From Lakers to Islanders: A Glimpse Into the History of Warroad Hockey
In Northwestern Minnesota, on the shores of Lake of the Woods, resides the tiny yet commercial community of Warroad, and within it: Cal Marvin. Cal, along with Dan McKinnon of nearby Williams, and other inhabitants of the area, took their ambition of starting an American senior ice hockey team to the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks. The university was quick to accept the idea, which not only brought about their namesake, the Fighting Sioux, but also the Warroad Lakers, named for the nearby Lake of the Woods.
Thirteen men made up the first Warroad Lakers team, and for over three years, the Warroad Lakers played without protective equipment on an outside artificial ice rink in the States-Dominion League. In 1949, Cal Marvin led the effort to build the Warroad Memorial Arena. By 1950, the Lakers had joined the Northwest Hockey League, and, in 1955, won the United States Intermediate Championship against the Great Falls Americans.
The late fifties saw the continuing success of the Warroad Lakers under the coaching of Cal Marvin, as they expanded their play internationally. On the team were Bill and Roger Christian, who returned to the Lakers in 1964 in time to capture the Canadian Intermediate title from Kamloops, B.C., and take the Edmonton Journal Trophy. The Warroad Lakers became the first United States based team to claim a Canadian amateur hockey championship.
1974 saw the second Canadian Intermediate title captured from the Embrun, Ontario Panthers, earning them the Hardy Cup; a trophy that previously did not exist when they won their first title. While Canadians were not pleased Americans had won the title, they took pride in the fact fifteen of the twenty Warroad Lakers hailed from north of the border.
The early 1980′s welcomed even more success, but league problems began to plague the team. In 1985, the Lakers joined the Southeastern Manitoba league and were voted out by 1990. The league cited travel issues, but some think it was due to Warroad’s success, claiming league titles three of the five years.
In 1994, the Lakers joined the CASH league, carrying a 33-5 record into the finals. That year, for the first time on their own ice with only native-born players, Warroad claimed the Allan Cup. The team featured eleven former NCAA Division I college players.
The next year, the Lakers played an independent schedule and were going for their third Allan Cup in a row, a feat never before accomplished. They rose victorious with a 6-1 win over the Eagles.
The late nineties saw Warroad’s last season as the Lakers, unable to find a league to play in. In 2001, Warroad was briefly resurrected as the Islanders, but saw little success, and by 2003, discontinued playing competitive hockey.
-Dan “The Wisconsin Hockey Fan”