Late on a January afternoon, a yellow school bus heads east on Minnesota State Route 11, the single artery just beneath the Canadian border that connects Roseau and Warroad, a place that the Ojibwe used to call Ka-beck-a-nung or the “Trail of War,” for the blood spilled there with the Sioux. It has since become Hockeytown, and the only battles are waged on ice between the Roseau Rams and Warroad Warriors, one of the greatest rivalries in sport.
The bus carries the latest incarnation of the Roseau varsity, 20 boys becoming men and bearing the tradition of their town. Ryan Anderson, the goalie they call Bob, sits by himself gazing absently at the passing trees and wheat fields skimmed with snow. He visualizes himself inside the Warroad rink, catching a shot with his glove, turning another away with his pad. He feels the confidence that comes with those saves, but it’s harder to block out the thoughts that came last night, when he had lain awake knowing that not just his team but his people counted on him.
The road bends and in the falling darkness Bob can make out the pale blue Warroad water tower painted with crossed hockey sticks. At the corner of Cedar and Elk, Bob and his teammates grab their equipment bags and head inside the Warroad rink.