Cole Heinemann has no memory of the day his father boldly predicted that Cole would play in the state hockey tournament. But then again, Cole was only about 45 minutes old at the time.
Wednesday – 18 years later almost to the day -- Cole and his Princeton teammates were on the ice at Xcel Energy Center, playing in the Class 1A state tourney.
As his father Doug said, “It is a cool story. It’s a funny story, but it’s true.”
It was 1998, and like every other year Doug was at the St. Paul Civic Center with some buddies, watching the state hockey tournament. His wife Jill was nine months pregnant, but she wasn’t rattled. Their son Cody had been born four years earlier and Jill was fine with Doug leaving home to watch hockey.
“I could tell I was going into labor but it was my second child and there wasn’t any panic,” Jill said.
But the panic arrived. After she went into labor, her sister drove her to Mercy Hospital in Coon Rapids. Cell phones were relatively new at the time and Doug had a big bag phone that he kept in his car.
Between periods of a quarterfinal game between Roseau and Edina, Doug thought he better check in with Jill. Easier said than done.
“I got in line for the pay phones and the line was about 10 deep,” he said. “Finally I checked my voicemail and there were four messages. The first one said, ‘I’m having contractions.’ The second one said, ‘I’m going to the hospital.’ The third one was from Jill’s sister and she said, ‘We’re going.’ The fourth one said, ‘You better get here quick!’ ”
After he got off the phone, Doug was told by his friends that he was being paged in the arena; nurses at the hospital were also trying to track him down. He jumped in his car and raced to Coon Rapids. When he arrived, little Cole was wrapped in a blanket, waiting to meet his dad.
Jill remembers the scene.
“Doug grabbed him, the TV was on (showing the state tournament), he held him up to the TV and said, ‘You’re going to be there in about 16 years.’ ”
The Roseau-Edina game was still being played; Doug still remembers the score (“Roseau won 4-3 in overtime”).
In a family tradition, Doug took Cody and Cole to the state tournament every year when they were growing up. He has had season tickets to the Class 2A tournament since he was in middle school in the late 1970s. Cody is now a student at Bemidji State and joined the family Wednesday at Xcel Energy Center.
Cole, a senior forward, had three of the unseeded Tigers’ 23 shots on goal in a 6-1 loss to third-seeded Thief River Falls. Like his teammates, he was disappointed with the outcome but thrilled at the opportunity to finally play in the state tournament; Princeton had not done so since 2003.
“It’s been amazing,” he said. “Even though we lost I love every guy in the locker room who I connect with and I’m great friends with. I’ve been playing for 14 years, and this group of guys all stayed together in Princeton. I can’t ask for better teammates.”
Here’s another twist: Cole was diagnosed with a brain tumor when he was eight years old. The tumor was removed and he returned to the ice in just a few weeks. He’ll take medication for the rest of his life, but that’s a small matter.
“He’s doing great, obviously,” Jill said. “We’re so lucky to have him and have him playing.”
Cole’s dad said, “He’s really a tough kid, very mentally tough. At one point we were thinking, ‘Geez, we might lose him.’ ” (Pictured are Doug with Cody and Cole.)
Doug’s prediction for Cole’s trip to state was off by a couple of years. The Tigers lost the section championship game two years ago, when he was 16.
“That was the moment we thought, ‘This was what you predicted,’ ” Jill said. “Two years later here we are, with his 18th birthday on Saturday. It’s so exciting.”
As Cole put it, “We knew my dad’s dream was going to come true.”
THIEF RIVER FALLS 6, PRINCETON 1
Ethan Johnson had a hat trick as the Prowlers (23-6) advanced to the semifinals by defeating the Tigers (21-8). Thief River Falls will meet Breck on Friday at 11 a.m.
BRECK 8, MANKATO WEST 0
William Blake and Chase Ellingson had hat tricks as the second-seeded Mustangs defeated the Scarlets. Blake’s three goals all came in the second period, and Breck held a 5-0 lead when that period ended. The Mustangs (25-3-1) had 35 shots on goal to 17 for the Scarlets (15-12-2).
HERMANTOWN 11, LITCHFIELD/DASSEL-COKATO 3
Cole Koepke scored four goals as the top-seeded Hawks (25-2-1) advanced to the semifinals. David Raisanen had two goals for the Dragons (20-9).
ST. PAUL ACADEMY 4, ST. CLOUD CATHEDRAL 2
Devlin McCabe scored two goals, including the game-winner with 5:05 remaining in the third period, as the Spartans (24-5) defeated the Crusaders (20-8-1) to advance to Friday’s semifinals vs. Hermantown. Logan Neu scored both goals for Cathedral.
CLASS 2A TOURNAMENT
Class 2A quarterfinals will be played Thursday. Here’s the schedule
--Farmington (18-8-1) vs. #2 seed Stillwater (26-1-1), 11 a.m.
--Burnsville (16-10-2) vs. #3 seed Wayzata (19-8-1), 30 minutes after conclusion of 11 a.m. game
--Anoka (18-9) vs. #1 seed Eden Prairie (19-7-2), 6 p.m.
--#5 seed Bemidji (23-2-2) vs. #4 seed Grand Rapids (21-6-1), 30 minutes after conclusion of 6 p.m. game
BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 538
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2015-16: 8,574
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn