In my Internet travels as The Hockey Mom — or in my travels as a hockey mom –I’ve found that arenas with people’s names on them are often named after famous skaters, hockey players or coaches. The other day, I stumbled across an arena called the Kim Braaten Memorial Arena. Since I had never heard of Kim Braaten, and was curious as to who that could be, I went looking to see what I could find out about him.  And what I found needs to be told to you.

This arena is in Mayville, North Dakota, Mayville isn’t a very big place — according to the 2010 census its population was 1,858 — but like many arena-poor municipalities with a love of hockey, the folks there dreamed of having an arena built where their children could learn to skate and play hockey indoors.

Generous Community Response

And that’s where Kim Braaten comes into the picture. He spearheaded a fundraising group to get the money together to build a rink for the community, and the community generously responded. As the fundraising continued, Kim found that he had cancer.

The doctors told him he didn’t have long to live, perhaps three to six months, that’s all. Kim decided to put all of his efforts into getting that rink built and as he did, he was winning the race against the Grim Reaper. The committee that moved the project forward did an amazing job saving money. The farmers they bought the land from gave them a $5,000 discount; the boards were second-hand castoffs from another arena which saved a tidy sum, the concrete floor was poured by volunteers, saving an estimated $30,000 – the list of savings goes on.

First Puck Drop

When the arena opened, it was about a year after his cancer was discovered. Kim dropped the ceremonial first puck for the local youth hockey team, the May-Port Ice Dawgs, taking the name from  Mayville and neighboring Portland — who call the new arena “home”.

Six months later, at the young age of 42, Kim died.

Practically everyone in the community grieved for this man who had made such a difference to their city. His two children, Cody and Kayla, buried their white hockey jerseys with their dad. Later, people asked his widow, Kristi, if they could name the arena after him, and she agreed.

Now, 16 years later, the arena and the Ice Dawgs are still thriving. Kim and Kristi’s children have grown up; Kayla got married three years ago and Cody got married last year. But if you go and visit the arena that was named after their dad, go to the concession area. There you’ll see their blue jerseys, the BRAATEN name proudly emblazoned on each. They’re a reminder to everyone of a loving hockey dad, a committed fundraiser who loved the game, a man on a mission to do something special for his family and community before his time ran out.

I wanted to retell this story to help keep Kim Braaten’s memory alive. I lost my dad nearly 29 years ago and count myself lucky that I had him for 27 years. My youngest sister, however, had only had him for 15 years, never enough time to collect all the memories we desperately search for once we lose someone we love so much. I hope the retelling of this story jogs the memories of Cody, Kayla and their mom, their extended family and friends — and the current players, coaches and parents of the May-Port Ice Dawgs teams that might never have met the man their arena was named after, all those years ago.