Patrons and athletes at the Little Falls Exchange Arena will notice that a friendly face that has been a staple for nearly three decades will be missing this winter.
Mike Corrow, arena manager since 2001, and Little Falls youth hockey board member since 1991, has decided to move on from the position.
Corrow said that with is wife’s retirement last December, they decided to move closer to family, and a warmer climate, which means a move to Texas.
His last day was Wednesday, as Wesley Waytashek, a 2009 Little Falls graduate and former Flyer hockey player, takes over the reins.
“I rely on Mike for a lot of things, so I’m happy for him, that he can move closer to his family, but selfishly I would want him to stay, because he is a very wonderful person, and a great arena manager,” said Little Falls high school hockey coach Tony Couture. “It is kind of bittersweet. I hate to see him go, but I understand that he wants to be with his family.”
Corrow first joined the Flyer hockey family nearly 30 years ago when he took his son to try out hockey.
“I remember walking through the front door and saying, “He’s not going to like it, and this is going to be a short-lived experience,’” Corrow said. “Now here I sit.”
“He came off the ice after that first practice, ringing wet, and he was absolutely the worst kid on the ice, and he looked at me, and had a tear in his eye and he said, ‘Dad, I’m not very good, but it was really, really fun,’” Corrow said. “I said, ‘Well buddy, if you come off the ice sweating that good every time, you’re not going to be not very good very long.’”
It wasn’t long after that when Corrow took the position as treasurer of Little Falls Youth Hockey. Since, he’s held several positions on the board of youth hockey and the arena.
When Corrow took over as treasurer, the non-profit organization was in the red, but within a year he was able to get it into the black, where it has stayed ever since. It is something that he takes a lot of pride in.
In 2001, the arena manager quit mid-season and Corrow volunteered to take over for the rest of the year, while he stayed on at his job with the Army at Camp Ripley.
“Everything that could possibly go wrong that first winter did,” Corrow said. “Hoses blowing on the Zamboni, pipes blowing in the compressor room, and during all that chaos, we never lost one hour of ice. We were able to keep the ice running, which was a feat in and of itself.”
At the end of the year, the Board asked if he’d like to stay on, and he knew he only had a year or so left until he’d be done with the Army, so he accepted.
“I really love the kids, and you couldn’t do this job if you didn’t enjoy the kids,” Corrow said. “I love watching them from chopping their skates on the ice, to being graceful and smooth, and it’s not only the hockey kids, but the figure skating club as well.”
“It’s fun to watch them gain that confidence, and the love for the ice,” Corrow said.
Some of those kids are that of Carmen Johnson, who is the current scheduler and president of Little Falls Youth Hockey.
“From the moment we walked into the exchange arena 10 years ago Mike Corrow has been a constant source of guidance, comfort and discipline for everyone in that arena,” Johnson said. “He will be greatly missed by every Flyer. Mike’s passion for hockey and life have touched everyone who has skated on that ice. LFYH and the Johnson family will truly miss Mike and his family.”
Corrow said that as the one full-time employee of the arena, he will have a few things he won’t miss.
“You’re the toilet scrubber, the floor sweeper, the puke cleaner, the accident in the bathroom fixer, the plumber, the electrician, literally the jack of all trades, because of the financials of being a non-profit,” Corrow said. “It’s been a fun job, and it’s not one that is for the faint of heart. One, you gotta like kids, and in the winter we can run from 6:30 in the morning until 11 at night, so it can be some long days.”
There were a lot of things he did love though.
“I had lots of opportunities to move on over the years, but I loved the excitement and atmosphere that the kids bring when they are loving the game, and that kept me here.”
That includes one of his favorite moments, which happened in 2009.
“I’ve been to a lot of fun sporting events, Twins winning the World Series is right up there, but one of my favorite sporting event nights, was when Ben Hanowski broke the all-time state scoring record right here in this rink, and right in front of me in this gate,” Corrow said. “It was a stressful night, because there was a whole lot of people in the building, but it was really a fun time.”
On his way to Texas, he’ll bring with a bevy of happy memories.
“When all the dust settles and you shut off the lights after a big win, or little kid comes up and tells me, ‘Mike, did you see my goal,’ and I can say, ‘Yeah, that was a great shot,’ and you watch the smile on their face,” Corrow said. “When I head south to Texas, I’ll keep those smiles, and that will be good.”