The transformation was stunning.
Before the 2022-23 hockey season began, the Eden Prairie Hockey Legacy Campaign made a significant splash, unveiling state-of-the-art locker rooms – fully remodeled and reimagined – for the Eden Prairie High School boys and girls hockey teams at the Eden Prairie Community Center.
Jaws dropped and eyes widened as players from both the boys’ and girls’ teams entered the locker rooms for the very first time in what was a watershed moment for the hockey program.
“The partnership that took place was remarkable,” Eden Prairie girls hockey head coach Steve Persian said at the unveiling in Nov. 2022.
A Herculean effort by volunteers and parents, coaches and administrators, brought the project to fruition, resulting in a permanent “home away from home” for generations of athletes; a treasured gathering space to create memories before, during and after competing on the ice.
“It will reinvent the program,” Persian said on the day of the ribbon-cutting ceremony, calling the new rooms “a place to create culture.”
“That’s what makes it special,” he added.
Boys hockey head coach Mike Terwilliger called the space “something you aspire to,” adding, “It’s a huge jolt of positive energy to the program and the community.”
The Legacy Campaign raised $350,000 during Phase 1 of the project, which included transforming the locker rooms and painting the Rink 1 entryway in Eden Prairie’s colors of red and black.
Now, the dedicated volunteers and leaders of the Legacy campaign are doubling down, with sights set on raising $50,000 to implement Phase 2 of the project, which will finance the reimagining of the Rink 1 entrance at Eden Prairie Community Center.
Phase 2: Honoring Eden Prairie hockey
“What we did last year, yes, it was awesome. The kids love it. But now it’s time to build on it,” says Joel Klute, chair of the Eden Prairie Legacy Program and father of Chase Klute, a junior forward on the Eden Prairie High School boys varsity hockey team.
The objective of the campaign: to create a space which honors teams and players whose achievements have brought prestige to Eden Prairie hockey.
Klute said the specifics in this second initiative include dedicating an alumni wall and encouraging future generations to build on its initial design – with images of teams and players who have brought excellence to the program.
“We have a history,” Klute said. “We have six NHL players and three professional women’s hockey players. They should be recognized, and so should all the kids who have gone on to play at that next level.”
Once the redesign is complete, the Legacy campaign faithful envision an authentic community space, one which welcomes visitors with an unmistakable greeting: this is the definitive home of Eden Prairie hockey.
Heather Koering is a longtime volunteer and mother of Eagles’ junior defenseman Nick Koering, as well as last season’s captain Ryan Koering, now playing in the USHL.
She points to Braemar Arena in Edina and the Pagel Activity Center in Minnetonka as inspiration, both venues awash in the colors of their respective hockey organizations, featuring walls adorned with outstanding achievements from past teams and players.
“That’s our goal when you walk into EPCC; we want it to look like you’re walking into Eden Prairie,” she said. “Here’s our great history and our state championship teams.”
Klute said while the Legacy program recognizes the community center is a City of Eden Prairie facility, they aspire to personalize the building, believing that creating a greater sense of community will help the hockey organizations – at both the youth and high school levels – attract players and their families.
“It’s just building a tradition,” Klute said. “People want to come to Eden Prairie, and kids get excited to play here. And they’ll say, ‘someday I hope I get my name on that wall like Casey Mittelstadt, Nick Leddy and Nick Seeler.’”
Friday fundraiser: Mid-Season Celly
To kick off Phase 2 of the campaign, the Legacy program will host a fundraising event at the Chanhassen American Legion, 290 Lake Drive E., on Friday, Jan. 26, starting at 6 p.m.
The first annual “Mid-Season Celly” party and fundraiser will have appetizers and a cash bar to treat guests who are invited to participate in 50/50 cash raffles as well as a 50-bottle wine and spirits pull.
There’s also a silent auction featuring more than 60 items, including signed jerseys and sticks, golf outings, tickets to Minnesota Wild games, dining experiences, beer/wine tastings, salon & spa baskets, and tailgate packages.
Bidding will open at 6 p.m. and close at 9 p.m.
All community members are welcome; and all proceeds will support the Eden Prairie Legacy Campaign’s Phase 2 initiative.
Admission is $20. Tickets can be purchased in advance or at the door. Those interested in attending the event – or making an online donation – are invited to visit www.ephockeylegacy.com for more information.
“It’s a great opportunity to bring together not just the high school parents, but also the association parents and the alumni and anyone else who’s a hockey fan in our community,” Koering said.
Klute is encouraged the initiative is a mutual partnership with both the boys and girls programs and hopes the gathering is the first in an annual event for years to come for the Legacy program.
“We’re hoping the Mid-Season Celly is around to stay,” he said, adding with a wink. “We all know hockey parents usually like to have a good time and spend some money, so we’ll see how we do.”
And being a true Minnesota hockey parent, Klute couldn’t help but provide a bit of inspiration for the Eden Prairie boys hockey team, who just happen to have a big game after the Mid-Season Celly.
“We play Edina on Saturday night at home,” he said with a smile. “So what better way to start the weekend with a big party on Friday and beat Edina on Saturday.”
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