For a group of 10 to 15 year old kids from Duluth in 1951, playing hockey was just a way of life. That way of life turned out to be something more magical than any of them could have imagined. The Glen Avon Pee Wees, as they came to call themselves, would go on to Madison Square Garden to play for the national championships.
It all started when Robert Fryberger Sr. began constructing a rink in his yard, the original Glen Avon.
“Robert Fryberger Sr. had constructed the rink over the family garden,” said Jeremey Downs, a current board member of Glen Avon.
Kids from the neighborhood would come over to the Frybergers' rink and skate for countless hours, wearing hand-me-down skates, choppers, and heavy coats to defend against frostbite. The kids would continue hacking at the puck with their wooden sticks until icicles formed in their nostrils and their cheeks became red.
Due to the overwhelming popularity of the rink, Fryberger purchased a lot across from their house in 1947. This rink still stands to this day and kids are free to use it at their discretion.
“It’s free to use as long as the people take care of it themselves,” Downs said. “Typically a puck and shovel can be found there awaiting players”.
According to a PBS Eight documentary, “Champions: Coach Bob Fryberger and the 1951 Glen Avon Pee Wees,” with help from his sons Fryberger was able to form a team of boys from the area, aged 10-15.
The kids were responsible for playing the games, and their parents were responsible for shoveling and taking care of the rink. The team’s sweater designs were made by the “hockey moms” and featured the words "Glen Avon" stitched in white across the chest, against the red background.
They understood how to play both sides of the puck, and play with a certain elegance that would allow them to dance around opposing players.
Before they would head to New York to play in the national championships, they had to make it through both the city and state championship games.
The Glen Avon Pee Wees won both games, securing their chance to play in the national championship at Madison Square Garden.
The team rushed to get donations to fund the trip to the tournament. They ended up getting enough money from donations to fund the trip to New York, as well as the hotel and other expenses.
After raising the necessary funds, the team boarded a train and off they went to New York.
The thought of being “tourists” had to soon leave them, as they were in New York to compete for a national championship.
According to the PBS documentary, Glen Avon faced off against Lynn, Mass. in their first game. Lynn was the team that was favored to win it all. The players had full equipment: helmets, padded gloves, and shoulder pads. The Glen Avon Pee Wees, meanwhile, wore hand-me-down equipment, and seemed too undersized to make a run to the championship.
Somehow, the under-equipped team from Duluth went on to shock the heavily favored Lynn team, winning 3-2 in overtime. This stunning victory meant that the Pee Wees from Glen Avon would play for a chance to win it all.
In the championship game, the Glen Avon Pee Wees faced off against a team from New Haven, Conn.
According to a New York Times article written about the game, Captain Bill Beaudry and Dick Moore led the Glen Avon team. Both scored two goals, and Beaudry registered an assist. The Glen Avon Pee Wees defeated New Haven 4-2, taking home the title of National Champions.
Upon returning to Duluth in the middle of the night, the new national champions were greeted by masses of people, according to the PBS documentary. At Union Station 5,000 people welcomed the champions back. 10,000 people celebrated the homecoming of the champions on Superior St. in Duluth.
This team not only won a championship, but as Downs stated, they “ignited interest in Duluth hockey again.”