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Talking tourney, great hair with Barry Melrose

By By David La Vaque, 03/03/16, 5:00PM CST


David La Vaque has has worked as a Star Tribune high school sports reporter since 2004. His favorite tournament experiences include cheering for alma mater St. Paul Johnson in 1991 and staying for most of the Apple Valley/Duluth East marathon semifinal game in 1996. Loren Nelson has covered every state tournament since 2009 as the national media editor for Sport Ngin. He attended many, many other Tourney games as a high schooler from the far northern reaches of Minnesota making the annual pilgrimage south to the old St. Paul Civic Center in the 1980s.

Members of the Princeton hockey team hang out with ESPN hockey analyst Barry Melrose at 7th Street Barbers.

A 8x11 sheet of white paper reading “Closed today for filming” hung on the 7th Street Barbers door Thursday.

Inside, sitting in a barber chair, was Barry Melrose of ESPN fame. The former NHL player and coach turned broadcaster was in town, two miles southwest of Xcel Energy Center, to interview players, coaches and media members about the majesty of the boys’ high school hockey state tournament and the mystery of the Minnesota State High School All Hockey Hair Team.

The interviews are part of footage for a piece that will air on the sports network’s E:60 program in April.

What is it, Melrose and producers wanted to know, that makes this tournament an institution?

As we know, it’s a lot of things. Little kids on frozen ponds and backyard rinks, learning to love hockey as mom or dad pass down stories of tournaments past, stories they have in addition to the ones passed down from their parents.

The state tournament is about passionate hockey. Skilled hockey. Former pros and Olympians have played here, after all.

Melrose said he knows several pros who played in the tournament and knows how much the experience meant to all of them. He’s coming to the Xcel arena on Thursday evening to see for himself.

One thing, though. Melrose asked why the tournament has exploded in popularity in recent years. Well, the tournament’s popularity has remained high for decades, Mr. Melrose.

Howard Cosell visited. Sports Illustrated has written at least twice about the tournament. And Melrose’s ESPN colleague, Gary Thorne, called tournament games two years ago.

So there. Ha!

The next subject, the Minnesota State High School All Hockey Hair Team, is one none of us can claim expert status on.

That’s because the identity of the narrator/producer/writer is not publicly known. At least not widely known. The hilarious compilation first appeared on YouTube in 2011 and, thousands upon thousands of views later, has become a popular recap of players’ hair styles.

Melrose, no slouch in the salad department himself, zeroed in on the topic. To this, the answers aren’t as clear. It’s just another reason the tournament is a treasure.

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