The scene was an unusual one, as the man with one skate in hand bolted out of the rink and to his pick-up truck where his own personal skate sharpener awaited.
It was nearly as odd when he returned, handed that skate to a Breck girls hockey coach, and watched as it traveled safely back to the Mustang locker room moments before the second period of Breck’s Jan. 30 visit to Minnetonka would begin.
In reality though, that was nothing compared to how Brian Schipper is back at his Brooklyn Park home.
Long ago, he turned a pond into a backyard ice rink for his children to play on. It wasn’t good enough, so he emptied his pockets leveling the backyard in order to construct an actual rink behind the house.
That ice surface was too small, however. So he moved the family into a house with a bigger yard and constructed a new rink for the kids to play on.
“They needed a place to play,” he explained last week inside Minnetonka’s Pagel Activity Center. “But the truth is, I love it. I love being the family with the backyard rink. I love being the dad who is going out to his truck, sometimes even in pouring rain, to sharpen a skate between periods. I’m going to miss that part of it.”
His days of being a hockey dad are far from over, but the chances of University of Minnesota women’s hockey coach Brad Frost green-lighting his skate-sharpening trips for the Gophers aren’t good.
At least, that’s what Brian’s daughter says.
Breck senior Kate Schipper will be playing for the Gophers a year from now, skating on a team that is currently in the midst of a NCAA record winning streak that most believe will end with a second consecutive national championship.
She has played all over the world already, having skated in each of the last two U18 World Champions for the United States National Team, and has been a statistical machine in her four-plus year career at Breck.
Last week, she also learned that, despite missing a chunk of the middle portion her season to play for the U.S. National Team in Finland, where she led the World Championships in scoring and was voted the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, she was still named one of 10 finalists for the Ms. Hockey Award.
As a player Schipper appears to have it all. As a kid, at least in terms of hockey, she always did.
Dad made sure of it.
“I pretty much learned to play in my backyard,” Schipper said. “That is just what we did growing up. We were always outside playing hockey. We still are. That is probably one of my favorite spots in the world.”
A close second might be Breck’s Anderson Ice Arena, where last weekend, as the lone senior on this year’s Breck roster, Schipper played her final home game on a Senior Day dedicated solely to Schipper and a career unmatched by any forward in school history.
She will graduate as the team’s second all-time leading scorer, trailing only former Mustang and future Gopher teammate Milica McMillan.
Through last week’s game at Minnetonka, she had piled up 235 carer points. She has had 10 hat tricks, and had scored four goals in a game four different times with Breck.
She played a monumental role in helping the Mustangs win their first state championship last winter, and when the playoffs begin this week, she’ll need to have a similar impact should Breck repeat later this month.
Either way, her place in Breck hockey history is already at an unfathomable level.
“She is the best forward to come through the school, and it is not close,” said Breck head coach Chris Peterson. “She is in a category of greatness few high school players ever reach. Just look at what she did at World’s this year. I mean, it is tough to compare anyone to her.”
That has made for an interesting season in this, her final year at Breck.
The Mustangs roster is loaded with youth, including five eighth-graders and six ninth-graders.
Most are in their first year playing varsity hockey, skating alongside the legend that Schipper has become in that locker room.
“A lot of the kids were almost in awe of her early in the year,” Peterson said. “That was tough on Kate. She’s handled it pretty good, but she had to learn how to handle it. There were some testy times. She would get frustrated, but she’s really turned that into a positive. She’s teaching them so much.”
Schipper would like nothing else than to offer one more lesson on the ins and outs of the Xcel Energy Center.
The Mustangs have been a state tournament team each of the last three years, and they’ll enter the search for a forth consecutive trip to St. Paul as the likely No. 2 seed behind Blake – seeds for the tournament weren’t announced until after this edition of the paper went to press – when the postseason begins later this week.
“Coming off the tournament last year, I don’t know if it could get any better than that,” she said. “But it would be fun to bring all the younger kids there and let them experience it, because they have no idea. Until you play there, you have no idea what it is like playing at the Xcel Energy Center. It would be awesome if we can get them that opportunity.”