For many in Belle Plaine, basketball and wrestling are the go-to sports to turn to during the wintery months. But where many turn to gymnasiums to get their fill on sports, Shawn Larson takes to the hockey rink.

According to Larson, who coaches mites hockey for the Minnesota River Bulldogs in Le Sueur and who leads an instructional youth hockey course through Belle Plaine Community Education, hockey is yet to leave its mark on Belle Plaine.

That may soon change as Belle Plaine’s newest hockey rink nears completion in Hickory Park. But Larson said he simply enjoys sharing his love for hockey through his community education class and has no end goal in mind while teaching.

“It just gives the students an outlet for something fun to do,” Larson said. “It’s four hours of my life that I can give back to people in town.”

Depending on the completion of the Hickory Park Hockey Rink and weather permitting, the classes kick off Tuesday, Jan. 7, and continue each Tuesday for the month of January.

As a coach, Larson said that if the classes encourage students to try out hockey with the Bulldogs, he would be happy, but if students do nothing but get exercise, he would also be satisfied with his efforts. He added that although the class is officially open to K-6 students, he welcomes all participants.

“I don’t turn anyone away,” Larson said. “I want people to love hockey like I love hockey. If it just gets them out of the house to get exercise, that’s fine with me.”

Larson stated that when he began coaching with the Bulldogs, there were one or two students from Belle Plaine. Now, a few years later, he estimates there are a half-dozen, including his son, Beckett.

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