chicago — legendary sports venues and bucket list destinations. By contrast, Jasper said that most arenas built in the past two decades have little that distinguishes them.

“A friend of mine and I joke that with the new rinks, you could just put ‘Best Buy’ on the outside and you couldn’t tell the difference, because they’re all boxy and uniform,” Jasper said.

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On his travels throughout Minnesota, Jasper shot photos of 80 rinks, and eight of them didn’t make the cut for the book. Community pride being what it is, he has heard from plenty of people who want to see a second, expanded book with their local arena featured.

“You always hear from the people whose favorite rinks didn’t make it into the book,” he said. “It’s a very passionate fan base. So I’m thinking about a second edition with more rinks.”

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Jess Myers covers college hockey, as well as outdoors, general sports and travel, for The Rink Live and the Forum Communications family of publications. He came to FCC in 2018 after three decades of covering sports as a freelancer for a variety of publications, while working full time in politics and media relations. A native of Warroad, Minn. (the real Hockeytown USA), Myers has a degree in journalism/communications from the University of Minnesota Duluth. He lives in the Twin Cities. Contact Jess via email at jrmyers@forumcomm.com, or find him on Twitter via @JessRMyers. English speaker.
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