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Finding Minnesota: Bob Bell's Hockey Canes, From One Type Of Ice To Another

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- His playing days are behind him but a 74-year-old Duluth man still has a hockey stick in his hands, every day. In this week's Finding Minnesota, John Lauritsen shows us the creative way Bob Bell's sticks go from ice time to helping people navigate icy sidewalks.

Along the shores of Lake Superior you'll find plenty of hockey history. During the first game ever played here at the DECC in 1966, the UMD Bulldogs defeated their Gopher rivals, 8-1.

"That might be their replacement for a national title for an upstart program was for Duluth to stick it to the main U," said Jeff Stark, Duluth Entertainment Convention Center.

"Obviously we were just a little pumped up for that game. Especially against the Gophers," said Bob Bell.

Bell was a scrappy player on that team and remains a fan decades later. Though getting to games isn't easy thanks to hip and back surgeries.

"The last one I got two rods and 18 screws in my back. My flexibility and balance just are not what they should be," said Bell.

Still thinking like a hockey player, one day Bell got an idea. He took an old stick once used to chase pucks and repurposed it for leisurely strolls.

What he really thinks about is a walking cane that provides balance and comfort. As hockey moved on from wooden sticks to carbon fiber, Bell adjusted too.

"It works well and it's lightweight," said Bell.

He cuts, saws and sands the sticks into something the state of hockey can truly be proud of.

"When I get more sticks I make more canes," said Bell.

He gives away the finished products to those that need them most. Like a goalie, he's hoping to do some saving of his own in the form of elderly hips and knees. The hockey canes aren't his only creation. One of his neighbors also talked him into making a hockey table.

"They must've brought me 20 or 25 sticks. It took a while to put that together," said Bell.

Maybe it's proof that you can take the man out of the game, but you can't take the game out of the man.

"Once it's in your blood it's hard to get it out." said Bell.

To donate hockey sticks, contact Essentia Heritage Center general manager Shari Olson at (218) 623-7434 or (218) 348-2417.

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