Longtime state hockey tournament fan still a newcomer in his section

March 07, 2019 08:12 PM

Bob Heiberg is attending his 57th straight Boys' State Hockey Tournament, and his 59th overall.

But he admits that still makes him a relative latecomer in his particular section at Xcel Energy Center.

"I remember telling people when it was my 55th straight a couple years ago," the longtime Edina resident said. "All of a sudden, a guy on one side of me said it was his 59th. A guy on the other side said it was his 60th.

"So, there are people who have been coming here a long time. Betsy, who sits across the aisle from me, came to her first tournament in 1946 - the second one. And she hadn't missed one until this year. She's had some medical issues and just didn't feel up to it."

Heiberg's own state tournament experience began in 1959 at the old St. Paul Auditorium. 

"The smoke was so thick in there you could hardly see the ice," he recalls with a chuckle.

He was a high school sophomore at Minneapolis Washburn, and his school was part of that season's state field. He was back again in 1960.

KSTP Sports 2019 Boys' State Hockey Tournament Central

But Washburn missed the tournament when he was a senior in 1961. And so did he.

"The National Honor Society was taking a trip to Washington D.C. and I went with," Heiberg said, "So that was the one year I missed. 

"But Washburn was back in 1962. I wasn't a student anymore, so I had to buy my season ticket and I've had it ever since."

His allegiance has since shifted to Edina. In fact, he said he coached the fathers of a number of this season's team in Little League baseball, years ago. And, his orthopedic surgeon's son Mike Vorlicky is a senior defenseman.

But his son Eric is the president of the Eden Prairie Hockey Association. The Eagles are also in this season's field. So loyalties in the family are divided.

"They actually gave me an Eden Prairie stocking cap to wear because I was embarrassing them by wearing an Edina hat in the Eden Prairie rink," Bob said. "But Edina is still my team."

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Frank Rajkowski

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