The Minnesota State High School Hockey Tournament has long been a tradition for White Bear Lake, despite the fact that since the inaugural tournament in 1945, the Bears have not made it past the consolation round.
During the first game of the first state tournament, held at the St. Paul Auditorium in February 1945, the White Bear Bears faced Thief River Falls. They fell 3–2 to the Thieves, as they were called locally. That loss didn’t come without a strong fight, and much credit was given to goaltender Buzz LeVasseur for keeping the score as close as it was. Other longtime White Bear names such as Vadnais, Keiffer, Shearen, Henkel, Heckel and Resler filled out the roster led by Coach Dick Bradley.
The following game against Staples proved to be a close one until the third period, when the Bears broke a 1–1 tie with four goals for the win and advancement to the consolation championship game. The final game was a 4-0 victory over Granite Falls for the consolation trophy.
At the award ceremony held in the auditorium on the White Bear High School campus, team captain James LeVasseur expressed the common sentiment that the Bears “would not be satisfied until we win first place.” Nearly 70 years and four additional consolation championships later, the White Bear Bears and their fans are still waiting for that first place trophy.
The White Bear community had a shot at the top prize in 1982 when the Mariner Dolphins made it all the way to the final game. Unfortunately, the Dolphins lost 6–0 to Edina and the coveted hardware was not to be had.
Sara Markoe Hanson is the executive director of the White Bear Lake Area Historical Society. She is one of a handful of community representatives sharing history thoughts monthly on the back page of our magazine. For more information on the first hockey tournament, visit whitebearhistory.org, or call 651.407.5327.