Winter Classic profile: DinoMights much more than youth hockey program

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The 2022 Discover NHL Winter Classic at Target Field in Minneapolis on Jan. 1 will not just be an outdoor game between the Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues, it will also be a celebration of the “State of Hockey.” Part of that celebration will include various hockey teams and clubs from throughout Minnesota skating on one of the several auxiliary rinks at Target Field. NHL.com is profiling each of the teams. Today, DinoMights.

DinoMights is known as a hockey program, but it strives to be much more for the Minneapolis-St. Paul community.

“Literally everything we do is in service of whole life youth development,” DinoMights executive director Scott Harman said. “If we’re doing something that doesn’t serve that, then we shouldn’t be doing that.”

DinoMights, a Hockey is For Everyone program started in 1995, serves more than 500 kids annually. It includes the Greg Carroll Learn 2 Skate program, an initiative that brings in first graders from six area public elementary schools and teaches them to skate, and has hockey teams for boys and girls up through eighth grade.

But hockey is just a vehicle to draw in kids who need something extra. There is a tutoring program for high school students that Harman said had an 86 percent graduation rate between 1995 and 2018 and has had a 100 percent graduation rate despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

And for high school and college-age kids there is a rink manager program that allows them to supervise outdoor rinks.

Video: Youth hockey team Dinomights highlight Winter Classic

“You turn the lights on, unlock and make sure everything stays safe,” Harman said. “A lot of times they’re just there doing their homework. But what’s great about it is it’s the first job that they have, for a lot of them anyway, and they’ve got to go through training, and they have to keep the schedule. … Every person someday has to have those skills.”

The program will be one of the several Minnesota hockey programs in the spotlight during the 2022 Discover NHL Winter Classic between the St. Louis Blues and Minnesota Wild at Target Field on Jan. 1 (7 p.m. ET; TNT, SN1, TVAS, NHL LIVE).  

Harman has worked at DinoMights since 2000, first as a coach. A player on his first team was 9-year-old James Toussaint.

Toussaint returned to DinoMights as a staff member in June 2012 and understands more than most the positive impact the program can have.

“My coaches, they were more to me than just hockey players,” Toussaint said. “If it weren’t for my academic tutor, Leah Wong, I really wouldn’t have graduated high school. That’s how we’re built, with our long-term positive relationships.”

Toussaint’s job title is Minneapolis site manager, but that doesn’t really describe the scope of his work.

“I kind of look at myself as like the GM of all the Minneapolis teams on DinoMights,” he said. “I work with multiple teams as a coach, just kind of checking in with the kids. I’m definitely the equipment manager. Literally, any kid from any program in DinoMights needs something, I’ll work hard to replace it. We also provide rides for our kids that live in our areas.”

Toussaint said he’ll also check in with kids when they’re at home or at tutoring. He sees himself in a number of the kids he coaches so he understands the kinds of issues they could be facing at home.

“Sometimes kids bring extra baggage with them to practice,” he said. “But DinoMights and hockey is a great way to escape from that as well.”

DinoMights has grown to add a rink in St. Paul, and the exposure the program gains from being a part of the Winter Classic could lead to further expansion.

“More and more people are finding out about DinoMights, more and more people are telling me that they love what we’re doing for inner-city youths,” Toussaint said. “Our phones are constantly ringing off the hook for things like equipment donations, and things like that. To be in a place where we’re surrounded by 70,000 people, it’s just going to get bigger and bigger. More and more people are going to find out about DinoMights and I think it’s just awesome.”

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