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Pete Bakken officiates WIAA hockey state tournament game

Pete Bakken has been officiating games in the Twin Cities and western Wisconsin for more than 30 years.

More than 30 years ago Pete Bakken was one of the originators of the Somerset Youth Hockey Association.

Bakken has kept involved in the sport ever since, first as a coach and organizer in Somerset and for many years as a hockey official. Bakken has worked a number of significant games, but he received a new honor when he was named to work in his first WIAA state hockey tournament game in March.

Bakken, 63, was selected to work the WIAA state girls hockey semifinal game between Onalaska and D.C. Everest. One of his partners in the game was another local official, Mike DeLong of Baldwin.

The WIAA gave Bakken several items commemorating his appearance in the state tournament, including an engraved wooden plaque and a puck decorated with the information from the game.

It was a long road from Somerset to the state tournament for Bakken, who has officiated thousands of games through the years. Bakken said he's been officiating USA Hockey games for 35 years and WIAA games for 27 years. He officiates year-round, averaging 80 games most summers.

He works at rinks all around the Twin Cities area, including numerous games at the Blaine Sports Center complex that has eight rinks. He's worked many important games. Two that he recalled fondly were International Cup games. One was between Team Minnesota and Czechoslovakia. Another was between Slovakia and Japan.

Bakken grew up playing hockey as a youth on the east side of St. Paul. He laughed that he didn't play hockey in high school, choosing to wrestle at St. Paul Harding.

"I was a better hockey player," he said with a chuckle.

After high school, Bakken became heavily involved in broomball.

"I was on six teams when I got married. I played in the world championships," he said.

Bakken moved to Somerset in 1979. He saw a sign in 1980 that would change the course of his future. Fritz Parnell put up a sign on Main Street in Somerset to see if anyone was interested in starting a youth hockey program. Bakken was the first to show interest. They shared the opinion that hockey filled a glaring need in the community.

"We had to do something here. There wasn't anything for the kids to do," Bakken said.

In the first years Somerset had one youth team involving players from the full spectrum of ages. Few teams would play them because of the wide age range, so the team ended up playing New Richmond five times in its first season. Bakken would coach 16 years in the association. His three children, Blake, Kelly and Jason, played in the association. Kelly would later spend time as the New Richmond varsity girls hockey coach.

Bakken coached in the first years of the Somerset hockey association. Somerset had an outdoor rink in those days. Before the association purchased its first Zamboni, Bakken recalled that the officials shoveled the loose ice to the edges of the rink between periods and the dads would pitch the shavings over the boards.

Bakken works as a professional painter. That skill came in handy often. He painted the association's first Zamboni and he painted the boards on the first outdoor rink.

In the past 20 years Bakken has concentrated his efforts on officiating. As one of the senior officials in the area, he's taken on the mentorship role, helping young officials to learn the finer points of the game. He said proper positioning is the most important aspect of officiating. He said officials must skate well and be able to make split-second decisions in rapid game action.

At 63, Bakken isn't slowing down. He's officiating tournaments on numerous weekends and his summer will again be filled with hockey assignments.

"I love it. It's still a lot of fun," he said.