Legacy Christian Academy is ready to take the ice for the hockey team’s seventh season after starting as a junior varsity program in 2007.
Head Coach Steve Larson is no stranger to Minnesota high school hockey. After coaching at the college level, Larson began coaching at Blaine High School where his programs made it to the state tournament multiple times. He helped guide the Bengals all the way to “the tourney” title in 2000 before resigning after the season.
Larson took a few years off from coaching. However, it didn’t take long before he was behind the bench once again.
From 2002 to 2006, Larson was an assistant coach for the girls’ team at Blaine before leaving to spend more time with family.
Larson thought his high school coaching days were done until he got a call from Brian Budish, former athletic director at Legacy.
Larson’s daughter, Kaia, was in her second year at Legacy when her dad got the call about the school’s new hockey program. Budish had a knack for finding out what each family in the school’s community could bring to the table and he knew that Larson had a significant amount of coaching experience under his belt.
Minnesota is known as the state of hockey and the staff at Legacy could see that starting a hockey program had many potential benefits. Budish told Larson that Legacy was thinking about starting a hockey team. Before he knew it, Larson was named coach.
This time around, Larson was not only coaching a new team; he was starting a new program.
Legacy was founded in Andover in 1976. It is no longer connected to a particular church or denomination, but the school’s vision has remained the same: “Cultivating Christian leaders to change the world through Jesus Christ to the glory of God.”
Larson undoubtedly loved his time coaching the Bengals, but this team was different. “The biggest difference [in coaching at Legacy] is being able to coach in a venue that I can openly share my faith in Jesus Christ,” he said.
The Christ-like environment is what sets this team apart. Senior captain Tyler Arenz said, “Being surrounded by a band of brothers that share a common faith in the Lord is something special.”
According to junior defenseman Zach Cole, “What makes us different is we play for the Lord. We pray before every game, and give him all the glory.”
Larson also sees the other opportunities that coaching presents.
“I just love the game of hockey, but I also love having the opportunity to favorably impact young men through the game of hockey,” said Larson. “There are many life lessons to be taught and learned in the athletic arena. Athletics, in this case the hockey arena, is a test tube of life. Players encounter opportunities and challenges and they have to face those opportunities and challenges and make decisions. They can make decisions and learn. When they make poor choices in the athletic arena, the consequences aren’t so bad, so hopefully when they enter the real world they will have learned from their good and bad choices.”
The players and coaches at Legacy see potential in this year’s team.
That being said, this year’s team has set some high goals for itself.
“We want to work hard and have fun,” said Larson. “Those are under our control. Beyond that, we are striving to win the conference championship and advance deeper in the playoffs.”
The team is excited about the changes that have been made in Section 5A.
“Playing in the newly aligned section presents a good opportunity for us to make a deeper run into the playoffs,” noted Arenz.
Senior goaltender Tanner Balk said, “We have a lot of positive chemistry and have a lot of potential to be a great team, if we are willing to put in the work.”
According to Larson, “I am most excited to just see what these guys can accomplish. We lost a couple of key players from last year, but we have a group of guys that are a year older and I’m just excited to see what they can accomplish together.”
It’s clear that a legacy is being built through this team.
Not only has the program continued to grow by the numbers and make strides in the win column each season, but it’s evident by the people that will be working alongside Larson this season.
This year, there are five alumni returning to the program, but this time around they will be coaching. “I think that’s pretty sweet,” said Larson. “It’s cool to know that those guys had a positive experience on our team and what to come back and recreate the same positive experience for the current players.”
Kaia Larson is a senior public relations major at University of Northwestern.