Looking back: A decade of hockey
Looking back by Linda Evenson
The 1950s were a time of change for the Albert Lea hockey team. The adult team opened the decade skating on the ice at Abbott Field rink and closed it at Morin Park’s rink. Sponsored by Wilson & Co., a meat-packing industry, the team was known as the Packers. Near the end of the decade, the team began the season on Dec. 17, 1958, with a new name, the Albert Lea Rangers.
Albert Lea was a charter member of the Southern Minnesota Hockey League (SMHL), which was organized in 1934. Other charter members were Austin, North Mankato, Northfield and Owatonna. By 1959, Faribault, Rochester and Winona had joined the league.
In the Jan. 15, 1950, issue of the Albert Lea Tribune, Russell Voigt proclaimed, “The Packers have jumped from obscurity into the ice limelight.” In late January, a large crowd gathered at Abbott Field in anticipation of a home ice contest. Despite fan support, the Packers suffered a loss and dropped into a three-way tie for first place.
The 1958-59 season started with three straight victories. The Rangers took an 8-0 lead during the second period of a Jan. 8, 1959, meeting with Owatonna. It ended with an Albert Lea win, 12-5. A couple close contests at the end of the season put the Rangers in fourth place in league standings.