Midway Speedskating Club Reunion United Generations Of Minnesota Skaters
by Nicole Haase
One of the largest clubs in the country, the Midway Speedskating Club in Roseville, Minnesota, has been preserving and promoting the sport for more than three quarters of a century. The club counts more than 20 Olympians and several national champions among its membership.
Skating on the largest outdoor refrigerated skating facility in North America, the Guidant John Rose Minnesota Oval, Midway carries on the legacy of speed skating of now-defunct clubs that skated on Minneapolis’ Powderhorn Lake and Lake Nokomis in the first half of the 20th century.
When two-time Olympian Nick Pearson (2002, 2010) joined Midway as the Program Director about five years ago, one of the first things he wanted to do was reach out to former speed skaters from the area with the intention of creating an alumni group and holding alumni events.
The plan started with those connected to Midway, but Pearson said it was important to him to invite all Minnesota speed skaters, regardless of club.
“I think it’s good to get people back involved in the sport,” Pearson said. “This sport is too small to just forget about people or not do what you can to keep people as involved as possible.”
He and Tom Cushman, a fellow Olympian and former Olympic coach, created an online group and began to spread the word, but COVID-19 delayed their ability to hold an in-person event.
The event finally came together in early December 2022 as part of the American Cup held on their home track. There was socializing, reminiscing and sharing as attendees had the opportunity to watch races on the outdoor oval from a heated patio or head inside to view photos, memorabilia and equipment from different eras.
Pearson had originally imagined the event as taking place in the summer, but being able to tie it to a race was perfect, he said, since it had been years since many attendees had watched speed skating in person.
“I don’t think it could have gone any better. I think it worked perfectly,” Pearson said. “This is one of those sports if you love it, you really do love it. It was neat to have everyone all see each other again.”
It was the connection across generations that really stood out to Katy Herman, who helped organize the event. Herman runs Midway’s Learn to Skate program and has become something of a de facto club historian. Her son Auggie was a member of the 2022 Long Track Junior World Championship Team and led all skaters with four medals in the weekend’s American Cup.
“I have never really seen such a sport that is steeped in legacy,” Katy Herman said. “We have these legacy families, and I’m just in awe of this community of skaters that are more family than anything and how the years just fell away the second that they found each other again.”
One of the best things about speed skating, she said, is how much of a multi-generational sport it is. Many of the current Junior and Senior National Team skaters have relatives who skated, but Herman said even in Midway’s Learn to Skate program they’re finding adults whose parents or grandparents skated — and sometimes even get back out on the ice with the new skaters.
Beyond the camaraderie of the reunion, the event presented an opportunity for Midway to hopefully reengage with families with a history in speed skating.
“Part of our mission is to grow the sport,” Herman said. “The little kids in the Learn to Skate feeder program are our future athletes. There’s a trickle-down theory, where if grandma and grandpa, mom and dad are reliving their skating days and they’re getting back out there, that could trickle down to their children and grandchildren.”
It’s not just about putting new skaters on the ice, but also capturing the knowledge of previous generations while collecting their history and stories before it’s too late. Pearson was thrilled to get to speak with parents, skaters, club members and officials, catching up with old friends and meeting people whose names he was familiar with, but he’d never connected with before.
One of Herman’s favorite things about spending time at the John Rose Oval is seeing older speed skaters, many wearing insignias from past clubs, take the ice.
“They go out there and they might do a fast lap or two, and then they spend the next five laps solving the world’s problems and chatting among themselves,” she said. “I love looking out there and watching their slow glide around. They meet up all the time and they never seem to run out of things to talk about.”
Being a social club was always fundamental to Midway, and older members have told Herman stories about a circuit of events between Minneapolis, Milwaukee and Chicago where skaters from various clubs moved around the Midwest competing against each other, but also forming a family off the ice. She sees the fellowship of her son with the skaters he’s been competing with and against for years and believes those friendships will endure the same way.
“They’re still going to be friends and they’re still going to be jumping up on the podium together and giving each other congratulations and support,” Herman said. “To me, that’s such an essential part of this sport and why the history is so important. I look at old pictures and I see that somebody has fallen and the other skaters are picking them up, and I think that camaraderie has always been there.”
Pearson hopes the December event was just the first of many where generations of speed skaters get to enjoy each other’s company, compare tales of how the sport has changed, but also stayed the same across the decades and ensure the future of the sport.
“It was a goal of mine when I came here to put this on,” he said. “It felt really good for it to be a success.”