Sunday, 16 June 2024










Thursday morning, June 16, Kitch and I spent the morning in Rice Park. Located in center city St. Paul across the street from the legendary St. Paul Hotel, it is a place that defies an accurate description. The only way to do justice to this park is to encourage people to go there.

It was an absolutely wonderful morning. The azure blue sky filled with massive cumulus clouds provided an engaging cover to this tastefully wrapped environmental treasure.

We went there to do stand ups for the episodes we recorded earlier in our visit to the birthplace of Coach Herb Brooks.

When we arrived, the peacefulness of the park was interrupted by three municipal workers who were cutting grass. The grinding whirl of the lawnmowers lasted only a few moments. In another section of the park, two workers watered flower baskets while a third cleaned the fountain that is the centerpiece of this community treasure.

I stood in awe watching this brigade of men and women carefully attending to every detail so the park would look more inviting to those who came to this very special place.

Silently, but vigilantly, the bronzed eyes of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Peanuts characters Lucy and Snoopy watched our every move.

Then it happened.

A yellow school bus pulled up to the curb and 15 third, fourth and fifth grade students filled the park with excited chatter and wonderful music. Yes, music.

These students were studying Italian culture and shortly after they entered the park they gathered around their teacher, Kay Oien, and their voices rang out with the words of an Italian folk song that made one believe they were someplace in a remote village in Italy.

It was a happy song made even better by the animated gesticulations of the student singers.

Watching them bend and move, I thought to myself what a marvelous moment. How enthusiastic they were, what a wonderful time they were having. Infectious smiles made their faces glow.

I wondered if these youngsters knew anything about Herb Brooks and the famous statue that is located on the edge of the park in front of side entrance to the Riverfront Center.

After a brief conference with Kitch, I decided to make my way toward the students and their teacher. I was determined to provide them with an opportunity to become a part of our work.

I knew they saw me shooting. Kids never miss an opportunity to wave at a cameraman.

When I was close enough, I asked if they would sing their song again so that I could record the moment, and, like seasoned professionals, they took their positions and waited for the downbeat from their teacher.

As I peered through the viewfinder, I sensed their excitement. They were having a grand time. For the moment they were the most celebrated people in the park, and they loved every minute of their television premier.

When the song ended they followed their teacher to the statue of the victorious coach who was waiting about 60 yards away.

As the young students assembled in front of St. Paul's most famous athlete, the sun hit the coach's face softening his bronze image creating a warm and inviting glow that made everyone feel welcome.

Once there, the students could not hide their enthusiasm. They were more than willing to share what they knew about Herb Brooks; the man, the coach, the legend. It was a moment of pure joy.

I liked these youngsters, and I admired their teacher. They were great fun to be with so I decided to ask them to position themselves in front of the celebratory pose of Herb Brooks and say the words that will open a special episode of our series.

They were more than pleased to oblige. Two takes of the words “Welcome to a very special place called St. Paul, Minnesota, and we were finished.

We exchanged addresses, expressed our gratitude, and they were on their way to tour Eventi Kitchen and Cossetta Italian.

With smiles, happiness and pure joy, we made our way to the Radisson Riverfront Hotel to check out, and begin the last leg of our 2,800 mile journey.

As we drove, the melody of that Italian folksong reverberated in our minds. The spirit of Rice Park resonated in our hearts.

We came to St. Paul in search of the essence of Herb Brooks, as we passed the Cathedral on our way out of town we knew we found that and so much more.