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Family that plays together builds memories (video)

02-05 01 cowl hockey jw .jpg
Aaron Cowl bring the puck up the ice while siblings Alan, Adam and Arikka, left to right, watch. They were playing Friday at a new rink their family created near Oronoco for the children and friends.

ORONOCO — Alan Cowl takes the puck off the boards, spins and shoots.


Brother Adam Cowl blocks it, and sister Arikka Cowl grabs the loose puck.

She has a clean breakaway.

She snaps off a quick wrist shot.



Arikka does her victory twirl, not once, but twice.

The score is now ...

No one knows because no one is keeping score. Winning and losing are not the reason that Cowl Arena was created this winter out of a farm field southeast of Oronoco. Instead, it's a small ice sheet for the children of Dr. Clayton and Cammy Cowl and their friends. Games are ad hoc — whomever shows up plays, or if friends don't play hockey, they just skate.

There's more than hockey or skating going on, however. There's also a push for family time, to get kids outside and get exercise. Besides, how many children can say their family owns a fire tanker?

"In general, anything that we can do that allows the kids to spend time together and do anything that's active … is good," their dad said.

He thinks even more is going on — "it's always about the story; it's like fishing," he said.


When his children come back from the ice, they don't talk about the score, but what they did, the funny bounces, the goofy falls, Arikka's victory twirls. They're stories the children will remember, he said.

He's chairman of Mayo Clinic's Division of Preventative, Occupational and Aerospace Medicine. He's a busy man, so any time he can help his family have time together, or spend time with them, is also good.

"It rejuvenates everyone," he said.

Cowl knows technology has its place, but its place is not as a divider of families, he said.

He got the idea for the rink from sons Alan and Adam. He spent a few hundred dollars to get the boards, which stick up about a foot, and two goals, from a Twin Cities family. Because the land isn't next to their house, he bought an old fire tanker to haul water. Having that truck is another story his children will tell, and retell, for decades, Cowl said. The family also has a generator and lights to play after dark.

His children talked more about the sheer fun of being able to go out and skate whenever they want.

"We had to go into town (to skate) and we thought it would be fun to try our own," Adam,14, said while warming up. When he skates, he admits he sometimes dreams of playing pro, at least "a little bit," he said.


Alan, 12, said he likes hockey but isn't interested in playing competitively. That requires a lot of Sunday games, and for the Cowl family, Sunday is time for church and dinner with family in the Twin Cities, he said.

Arikka, 10, said they even have a portable metal fire pit so they can build a fire to warm up, not that she always needs it.

"I dress warm enough, it's totally fun," she said. Cowl Arena "is quiet, there's not a lot of loud noises, you get privacy and such."

The longest reason for being out there came from Aaron, 8: "I like hockey because it's outdoors, and I like to do slap shots, and I like skating really fast, and it's fun to raise the puck into the net."

When the four siblings were warmed up, they chose sides — Adam and Aaron against Alan and Arikka.

Let the game — and stories — begin.

Aaron Cowl tries to get the puck past his sister, Arikka, while their brother Alan is ready to pounce on any loose puck.

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