Hockey jamboree means business

Youth hockey event set for this weekend; 15 teams will be in town

by Tom Coombe
Some hockey road trips spawned an idea.
The idea became reality and now Ely is home to another winter event that brings hundreds of people to town.
Now five years old, Ely’s Howler Jamboree brings youth hockey players of that age - and a few years older - to town for two days of fun.
Starting Saturday and using arenas both in Ely and Babbitt, the event includes 15 teams, about 200 skaters and coaches, and at least that many more family members and fans.
“It will be a packed house” said DeLana Forsberg, who helps coordinate the event for the Ely Blue Line Club.
The jamboree brings Mini-Mite and Mite teams together in a classic format, with 23 games in all - most at the Ely Arena.
Players range in age from Kindergarten to first grade for the Minis, and second and third grade for the Mites, and Ely will host multiple teams from the International Falls, Mesabi East and Virginia programs.
Forsberg was watching her own sons play hockey at similar events across the Iron Range when she and her husband Bill hatched a plan to hold a tournament here.
“We were going to all the other jamborees and we were driving home one day and said ‘we can do this in Ely,’” said Forsberg. “We can get together and promote this, and it’s a great way for our association to get some exposure and a great way for the town to get some benefits from tourism, with teams coming in and spending the weekend.”
Some local lodging establishments will fill because of the tournament, which has grown since its humble origins.
Just four teams were involved in the first year but that has grown to 15, requiring the addition of the rink in Babbitt.
“We can’t pull this off with one sheet of ice so on Saturday we’ll be utilizing the Babbitt Arena, which helps promote their arena,” said Forsberg.
Games begin at 8 a.m. Saturday and run until about 7 p.m., with Sunday’s slate starting at 9 a.m. and continuing until late afternoon.
Admission is free, but the Blue Line has several raffles and Ely’s Junior Rotarians will also be holding a fundraiser.
The event has become a staple on the Ely calendar and a boon to the community.
“There will be over 200 skaters and coaches, and that does not include families, and there are usually siblings, two parents, sometimes grandparents,” said Forsberg “It’s great for our association to have some income with the raffle and promote positivity.”