Fly or Die: An Oral History of the Flyers
January 9, 2018
Players trying out for any sport do so in fear of getting cut, but for BSM boys’ hockey players, there is a place for those who do not manage to make the Red Knights––the SLP Flyers.
The St. Louis Park Flyers have a legacy that one would not expect from a second-tier high school hockey team. The Flyers consist primarily of ex-Red Knight hockey players who have either been cut or simply didn’t want to play at the varsity level anymore. They compete at a hockey level called Junior Gold A, which, if you had to guess based on seeing a game, looks like a college intramural league.
The Flyers, a team made up of some of the scrappiest and most skilled hockey players off the varsity stage, are known for being laid back and energetic. They love to win and they are all happy that they can keep playing the sport they love.
As for the fans, the atmosphere of Flyers games continues to be a highlight. Without any school to regulate how the fan sections behaves, nasty chants and general chaos create a game atmosphere that is truly an experience.
What else causes such a laid-back team to have such a following? This oral history about the Flyers offers an explanation of how these players got where they are, and why they believe the game atmosphere and spirit of Flyers hockey rivals that of varsity hockey everywhere, and even the high school powerhouse that is the Benilde St. Margaret’s Red Knights.
Photo Courtesy of the 2017 Sports Writing Class
The Flyers are a hockey team formed by the St. Louis Park Hockey Association in association with Benilde-St. Margaret’s in 2009 to provide students with a recreational, less-stressful alternative to the BSM JV and varsity hockey teams. The Flyers, usually entirely comprised of BSM students, play at the Junior Gold level against other rec teams. Only a year after their initial creation, they went on to win the State Championship.
Johnny Khalil, a former player for the BSM Red Knights, returning Flyer: It’s great hockey, stress free, and they could be good enough to beat some bad JV or varsity teams. You are just playing for fun. You have fun playing the game you love and you are not as stressed. Varsity is very stressful; you need to manage your time better, the competition level is higher, but Flyers is less stressful and more fun.
Ken Pauly, BSM varsity head coach: It makes it easier [for me] because you know they [players who have been cut] have a place to go. They can still play with their friends on the team. Not everyone chooses to play for the Flyers. Cutting people is one of the hardest things to have to do as a coach, but it’s life. Everyone gets cut from something. Some take it harder than others, but once they get over the initial disappointment, they can rediscover their love for the game.
Caelan Woog, first-year center for the Flyers: The Flyers exist because Junior Gold is considered “youth hockey” which is played through your city’s association. Since BSM is a private school, they don’t have a particular association that they can allow their students to play Junior Gold through, so they have come up with an agreement with the St. Louis Park Hockey Association to form a team of BSM students that will be eligible to play Junior Gold through St. Louis Park’s hockey association. Although it is through SLP, it is made up almost entirely of BSM students.
Ken Pauly: A chance for the guys to get back to playing the game for fun. It’s pure fun. A lot of the time you have to deal with the BS surrounding programs but this team is meant to be all for fun. It’s just meant to be fun rather than a competition against others.
Amy Murnan, mother of existing player Rory Murnan: I think they exist for people who either don’t want to play at a competitive level or can’t. It gives them an opportunity to keep playing.
Theresa Deterding, mother of two former Flyers: When you have played a game since you were 3 or 4 years old, you aren’t ready to give it up while you’re still in high school. I am grateful for Flyers; it provided my boys with more years of playing hockey and more memories with their friends and teammates.
Tommy Anderson, third-year player for the Flyers: I got cut from the Benilde varsity team, and it was probably best thing that could have happened to me.
Ken Pauly: [Getting cut is] apart of moving on; I don’t regret my past decisions. It ends for everyone. It can end for you from being cut by a team or at the end of the State Tournament. We encourage guys to consider trying out again, but it doesn’t happen a lot.
Jay Biwer, former Flyer: It isn’t as stressful as BSM hockey, but you can put as much stress on it as you want. It’s still hockey, and it’s still competitive every single game.
Riley Burns-Goetzmann, a former hockey player who was cut from the 2017 team and his brother played for the team last year: The Flyers have players from Benilde hockey; the boys have nothing to lose and a couple studs that were cut from the Benilde team. Leonard, Coughlin, and Khalil were some of the best players for Red Knights. The Flyers have the best sports program at Benilde.
Cole Knickelbine, third-year Flyer: Flyers is a great way to play hockey without losing class time and you get to play more games. Flyers is really light hearted and you get to play hockey with your boys which is what makes it so great.
Ken Pauly: It bothers me that people try to pit the teams against each other. They were originally created to support each other.
Practice Makes the Flyer
Practice for most sports is seen as boring or inconvenient to the players’ everyday routine, but most guys on the Flyers, whether players or managers, look forward to practices because they are a time to meet up with everyone on the team. Due to their two games a week, the team only practices two to three times each week from 7:30-9:00pm. This limited time forces the team to work together and bond at each practice.
Jay Biwer: Practice never interfered with my school work, and I had time to go home and rest before practice. Practice itself was enjoyable, but the players and coaches treated it with a lot of intensity.
Johnny Khalil: I like to have free time in between school and practice. I loved and will love practicing at night.
Al Brask, assistant coach of the Flyers: I enjoy practice at any time of the day.
Rory Murnan: I’m fine with [practicing] during the weekdays; however, it interrupts the weekends like on Saturday night.
Cole Knicklebine: BSM gets the good practice times. You are very tired after practice and don’t want to do anything when you get home.
Turner Wine: I don’t have to [go to practice,] but I sometimes do for fun.
Alex Webert, first-year Flyer: [Practices can be a grind,] especially if I have homework to do still. Sometimes we will have games starting at 8:30, and we won’t get home until 11:30.
Caelan Woog: I live over half an hour away. It is a pain to have to drive home after school, do my homework, and then drive back to SLP for Flyers practice every night.
Ryan Anderson: My favorite player on the team is the first guy on the ice for practice.
Photo Courtesy of the 2017 Sports Writing Class
Flyers, Get Fired Up
For the any hockey player, getting ready for a game is crucial. For the Flyers, preparation starts hours before the game, with players taking naps, going home after school, listening to music, and dancing. They have to get in a focused mindset and make sure they are ready to put it all on the line for the next 45 minutes.
Caelan Woog: Normally I eat a light meal before I leave to go to the rink. I then get to the rink one hour early and warm up, re-tape my sticks, and listen to music to get me pumped up.
Alex Webert: Pre-game nap. I’ll go home after school and take a 30-minute nap before games.
Cole Knickelbine: Dancing in the locker room, Lots of joking around.
Rory Murnan: I listen to music and tape my stick. My playlist has 346 songs.
Jay Biwer: [When I was on the team,] I blasted music and taped my sticks.
Braeden Fitzgerald: I take a lot of pre workout to get really hyped. Even though I’m not playing, I want to be pumped from the stands.
Rowdy = Atmosphere at a Flyers Game
In the Merriam Webster Dictionary, the definition of rowdy should be: “A Flyers game.” The games truly are unmatched as far as entertainment goes. The fans, players, and Twitter account all make Flyers’ game- days something to be excited about. Attending these games gives an experience like no other.
Johnny Khalil: The fans are rowdy and you are just always having fun. Nothing matters because it is just fun hockey.
Ken Pauly: Comparing the Red Knight games to Flyers games is a false choice because they are two different kind of games. It’s like choosing your favorite children….The lack of school “fences” allow the players to play a little more dirty.
Coach Anderson: It’s extremely fun to see the fans come out and see the games; hopefully, we can see them coming out in March.
Jay Biwer: Every time I stepped on the ice, I felt a huge rush of adrenaline even if I was dead tired. The fans really knew how to support and motivate the guys.
Theresa Deterding: I look forward to going to the games; the games are exciting and the fans are entertaining.
Eric Weber: Flyers games can get pretty heated, I was in the fan section for the White Bear Lake game and a couple of fans who shall remain nameless got into quite the verbal argument with some sketchy parents.
Tommy Anderson: The league made the handshake at the beginning of the game rule to prevent fights and brawls at the end of games.
Riley Miller, not a hockey fan, however still a Flyer fan: I like to get into the game and really yell. My favorite part is screaming at the other team’s parents.
Sammy Deterding, sister of two former Flyers players: My favorite memory is when both of my brothers got kicked out of the same game. Mason kicked someone, and Connor got into a fight.
Carter Uphus, Flyers manager: I have been following the Flyers for many years now. I have been a bystander watching games, and this season, I truly want to be apart of something great. It is a honor to be apart of such a great legacy.
Amy Murnan: I like that they [the students] want to cheer for their friends, but I do think it could be done in a more appropriate manner.
Photo Courtesy of the 2017 Sports Writing Class
The Flyers are tight knit group of guys who share a love for the game and a camaraderie unlike most other varsity sports teams. With this sense of camaraderie and enthusiasm comes fierce competition and gameplay and a tendency to compare the Flyers to the Red Knights. On the ice, however, the unfortunate people who receive the brunt of this usually violent enthusiasm are the Minnetonka Warriors, the main rivals of the SLP Flyers.
Tommy Anderson: In the State Quarterfinal game against the Minnetonka Warriors in 2016, we had maybe the biggest student section in Flyers history against our biggest rivalry. It was awesome.
Charlie Quinn (Warriors defenseman): The SLP Flyers…they suck dude. We lose to them, and it upsets everyone, and then everyone’s in a bad mood for the rest of the week. Practices end up more physical which kind of sucks for me.
Johnny Khalil: When I was on the team as a sophomore, I got into a fight against Minnetonka in the State Tournament.
Tommy Anderson: Flyers games became exciting because the hits are bigger, especially when we play big rivalry games.
Alex Traxler (Warriors center): I don’t really have team grudges, but I definitely hate some kids that we play. Our team rivalry is definitely [the Flyers]––the games are always pretty fun though, they end up pretty physical and fast.
Will They Raise Another Trophy?
As the hockey season starts to heat up, the Flyers have just finished tryouts and are now seeing the makeup of this year’s team. From the start expectations have been high, as many newcomers to the Flyers program join their ranks. The team is confident in their abilities and expects success, including a deep State run.
Al Brask: I’m optimistic at a good run in the State Tournament.
Cole Knickelbine: State Champs, no doubt. With the new players, there is no reason they shouldn’t be in State, potentially even win.
Rory Murnan: We are trying to win State.
Alex Webert: State Championship baby!
Rory Murnan: I think we have the best talent [this year]. Other teams previously have had just as much talent; however, this year we are the frontrunners.
Amy Murnan: [Rory] has been saying that they should be good this year, so I have to believe him and say that they should be good.
The Biggest Beauties
Perhaps the most vital piece of information about the history of the Flyers is the favorite players from the past and the present. Coaches, family, players, and fans were asked who their favorite player is, and the variety of answers gives us insight as to which players are fan-favorites and why.
Johnny Khalil: Johnny Brask due to the fact that he is fun to play with, and he is a funny guy. He represents the Flyers very well.
Amy Murnan: Rory [Murnan].
Riley Burns-Goetzman: Rory. He’s just a beauty. A beauty is an intangible thing with style and the skill of hockey or other sports. Can’t really explain it.
Rory Murnan: Not including myself, my favorite Flyer would have to be Tommy Anderson, and an up-and-coming favorite might be Caelen Woog.
Tommy Anderson: Myself. That sounds greedy though, let me say someone else… Quinn Ehlen.
Caelen Woog: Probably John Khalil just because he’s the funniest and most entertaining guy on and off the ice, yet he boasts a true passion for the game.
Cole Knickelbine: Danny Jensen [who is a former Flyer who graduated from BSM in 2017] trying to be 5th year Flyer always brings the energy. Great guy to be around on the ice.
Jay Biwer: My favorite all-time Flyer was Mikey Lamb. I played on the first line with him, and he could absolutely light the lamp. I didn’t score a whole lot, but I assisted on most of his goals, and he led the team in goals.
Ryan Anderson: My favorite player of all time would have to be Danny Jenson.
Tyler Anderson: My favorite player of all time was Adam Clark, 2011. My favorite Flyer this year is the new coach Chad Holton.
Theresa Deterding: Would have to be a Deterding.
Al Brask: Favorite player of all time is Ryan Butts in 2010. He was a D1 lax player and an absolute savage. (When Brask was asked about his favorite player this year, ‘I plead the 5th Amendment’ was his response.)
Ken Pauly: A lot of them. Top current: Quinn Ehlen or Cole Knickelbine. Few years back would be: Blake Castaneda. Actually, it’s their coach. The salad on Cole Knickelbine isn’t bad.