John's Journal
Born Without A Right Hand, Doing Things The Right Way 12/7/2012
Caitlin Tate gets things done on the ice, just like every other talented hockey player in the world. The senior starting goaltender at Park High School in Cottage Grove is described by Wolfpack goalie coach Mike Moline as “very technically, fundamentally sound. She’s a very, very, very good goalie.”

Tate is quick on her skates, she uses her stick to efficiently sweep away pucks and has a great glove hand … even though there is no hand inside the glove.

Caitlin, 18, was born without a right hand. But there she is, on the ice wearing Wolfpack green and white, skating with her friends, catching pucks without a hand. She wears a prosthetic that slips onto her arm and fits inside a specially made glove. The prosthetic is the work of the wizards at Shriners Hospital in Minneapolis and the glove was provided by Vaughn, a maker of goalie gear. She is unable to close the glove around a puck, but she is very adept at quickly bringing the puck into her midsection and covering it up.

For fans who know nothing about Tate, she is the same as every other goalie. And that’s how Caitlin likes it.

“Off the ice, everybody is unique in their own way but I’m clearly different,” she said. “I don’t have a problem with it. God made me that way and I’m not complaining. On the ice I’m the same as everybody else and no one expects anything different from me. That’s what I really enjoy.”

She is a remarkable young person, smiling, happy and supportive of others while never feeling sorry for herself. As Park head coach Steve Morse said, “I’ve never had a kid quite like her, in more ways than one.”

Caitlin is the youngest of Dirk and Julie Tate’s three children and their only daughter. Her brothers Alex and Dan also played hockey, and that had an impact on what she wanted to do. As a youngster she skated as a forward. But when she watched Dan (a 2006 Park graduate) play between the pipes for the Wolfpack boys team, she was hooked on switching positions. That happened when she was 9 years old.

“He made these sick saves and everyone would cheer,” Caitlin said. “I was like, ‘I want to do that! I want to be the one that everyone’s cheering for!’ It runs in the family, for sure.”

Until this season Caitlin was a backup to Allie Morse, who graduated from Park last spring and now plays hockey at Providence College. Morse was an all-conference and all-state player and a finalist for the 2012 Minnesota Goalie of the Year award.

“I wanted to be like her,” said Tate, who is a team captain this season along with Mary Turitto and Anna Keys. “I wanted to do what she was doing. I definitely looked at her as an idol. It definitely was big shoes to fill. I was really nervous, coming after such a great goalie like Allie.”

Park took a 2-4-1 record into a Saturday night game against Suburban East Conference opponent Roseville. The Wolfpack had lost twice in overtime, including a game at Mounds View. But the postgame scene after the Mounds View game was something Caitlin will remember much longer than what transpired on the ice.

An article about Caitlin in USA Hockey Magazine had caught the eye of a 6-year-old boy who also has been missing a hand since birth. Moline had been contacted by the boy’s mother and invited them to meet Caitlin after the game. The child, fascinated by the story and photos of Tate playing hockey, had been sleeping with the magazine. He wanted to be a goaltender, just like Caitlin.

“He came out to our game when we played Mounds View and I got to meet him,” Tate said. “That was really cool. Something like that, inspiring him, makes me so happy. That’s part of the reason why I keep doing this. I hope to be that symbol; ‘Don’t give up. If you put your mind to it, you can do it.’ ”

Life has not always been easy for Tate. She remembers being on the playground in elementary school, wishing she could climb the monkey bars like her friends. Her brother Dan helped her learn to tie her shoelaces with one hand.

“I’ve had a really good support system,” Caitlin said. “Dan said, ‘You don’t have to be different from other people, you can still do the same things.’ All the things he did helped give me confidence. I had two older brothers looking out for me.”

Julie Tate said she can remember only one instance when her daughter openly expressed frustration at having just one hand.

“In middle school she was upset maybe once,” Julie said. “She had heard some kids talking about her or something, and that was the only time she had ever told me she felt different and wished that she wasn’t.

“She was born this way and it’s all she knows. We never tried to treat her any different.”

Moline, who has been working with Tate for eight years, learned early on that Caitlin wanted no special treatment. The first time they were together at a goalie clinic, Moline looked at the little girl with one hand and thought to himself, “How in the world are we going to do this?”

One of the first drills involved pushing nets across the ice to build up strength, and then skating backwards while pulling the nets. When Moline told Caitlin she didn’t have to take part, he learned a quick lesson.

“That was a big mistake for me because she said, ‘Mike, I can do this.’ Ever since then, I’ve never shied away from anything with her. I’ll shoot pucks at her as hard as I can.”

Caitlin faces issues in places like the weight room, where conditioning without a right hand can be problematic.

“It’s a challenge for her to do some things in the weight room,” Morse said. “She makes the decisions on what she can do and what she’s not comfortable with.”

Moline said, “She inspires me every day. It’s going to be so hard at the (season-ending) banquet; I’m already an emotional guy as it is. I love the kid like my own. If I ever had another daughter I’d hope she would be just like Caitlin.”

Caitlin is a very busy teenager, with a life that revolves around hockey, friends, a retail job at the Mall of America and school. Her current classes are College Writing, International Baccalaureate English, French, Physics and a college prep program. In college she wants to major in acting or performing arts and minor in journalism or broadcasting. She has applied to several universities in California.

“I always have dreamed of being on the red carpet someday and winning an Oscar,” she said with her usual smile. “I’ve done acting classes and I absolutely love it. I don’t have a problem being in front of people, public speaking. It comes natural for me.”

Julie Tate, while already worrying about Caitlin being so far from home after high school, knows that her daughter is a special person.

“She was born without two hands but she was also born with great character. She’s always been so impressive. We’ve always been so proud of her.”

*Schools/teams John has visited: 368
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 4,981
(*During the 2012-13 school year)

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn
Board Of Directors Meeting Is Underway12/6/2012
The December meeting of the MSHSL board of directors is taking place this morning. The agenda is filled with interesting topics and the meeting could be lengthy.

I'm posting instant updates on Twitter (follow @MSHSLjohn) and after the meeting has ended I will post a recap right here.
Board Approves Basketball Changes, Clay Target Partnership 12/6/2012
During a meeting Thursday that was filled with big decisions, the MSHSL board of directors approved changes to state basketball tournaments and approved a partnership with the Minnesota State High School Clay Target League. The board also made decisions that affect cooperative sponsorships and nine-man football.

Due to a facilities conflict with Target Center, the board approved changes in the girls and boys state basketball tournaments that will take effect in 2014 and extend through at least 2018. The new National Collegiate Hockey Conference will hold its annual postseason tournament at Target Center beginning in 2014, meaning Target Center is not available for one of the weeks that was the traditional time for one of the basketball tournaments.

Here is what the future will hold …

--The state tournaments will continue to be eight-team events.

--In 2014, 2015 and 2016, the boys state basketball tournament will be played one week before the girls state tournament.

--The boys will use Williams Arena and Target Center as their tournament sites. The girls will primarily utilize Williams Arena and Mariucci Arena, although some girls quarterfinals will be played at Target Center.

--In 2014, 2015 and 2016 the girls will play a Tuesday-through-Saturday tournament schedule. During those same years the boys will play the usual Wednesday-through-Saturday schedule.

By a 9-8 vote, the board approved a motion to become a presenting partner of Minnesota State High School Clay Target League state tournament. The Clay Target League has held competitions involving students on school-sponsored club teams.

As the vote shows, board members were split on the proposal. Rosemount High School athletic director Mike Manning said, “I’ll be honest, I’d like to keep this at an arm’s length. I worry about guns in parking lots, I worry about guns at home…I just worry about the potential negatives. I would like this to stay at an arm’s length and not become a Minnesota State High School League tournament.”

Board member Roz Peterson, a school board member from Lakeville, said, “Just being afraid of firearms isn’t teaching our kids respect for them. Hunting and fishing and things of that nature are the culture of Minnesota, and proper training in how to use a firearm and how to handle it would probably be a better lesson than learning it on the street. … I don’t think it gives a negative stigma to the Minnesota State High School League to sponsor this.”

In other actions…

--The board approved a change in the timetable for cooperative team sponsorships. The move means that applications for coops be submitted to the MSHSL no later than 30 days prior to the start of the season. Previously, applications were due no later than the first day of practice for that sport season.

--An MSHSL football committee recommended that the the enrollment cutoff for nine-man football be dropped from 165 students to 150, beginning with the 2013 season. The board approved the change but moved the effective date to the 2015 season.

--Athletic directors Les Zellmann of St. James, Bruce Remme of Marshall and Rob Norman of Blue Earth, citing scheduling issues, asked the board to reconsider using section football during the regular season. There was discussion but no action was taken.

--An award presentation was made to Roger Cersine in recognition of his years of service as MSHSL state rules interpreter for boys and girls swimming. Roger, who retired earlier this year, began officiating swim meets in 1967.

--Michele Kelm-Helgen, chair of Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, made a presentation about the new Vikings stadium project. Plans call for ground to be broken in late 2013, with the Vikings (as well as the MSHSL) using TCF Bank Stadium in 2015 and the new stadium opening in 2016.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 368
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 4,981
(*During the 2012-13 school year)

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn
State Basketball, Clay Target League On Board Of Directors Agenda12/5/2012
The 20-member MSHSL board of directors will hold its December meeting on Thursday morning at MSHSL headquarters in Brooklyn Center with a full agenda. The action item that will probably receive the most attention from high school sports fans is a possible change in the structure of the girls and boys state basketball tournaments.

Because the new National Collegiate Hockey Conference will hold its annual postseason tournament at Target Center beginning in 2014, there is a scheduling conflict with the high school basketball tournaments. Currently, Target Center is the main site for the basketball tournaments, but Williams Arena at the University of Minnesota – where some quarterfinal games are currently played – may become the site of some or all of the state quarterfinal, semifinal and championship games. Mariucci Arena, the Gophers men’s hockey arena, also could be the site of some basketball games.

Along with possible venue changes, the sequence and structure of the state basketball tournaments also could change. Under one scenario, the boys state tournament would be played first, followed by the girls state tournament one week later. Another possibility is that Class 1A and 2A state tournaments for both girls and boys would be held one week, with Class 3A and 4A girls and boys tournaments played a week later. Another possibility is that four teams would advance to state in each class (instead of the current eight teams) with all semifinals and finals continuing to be played at Target Center.

No changes will be made for the 2013 state basketball tournaments. The girls tourney will be held at Williams Arena and Target Center March 13-16, with the boys tourney at the same sites March 20-23.

The board of directors is expected to vote on a request that the MSHSL become a presenting partner of the Minnesota State High School Clay Target League state tournament each spring. The Clay Target League currently holds competitions involving students on school-sponsored club teams.

The discussion portion of the agenda includes information on summer practices and section football. Schools in the South Central and Southwest conferences have requested that the board consider having schools play football teams in their section during the regular season as a way to alleviate scheduling problems.

The board meeting will begin at 9:30 a.m. Thursday. I will post instant updates from the board table on Twitter. Stay in touch by following @MSHSLjohn

*Schools/teams John has visited: 368
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 4,981
(*During the 2012-13 school year)

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn
Announcing A New Partnership with Twin Cities Toyota Dealers12/3/2012
It’s a big day for John’s Journal as we formally announce an exciting new partnership with Twin Cities Toyota Dealers. Whenever you see me driving around the Twin Cities and the state of Minnesota, I will be hard to miss. Thanks to Twin Cities Toyota Dealers, I am now behind the wheel of a 2012 Toyota Camry SE Limited Edition.

It’s not just any car, either. As you can see in the photo, it’s quite noticeable, with a caricature of me on both front doors, plus several MSHSL logos and Facebook and Twitter links all over the vehicle.

It’s a real head-turner and it provides a great ride. I am really looking forward to visiting schools and events all around Minnesota in the Toyota Camry.

The car is part of an MSHSL sponsorship agreement with Twin Cities Toyota Dealers. They have provided the car free of charge to the MSHSL in exchange for sponsorship benefits that include advertising in all state tournament programs, identification on the MSHSL website, digital and electronic signage at state tournaments and more.

Toyota supports high school activities through a broad range of programs, including Drive for Education, which enhances academic and extracurricular programs through grants to qualifying schools.

This partnership between Twin Cities Totoya Dealers and the MSHSL is very special, and we cannot thank Twin Cities Toyota Dealers enough for their commitment to high school activities.

--To see more photos, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

John’s Journal … Driven by Toyota.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 366
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 4,931
(*During the 2012-13 school year)

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn