James Butler, Minneapolis boys' hockey
Walking the halls of Minneapolis Washburn, hockey player James Butler might be lucky to run into one or two of his teammates throughout the day.
“On game days if you wear your jersey, there are not a lot of people representing the team, so that is kind of a drawback,” said Butler, a senior captain who transferred last season from St. Thomas Academy.
Butler said he sometimes regrets the small size of the Minneapolis Hockey program. Only one co-op team represents all eight public schools in the city.
But with a new name, new jerseys and growing numbers, the defenseman believes that the program is poised to come back. His vantage point as a transfer student gives him an unusual perspective on the benefits and drawbacks of competing for a public school.
Q: Why did you transfer to Washburn?
A: I went (to St. Thomas Academy) because my brothers went there, and I didn’t really look at any other schools. I kind of had my mind set on going there but when I got there I just didn’t really fit in that well. It is a huge sports school. I didn’t even make the JV hockey team there, so that kind of put me out of the loop with everyone. I also had a bunch of friends at Washburn already.
Q: What is the biggest difference between the schools?
A: Washburn is a lot more crowded; there are a lot of people I don’t know. I see a new face pretty often. At STA it felt like some of the sports were really political. Like, if your brother was good at sports they were going to assume that you are also really good.
Q: What is it like to play for a co-op team?
A: I like it a lot, actually. I played hockey growing up in Minneapolis, so I know all of those guys. Some of them go to different schools, so this way we can all see each other. You get to see people you don’t usually get to see. And then there are also players who go to your own school.
Q: Do you think the program is growing?
A: I do. We actually have a freshman on the team this year — his name is Jacob Erickson — and he’s doing well. It used to be that kids from the Minneapolis Storm program would go off and play at private schools that are better at hockey. So that’s how it is now. I used to play with three of Holy Angels’ best players at Minneapolis (Storm).
Q: Is that frustrating?
A: I guess it is, but I also started at a private school so I can’t blame them that much. But at a certain point, it would be really nice to have those guys on the team.
Q: But that’s changing?
A: Our coach, Joe Dziedzic, is trying to change that; that’s why we changed the name from the Minneapolis Novas to Minneapolis Hockey. He’s trying to get the youth program and the high school program matched up so that it’s easier for us to get the youth kids to come to Minneapolis schools and rebuild the organization. He’s been doing a good job with that because some of the bantams this year are going to be going to Minneapolis high schools.
Q: Do you like the name change?
A: I like that we are trying to make them related. But they didn’t fully complete it because the youth program is Minneapolis Storm and we’re just Minneapolis Hockey, because we couldn’t make them exactly the same. But the logos are the same. I like that.
Q: What about the upcoming season?
A: We’ve improved a lot from last year, and hopefully we can keep that going. Last year we had a lot of sophomores. They didn’t have a lot of experience, but this year as juniors they are starting to produce.