Hermantown’s homegrown heroWith thousands of local fans and many more watching from around the country, Kyle Schmidt became an instant sensation when he scored the winning goal for the University of Minnesota Duluth’s first NCAA men’s hockey championship at St. Paul’s Xcel Center on April 9. Back home in the Northland last week, Schmidt appeared humble, grounded in family values and his Hermantown roots. For his success he gives credit to the tightknit community of hockey moms and dads.
By: Joe Cadotte, Duluth Budgeteer News
With thousands of local fans and many more watching from around the country, Kyle Schmidt became an instant sensation when he scored the winning goal for the University of Minnesota Duluth’s first NCAA men’s hockey championship at St. Paul’s Xcel Center on April 9.
Back home in the Northland last week, Schmidt appeared humble, grounded in family values and his Hermantown roots. For his success he gives credit to the tightknit community of hockey moms and dads.
“They’re there flooding the rinks so their kids can spend countless hours practicing,” Schmidt told the Budgeteer News. “The parents are the biggest supporters of youth hockey organizations. I don’t know how they do it. They work during the day and run kids all over the place. It starts with the parents and continues through the pride that all the coaches have.”
Throughout his childhood Schmidt fantasized about playing for the Bulldogs while looking up to Hermantown hockey icons. “B.J. Radovich, Jon Francisco, Dan Knapp, the list goes on,” he said. “The pictures are all hanging up at the Hermantown rink. I’m glad I’m able to be part of the history in Hermantown.”
Schmidt is about to graduate from UMD with a degree in statistics and actuarial science. He has an agent and plans to play professional hockey in the United States or Europe. He plans to earn a master’s degree at UMD when his career in hockey is over.
But he remembers his roots, and says family commitment to hockey is contagious in Hermantown, where his mother prepared spaghetti dinners for his teams the night before the games.
Schmidt’s mother, Kris Young, says those dinners began when he was in the Peewee league.
“A lot of hockey is mental,” she said. “I told them, ‘This will give you the energy you need to play hard the entire game and beat the other teams.’ ”
She also made frosted sugar cookies and hard rock candy, telling the team the candy would bring them goals. It would be come to be called “Magic Candy “ in later years.
In the past year, she hasn’t had many dinners for the team, but she got back into the swing of things and had the team over right before they played in Amsoil Arena for the first time.
“You know, he got his hand broke the night before the first game at Amsoil” she said. “They (the whole team) helped with clearing (the dinner table).”
His father, Bob Schmidt, reminisced about Kyle’s early love for the game. “He had the desire from when he was still in diapers to play the game. He had a little short stick and he’d bat anything on the ground as a puck,” he said.
Although his dad says Kyle pretty much stayed out of trouble, he recalled one incident of childhood mischief.
“When he was 3 years old, I had the hood up on the van in the driveway and I heard a weird noise. I walked around to the back of the van and the back window was spider-cracking. I asked Kyle ‘What did you do?’ and he said ‘I throw rock.’ He was trying to hit the license plate. It was innocent, I was mad but I couldn’t help but to laugh.”
Bob Schmidt coached Kyle for five years starting at age 5. As a Squirt, Kyle remembers how his dad’s coaching hardened him into a determined hockey player.
“I learned to tie my skates pretty fast,” Kyle said. “To have him around at all the games, and now following me around to Texas, Fairbanks, Iowa, and Montana; to have my entire family in the Frozen Four and be there for that moment is something special.”
He also realizes he’s something special to aspiring Northland hockey players.
“Realistically, kids probably look up to me at some point. I just hope I’m a decent role model for them and point them in the right direction,” Kyle said.