Squirt skates with WildPublished 2:53pm Saturday, April 20, 2013
Albert Lea hockey player waves flag at Xcel Center
Bradley Horecka had attended three Minnesota Wild hockey games, but on April 1, he was able to see the ice at the Xcel Center like never before.
Bradley was selected as the Minnesota Wild’s flag bearer against the St. Louis Blues.
While on the ice, the 11-year-old goalie for Albert Lea’s B Squad Red Squirts, was able to meet some of his heroes.
“I got to talk to the referees, and then Mikko Koivu and a few of the other Wild players came up and gave me high fives,” Bradley said.
Koivu, Minnesota’s starting center, has 34 total points on the season, second on the team only to left wing Zach Parise.
Bradley was excited and understandably a little nervous.
“I went out on the ice in front of the 20,000 people, and I was like, ‘Ok, please don’t fall down,’” Bradley said with a big smile.
The whole Horecka family — his father Doug, mother Ranae and little brother Carter — was able to attend.
“It’s a whole different view from ice level,” Ranae said. “I was standing by the Zamboni door. He (Bradley) was in the conference room getting ready.
“It was crazy to see the back side of where they hang out.”
Bradley was nominated for the honor to wave the flag by his uncle Bill Horecka. Bill is the development director of the Northern Star Council for the Boy Scouts of America.
When the Wild asked Bill if he knew of a kid who was deserving of bearing the team flag, he naturally thought of Bradley, Doug said.
According to Doug and Ranae, Bradley has been playing hockey since he was 3 years old.
“It’s his passion,” Doug said. “Any chance he gets to gets to be on the ice, he takes it.”
Bradley’s love for the game stems from his mother’s enjoyment of the sport. Ranae also played hockey for the Tigers.
“I started in seventh grade when Albert Lea finally added a girls’ team,” she said. “I didn’t grow up in a hockey family, so I had to convince my parents to let me play.”
Bradley doesn’t need to convince anyone to take the ice. Doug and Ranae approve of his participation in the arena and at Lakeview Park.
“I’ll go to ponds in the winter whenever I have time,” Bradley said. “But most of the time I skate at the arena.”
After finding success in the net, Bradley decided to stick with the position.
“When I was playing in Mites (the eight-and-under league), someone was coming down on a breakaway and I nabbed the puck with my glove hand,” he said. “From then on, I just knew I wanted to play goalie.”
Bradley’s current squirts team is coached by Chad Severtson and Chad Hacker.
In the offseason, Bradley stays active with other sports.
“Hockey is my favorite sport, but I played flag football this fall, schoolyard football, schoolyard soccer and Albert Lea baseball,” he said.
Jim Vanek, the events coordinator for the Minnesota Wild, said the team has had a flag bearer at every home match since the inaugural game in 2000.