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Locals enjoy hockey with Alexandria-based team

Morris Area's Carter Fults (in mobile sled) handles the puck during the Minnesota Wild Special Hockey's scrimmage against Morris Benson Area Sunday, Jan. 7 at the Lee Community Center in Morris. Also pictured being pushed in the chair by MBA varsity player Zach Bruns is Morris Area's Carsen Schmidgall. Brooke Kern / Stevens County Times1 / 25
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Three Morris Area athletes, and their families, who were looking for a team found one in the Minnesota Wild Special Hockey team in Alexandria.

Tim Boettcher, Carter Fults, and Carsen Schmidgall joined the hockey team the same year. It’s one of 13 teams in a league that gives special needs players of all ages the opportunity to play hockey competitively. The Alexandria-based team includes players from age seven to players in their mid-30s.

Carsen has been on the team since he was five years old. It has been a tremendous opportunity for the now nine-year-old, both his parents said.

“He was just a little tyke out there,” mother Kelly Schmidgall said of when Carsen first started playing. “There’s not a lot of sports that we can include him in around [Morris], especially when he was that young. You can’t be in special olympics track and field until you’re eight, so that’s why [this team] was such a great opportunity for him. He likes it.”

“It’s important that he’s active in something,” father Matt Schmidgall said. “We won’t let our other kids be in hockey, but he gets to be… We really just wanted him to be a part of a team.”

Finding the team has also benefited Tim Boettcher and Carter Fults, two Morris Area students that are wheelchair-bound and play the game in mobile sleds.

“I remember being so nervous, along with Tim, that first year they got the sleds,” Tim’s mother Lori Boettcher said. “Tim and Carter are basically sitting on the ice as hockey sticks are being swung at a puck that is literally at body level for Tim and Carter. I was definitely a nervous mom, but my husband thought it was great.”

“We learned about the Minnesota Special Hockey opportunity four or five years ago, asked Carter if he wanted to play and the rest was history. Hockey has been his thing ever since,” Carter’s mother Jennifer Fults said.

Playing hockey at a competitive level is something that most special needs players never believed they would be able to do, said Dale Adams, who is the head coach of the Alexandria team.

“Carsen is a prime example,” Adams said. “When you look him in the eye and ask him about the game, you may be left wondering if he’s enjoying it. But then you look at his face when he’s being pushed around the ice on his chair and the corners of his mouth are touching his ear lobes and you know!”

The competitive aspect is why Carter enjoys playing in the league.

“I like being competitive and going fast,” Carter said. “Football is still at the top [as far as favorite sports], but there’s nothing for football so I play hockey.”

“Special hockey is competitive enough for him where he’s like this will work, this is my thing, I’m a hockey player now and he has never looked back,” Jennifer Fults said.

The season, much like a typical winter sports season, runs from the first weekend in November through March, a pretty hefty time commitment for families who travel nearly an hour from Morris every week.

“Pretty much every Sunday through that time period, it’s a commitment,” said Matt Schmidgall.

The opportunity to stay home and play in Morris Sunday, Jan. 7 happened because the ice couldn’t get reserved at the Runestone Community Center in Alexandria, the teams’ normal practice site.

“It just happened to work out that [Morris] had a slot open for us [that day],” Jennifer Fults said.

“Then our coach said well maybe some of their local hockey players wanted to get in a scrimmage so we put the word out and everybody showed up,” Carter’s father Joe Fults said.

Nearly 40 players from the Morris Benson Area peewee, bantam, and varsity boys and girls teams showed up to either be a part of the opposing team or to be pushers for those players that use chairs or sleds to play the game. The support from the Morris community off the ice was evident as well, MBA hockey senior Ashford Swenson said.

“I was happy with the turnout [of players] and with how many people came to watch. It wasn’t just hockey parents. People came that didn’t have to be there, they just came out on their own free time to come watch. I thought that was really cool,” Swenson said.

“I can’t believe we got the support from everybody, they wouldn’t have to do it,” Kelly Schmidgall said. “It’s good for the teams from [MBA] to see that these kids with adaptive sleds and chairs can play, too. Just to have the support is really nice. Carsen is smiling, he knows this is pretty special.”

Everyone is hopeful that the scrimmage turns into an annual event.

“Tim is already looking forward to playing the MBA teams next year when he plans to return to the ice,” Lori Boettcher said.

Brooke Kern

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