Follow up with Predators Hockey, five years after its first championship win.
Hockey in Minnesota. It is as beloved as a warm hotdish straight from the oven. Local fans look forward to our tundra-like environment if it means hockey is back.
For residents, the Woodbury Area Hockey Club (WAHC) offers exposure and training in the sport for skaters as young as 3 years old. From there, the program expands and develops, adding teams by age and skill level, all the way through high school. Teams include, from youngest to oldest: Termites, Mini Mites, Mites, Squirt, PeeWee, Bantam and Jr. Gold. Each team also has three divisions based on skill. One of the most admirable aspects of the process is the acceptance of the vast range of skillsets kids bring to the table. Last year, 125 skaters showed up to try outs for the PeeWee team alone—an event that more so allows coaches to assess the talent, skillsets and personalities of the kids, while also keeping in mind the needs of the teams and association as a whole. More than 875 skaters showed up to try out for the seven different teams.
Let’s rewind. Back in 2018, the Predators PeeWee AA team participated in the Minnesota State championship and won the title—and Woodbury Magazine featured the team in its November 2018 issue.
It is hard to imagine a better feeling than winning the state championship. However, this past season (2022–23), five of the Predators teams—both girls and boys—went to state, and three of them won the title. As head coach Jeremy Bell says, “That’s never happened before. It’s unprecedented.”
To be successful at any sport, players at a minimum must develop dedication and perseverance. As a team, there are factors, such as training and skill refinement, strong coaching and teammate cohesion. But what is it about the Woodbury Predators specifically that makes them so successful? According to Bell, it is all that and more. “We had a very deep and solid team this year, which allowed us to have everybody play and contribute,” he says. “We truly won games and tournaments and state as a team.”
As he mentioned, WAHC is focused on fair play, meaning regardless of skill level within each team, equal ice time is prioritized by the coaches to encourage camaraderie between teammates and develop every skater’s talents. In addition, the coaching staff, who have varying levels of experience, often demonstrate an openness to sharing ideas and practice plans. The association sometimes even brings in skill development coaches to hone in on specific needs of teams and players.
Hockey mom Kristel Carlson knows the WAHC well, as two of her sons, Brecken and Kamdon, have won state championships with their Predator teams, one in 2018 and the other in 2023. She believes it’s the people who make such great teams.
“It’s a good community. Woodbury does a good job,” Carlson says. “In Woodbury, you grow up playing hockey with the same kids, up until high school.” As a result, and as with most competitive team sports, when a group of individual players grows close enough to perform as a single unit, it becomes like a family.
Bell says, “Most of the families at this age have known each other for a couple years. There are some relationships that are already there.” The team kicks off the year with a party to celebrate, set expectations and build communication channels with parents and families. The holiday party and end-of-season get-together are joyful, of course, but to Bell it was the trip to state that touched him most. “When we went to state, we got sponsorships lined up, so we could rent a coach bus for the kids and they could travel together,” he says. It is moments like those, which solidify a team as a family.
The regular season runs November through February. What’s on the roster for the team? Building on the momentum from last year and getting back to that same level of play. Oh, and a few trophies wouldn’t hurt either.