In the front row

by Tom Coombe Echo editor

Ely area resident Ben Mauser watched Tuesday’s high school boys basketball game between Ely and Tower-Soudan with plenty of interest, and a good deal of pride and satisfaction.<BR><BR>It was thanks to nearly two years of effort by the 80-year-old Mauser, a retired Ely teacher, that the Timberwolves and Golden Eagles played for more than position in the Arrowhead Conference standings.<BR><BR>Tuesday’s contest at Tower, won by the Timberwolves 64-57, was for the Gold Brick, a traveling trophy brought back to life by Mauser after a hiatus of more than 50 years.<BR><BR>Mauser pored through decades-old newpapers and yearbooks, put the call out to Iron Rangers who were part of the sports scene in the 1940s and 1950s and even had school officials digging into old trophy cases and storage areas in search for the original Gold Brick, which was traded from Ely to Gilbert to Virginia to Eveleth and many other schools that formed the old District 27 conference.<BR><BR>Ever since Mauser first publicized his search through this newspaper several months ago, he’s heard from numerous basketball fans.<BR><BR>Some remembered the days when the Gold Brick served as our area’s Little Brown Jug, the traveling trophy between the football teams at the University of Minnesota and University of Michigan.<BR><BR>Others thought it would be great if area schools would dust off the Gold Brick and bring it back to the high school basketball scene.<BR><BR>The original was never found, so Mauser did the next best thing, recreating the old trophy and getting two Gold Bricks crafted, one for local boys basketball teams, the other for girls squads.<BR><BR>And after talking to school officials, he convinced them to put the Brick back on the line in a three-way battle among Ely, Babbitt-Embarrass and Tower-Soudan.<BR><BR>Tuesday’s victory by the Wolves gave them the Gold Brick, which will be defended Jan. 10 when they visit Babbitt-Embarrass. The first girls game is two nights later, when Ely takes on Tower-Soudan.<BR><BR>Mauser’s work is now over and he was able to enjoy his labors when the Wolves and Golden Eagles squared off.<BR><BR>“It’s a big load off my shoulders,” said Mauser. “ It’s been a year-and-a-half that I’ve been looking at it, but it’s been a lot of fun. You can’t believe the number of people who talked to me about it.”<BR><BR>Mauser said he hopes the Gold Brick builds interest in the games involving the area schools, and he’s been happy to see the enthusiasm shown by Ely players about the traveling trophy.<BR><BR>The Wolves were clearly a happy bunch on Tuesday. As soon as their victory was complete and the postgame handshakes were completed, they grabbed their spoils. Senior Steve Milkovich went to the scorer’s table, where the Gold Brick was placed for the game, and lifted it high into the air. Cheers and photos followed.<BR><BR>And smiling through it all was Mauser, who passed a gift of history to a new generation.<BR><BR>“It couldn’t have gone any better,” he said.<BR><BR>• It’s holiday tournament time, with 12 basketball games in Ely this week, and the boys and girls hockey teams going on the road for tournament action.<BR><BR>With six visiting teams, not to mention coaches and fans, the Ely event provides a nice post-Christmas boost to the local economy. Most teams will spend at least two nights in town.<BR><BR>The boys basketball tournament at Cook is more of a local affair and usually provides a midseason glimpse at the power structure in the north half of Section 7A.<BR><BR>Mt. Iron-Buhl, the defending 7A titleist, again looks like the team to beat. The Rangers, behind dynamic guard D.J. Winfield, have blown out several foes already.<BR><BR>• Even though they drew large and enthusiastic crowds here the last two years, the Minnesota Twins won’t stop in Ely during their 2006 Winter Caravan.<BR><BR>The schedule for the annual off-season goodwill tour was released Monday, and Ely was noticeably absent.<BR><BR>Club officials said they’re open to return in the future but couldn’t fit Ely into its northern swing in 2006. The closest the Twins get to Ely is Hibbing for a Jan. 24 event with catcher Mike Redmond, utility man Michael Cuddyer and radio broadcaster Dan Gladden.<BR><BR>The last two years, the Twins’ visit doubled as a fundraiser for youth baseball and luncheon events drew crowds of about 200 people to Grand Ely Lodge.<BR><BR> Twins President Dave St. Peter said Tuesday that Ely would likely be part of the Twins’ 2007 caravan.<BR><BR>• Former Ely skiers Jenna Klein and Kelly Chaudoin are both competing at the college level.<BR><BR>Klein is skiing at NCAA Division I Michigan Tech while Chaudoin is on the roster at Gustavus Adolphus, an NCAA Division III school.<BR><BR>Both were part of the Timberwolves’ second-place state meet team last season.<BR><BR>• Hibbing and Hermantown may have separated themselves from the rest of the Section 7A boys hockey field in recent days.<BR><BR>In Warroad, Hibbing knocked off the defending Class A champions 7-5. The Bluejackets are 5-1 and also own impressive wins over Breck and Hastings. Hermantown blanked defending section champion Virginia 6-0 on Tuesday night.<BR><BR>Former Ely Timberwolf Logan Hoche was in nets for the Blue Devils.<BR><BR>• Marty Anderson, a 1994 Ely graduate, is behind the bench as an assistant coach with the Albert Lea boys hockey program.<BR><BR>Anderson has been an assistant for several years for the defending Section 1A champions.