John's Journal
Braemar Arena: The Heart of Edina Hockey1/6/2013
Since 1965, Braemar Arena has been the home of Edina hockey. To read Brian Jerzak's story about one of Minnesota's legendary arenas, click here.
Zach Gabbard: The Inside Story As Only A Mom Can Write It 1/3/2013
Every high school sports fan in Minnesota knows the Zach Gabbard story … or at least we think we do. The Perham basketball player collapsed on the court nearly two years ago, and his recovery and emotional return to his team provided memories that none of us will forget.

But there is much more to Zach’s story, especially from the first frightening days after his cardiac episode at the Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton gym and hospitalization in Fargo. Several times, doctors told Zach’s family that he would not surivive. They were asked if they wanted to see Zach one last time before he died.

But he did survive, and Zach’s story is told in a book written and self-published by his mother, Meridee Gabbard. The title is fitting: “You’re Never Promised Another Day.”

Writing the book and reliving those times was emotional for Meridee, who told me, “I cried the whole time I was writing. I was reliving it and crying.”

She wrote most of the book during the summer of 2011 but waited for the 2012 state tournament before finishing it. Perham won the Class 2A state championship in 2011 and finished third in 2012. In 2011 Zach surprised everyone by leaving a rehabilitation facility in St. Paul and joining his team for state tourney games at Williams Arena and Target Center. In 2012 he was back in uniform at state, watching the action from the bench.

Zach is now attending Minnesota State Community and Technical College in Fergus Falls and is a student manager for the men’s basketball team.

“He has some short-term memory problems and we’re working on that with him,” Meridee said. “Basketball has always been a passion for him.”

The book is a day-to-day diary of sorts, based largely on a journal that Meridee began keeping during the ordeal and postings on Zach’s CaringBridge website. The details are sometimes frightening …

“During the late afternoon hours Zach underwent his first open heart surgery to have the VAD inserted – this would allow his heart to rest. Some sort of cold thermal blanket, which reminded me of a silver air mattress, was placed on top of Zach’s body to keep his vitals cold; he remained in critical condition. Sometime after the surgery we were told that his vitals had weakened and he wasn’t going to make it. The doctor asked us if we wanted to go see him one last time. Preparing ourselves for the worst, Steve, Courtney and I went to talk to Zach and told him how much we loved him and that now was not his time. The three of us left the room sobbing beyond belief. Within minutes after talking to Zach the doctor came and told us that his vitals had improved and he was doing better!”

Meridee survived a brain tumor in 1982 and she leaned on her own experience when her son’s life was in danger.

“During those first few days when the doctors kept saying, ‘He’s not going to make it,’ for me, it was my brain tumor; ‘He IS going to make it.’ I knew he could hear us.”

Meridee told me that writing a book was something she never thought she would do, but the process was therapeutic for her.

“There were a lot of people during this experience who said, “You’ve got to write a book. This is too miraculous.’ I thought they were nuts. … It was never on my bucket list, but it’s off there now. I wrote it for people who follow Zach but also I wanted to write it for Zach when he’s ready.”

A Facebook page for the book has been created; search for “Zach Gabbard Book” on Facebook. Meridee has already sold several hundred books. The cost is $14.99 plus shipping and they can be ordered by sending an email to Meridee at mgabbardzg3@hotmail.com.

It’s well worth it.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 383
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 5,357
(*During the 2012-13 school year)

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn
Hey Students! Who Wants To Attend A T-Wolves Game As A Media Member?1/2/2013
This exciting announcement was posted today on the MSHSL Student Media Facebook page...

The second annual MSHSL Student Media Day with the Timberwolves has been scheduled for Sunday, February 24. The Timberwolves will play the Golden State Warriors at 2:30 p.m. that day, and a small group of Student Media members will be there with John Millea from the MSHSL. We will attend the game as credentialed media, watch the action from media seats and get a great look at what goes on behind the scenes at a professional sporting event

If you would like to be considered for this opportunity, you need to be an active member of the Student Media program. This means you are writing stories about your school's activities and posting them on your school's page on the MSHSL website. If you are not yet doing so and would like to get started, click on this link for Student Media information: http://www.mshsl.org/mshsl/SIDInfo.asp

John Millea will make the decisions on who will attend the game. If you would like to be considered, you need to do two things: 1) Make sure you are writing as mentioned above; 2) Send an email to John (jmillea@mshsl.org) and express your desire to be considered. First preference will be given to students who have not yet attended a Student Media day with the Timberwolves or Twins.

Good luck!
Looking Ahead To 2013, Remembering The Best of 2012 12/31/2012
As we begin a new year and bid farewell to the year that has passed, I posed this question to MSHSL followers on Facebook and Twitter: "What are your favorite memories of high school activities in 2012? There were many great stories in the last 12 months, and we would love to hear what you will remember most from 2012..."

The replies are below. They came from dozens of people who are among the more than 11,000 people who follow us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/mshsl) and Twitter (@MSHSLjohn).

I know the replies will bring back some great memories. Happy New Year!

--getting to experience playing at the state 1A with not only the fosston boys team but also our girls team its a weekend i will never forget! Go Hounds!

--Tigers getting state champs in football this year! Way to go Tigers!

--The Princeton Tigers finally making it to the Dome for the fitst time

--Jordan Hubmen football. Ending regular season 1-7, and making it to state.

--being smallest school in 3AAA football by 1 student and winning the state title for the first time ever in school history and being undefeated! BUC PRIDE!

--Seeing the Minneapolis Washburn Millers play in the state baseball tournament in St Cloud... Hoping for a return trip to state for them in 2013!

--NB Vikings Varsity football team

--roman breaking the scoring record for boys basketball.

--De La Salle at the buzzer vs. Washburn in AAA Boys Basketball Championship! Instant Classic!

-- Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa winning state championship with a 33-0 record!

-- New Ulm Softball winning the AA softball state championship in extra innings against St. Anthony Village

--Winning state in football for the third year in a row and it being the fifth title in six years. And wat made it the best is we beet moose lake for the second year in a row and on a last second 24 yard feild goal #caledoniawarriors

--Winning state Cal Football

--Watching Anders Broman score 72 points in a game at Melrose! Broman and Scottie Stone meet up again this Feb. 9th in Duluth.

--Murray County Central boys golf finishing 4th at State in first year of existence!

--Lakeville North winning the state AAA Volleyball Championship!

--Perham XC - state and small school national champs!

--State titles for Eastview in Dance Team, Boys Lacrosse, Baseball and Boys Soccer.

--watching BSM win AA boys hockey title for #jabs with Besse's five goal performance

--Maria Haugers 4th straigtht CC State Championship and doing so in record fashion

--MSAD VB and FTB teams win Deaf National Champions!

--Lester prairie Holy Trinity football breaking the state rushing record against blooming prairie

--Sleepy Eye GBB making first state appearance in history coming in as the #7 seed in their sub-section.

--White Bear Lake beats Lakeville North 1-0 in OT, advances to 2A girls soccer state championship game.

--Reffing my first Section final and first state tournament game

--Two of Goodridge-Grygla's GBB seniors hitting 1,000 points in December.

--Cannon Falls Bombers winning section 1AA baseball tournament and qualifying for the State Tournament!!

--the 1-7 Jordan Hubmen making a playoff run and qualifying for the state tourney!

--twolves and twins student media days!

--Chan Boys Hockey knocking off Holy Angels as the 12-time defending Missota Conference Champion

--Student Media day at Target Field

--Seeing the players, coaches & managers from Austin & Edgerton '60 teams be honored at the 100th anniversary of state basketball.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 383
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 5,357
(*During the 2012-13 school year)

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn

Remembering Osseo High School Legend Harry Beier12/20/2012
I was a new member of the MSHSL staff when I met Harry Beier back in the spring of 2010. I was attending a baseball game at Osseo High School and Osseo athletic director Ray Kirch introduced me to Harry.

Earlier this week, I received this email from Ray: “In April of 2010 you did a John’s Journal piece on Harry Beier – a 1941 grad of OSH and a true Oriole AND Gopher fan. Harry passed away on Saturday.”

Harry was famous in Osseo, as a supporter of the Orioles as well as the Gophers. At that point, he had not missed a Gophers home football game since 1947. He was 90 years old when he died; his funeral was Thursday at St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Osseo.

Harry was honored on his 90th birthday in September with a gathering at the Osseo-Maple Grove American Legion.

Here’s what I wrote about Harry on April 16, 2010…

I love to tell people that I can spend a few minutes with any team in any sport at any high school in Minnesota and find a great story. Turns out all you have to do is sit in the bleachers and the same thing can happen.

I went to a baseball game at Osseo High School on Thursday afternoon. The Orioles played Champlin Park on a lovely sunny day. I went to the ballgame with a couple of future story possibilities in mind.

There were Osseo’s Windle twins, Tom and Sam. Tom, who throws and bats lefthanded, has signed to play baseball with the University of Minnesota. Sam, who throws and bats righthanded, has signed to play baseball with North Dakota State. Both twins play hockey, too.

There was speedy Champlin Park center fielder Brandon Marquardt, a running back and Mr. Football finalist who will play football at Minnesota State Mankato.

And then there was Harry Beier.

Osseo athletic/activities director Ray Kirch had sprung for hot dogs, and as we walked to the bleachers he said, “John, do you know Harry Beier?” I did not, so Ray introduced me to an older gentleman sitting in the first row. Ray had other things to attend to, but Harry and I chatted for the rest of the game.

Harry graduated from Osseo High School in 1941. Sixty-nine years ago, he played baseball on the same field the current Orioles use. He was a multi-sport athlete -- also playing football and basketball in high school – providing another link to current athletes like the Windle twins and Brandon Marquardt.

Harry was a pitcher who relied on a fastball. At the plate, he tried to hit the ball where it was pitched, spraying hits all over the field.

You could see the sparkle in his eye as we watched the kids from Osseo and Champlin Park play the game. There are people similar to Harry at almost every high school in America; alumni who have strong ties to their school and their community and love nothing more than remaining connected.

Champlin Park senior Tyler Ockuly pitched a two-hitter in the Rebels’ 11-2 victory, striking out the side in the fourth inning. When Osseo athletic trainer Lindsey Geesaman came onto the field to tend to an injured Champlin Park player, a mom sitting nearby said with an air of awe, “She’s at every game.” A young girl replied, “She is so cool.”

Harry and I took it all in as we chatted. He was drafted into the Army shortly after graduating from high school and spent two and a half years stationed in England. “I bought myself a bicycle and saw all the towns around the area,” he said.

One of his high school coaches always told the kids – remember, this was back in the 1930s and 1940s – that smoking was a bad idea. “I never did smoke, even in the service,” Harry said. “I saw that coach at reunions and thanked him for that.”

Harry, who was an employee of the University of Minnesota for 42 years, has seen every Gophers home football game since 1947. He knows almost everybody at the university, from President Robert Bruininks on down. He likesTCF Bank Stadium, but he liked the Metrodome, too.

Between innings, music was played on the P.A. system. The baseball field was well-manicured, the sunshine was warm and the breeze was sweet.

It was a perfect day to be at a high school event.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 386
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 5,383
(*During the 2012-13 school year)

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn