Squirt International | February 23, 2022

Last weekend, my ten-year-old played in the Squirt International hockey tournament in Fargo, North Dakota.  The “Squirt” in “Squirt International” refers to the age group in which he skates – specifically, fourth- and fifth-graders.  My son, a fourth grader, is a first-year Squirt.  I’m not sure why “Squirt” is the nationally-recognized term, but my guess is it has something to do with the fact that kids of this age like to hold their water bottles out in front of their pelvic region and squirt water/Gatorade all over the ice to simulate going to the bathroom.

The “International” part is because this tournament attracts 240 Squirt teams from all over the United States and Canada, who descend on Fargo for three four-day hockey tournaments (80 teams per weekend) in February.

For the past year, my fellow hockey moms have been warning me that Squirt International was “a big deal.”  As a marketing professional, I am permanently skeptical about anything pitched as “a big deal,” as everything about marketing is “a big deal,” even when it’s “not really any kind of a deal at all.”  Also, I started this blog because it’s a best-kept secret that North Dakota is awesome; and, as such, was wary that something of such “International” magnitude would be allowed to be located in Fargo.  I was so convinced that it wasn’t a big deal that I had an entirely different story written for today.

Anyways, I was wrong.

First of all, it turns out that Fargo was an ideal spot for the tournament.  There were enough hockey rinks between Fargo, West Fargo, and Moorhead that all 80 teams were able to play during normal human hours.  While urban areas like the Minneapolis metro also have a lot of rinks, in Fargo all of the rinks were a five-or-so-minute drive from the hotels.  Speaking of hotels, ours was totally cool with hockey families taking over the entire place.  The area restaurants were also cool, the Fargo parents who ran the concessions were cool, and whomever had to sweep up fifty billion pin bags (more on that later) was definitely, definitely cool.  Maybe Fargo should host the next Winter Olympics; the tagline basically writes itself (“Good Sports?  You Betcha!”).

Second of all, I knew I was wrong when I showed up to the Scheels Arena for the Opening Ceremonies and there were so many hockey players on the ice – 600, to be inexact – that I could smell them from the seats.  The music was bumpin’, the beer was flowing, and my shy little goalie was so pumped up that he spent twenty minutes dance-skating in circles with goalies from Grand Forks, Los Angeles, and Nevada.  The Opening Ceremonies included a group photo (somehow they convinced hundreds of children drunk on adrenaline to sit still for ten solid minutes), a warm-up skate, and the Squirt Olympics.

The Squirt Olympics had five(?) events like sharp-shooting, obstacle course skating, and goalie races happening simultaneously on two rinks.  Obviously, Kyle and I were only focused on the goalie races (and getting beer) – and since our son managed to get himself to the very back of a line of 100+ goalies for their timed trials, Kyle figured he had lots of space to procure us the aforementioned beers from a grown-up line equal to that in length of the goalies.  Our son was at the starting gate when Kyle returned sans anything but himself, annoyed because the person in front of him ordered eight vodka-cranberry juices with twists of lime, and those drinks took so long that Kyle had to leave the line to get back for the race.  Fortunately, our son’s team later played the vodka-cran’s team, meaning we got to carry around a pretty solid (one-sided) parental rivalry before the puck even dropped.

Thirdly, there was a huge amount of parental effort that goes into Squirt International.  As you can imagine, it’s hard enough to feed 15 kids, their parents, and their siblings in one go; but even more difficult when there are 79 other teams trying to do the same thing.  As such, the moms on my son’s team organized two potlucks…which meant that two moms had to sleep in hotel rooms with simmering pulled pork and taco meat for the entire weekend.  The moms also printed up Fat Heads (giant pictures of our children’s faces), packed up gift bags and, with the dads, toted kids all over town to games, photo shoots, and whatever else.  For my part, I brought hamburger buns and got myself dressed every day.

Finally, the biggest deal about Squirt International was the pin trading.  You may be thinking, “Like those little buttons we wore on our jean jackets back in the 80s?”  NO.  Fancy enamel pins with additional enamel whosiewhatsits that shift and spin and light up.  One of the teams had a pin that was as large as my hand and weighed a solid two pounds.  Each kid was given a prescribed number of their own team pins, which they used to trade for other team pins.  This trading happened in large piles on the floor; at every rink, hotel, and restaurant there were groups of kids kneeling down, their fabric pin books open to show off their wares – think New York street hawkers with fake Gucci bags.

The pin trading system was vast and complex.  In one instance, my son – who decided to forgo swimming in order to trade – bartered with another kid to swap my son’s biggest pin with a 2019 two-parter pin that was deemed “super-rare.”  When I asked what made it super-rare, my son just looked at me like I had suggested Sidney Crosby was not the best player in the world, so apparently I should stick to fake Gucci bags and stay out of the pin market.

We’re back home now, still trying to catch up with laundry and basking in the glow of all of our super-rare pins.  I’m going to celebrate Squirt International’s conclusion with a vodka-cranberry (with a twist of lime) and make a mental note to tell all of the next year’s first-time Squirt moms that Squirt International is a big deal.

The photos above are as follows (left to right):

  • The Lakeville South (MN) pin was one of the most popular because it was giant (that’s Kyle’s hand for scale) and the hockey player moved back and forth.
  • Approximately 1/5th of the goalies in the Olympics goalie race. Kyle took this photo, and I’m not even sure our kid is in it.
  • Kyle has been streaming our son’s games on Facebook Live.  The moms and dads on our team were so appreciative of his commentary that they made him this rad t-shirt.

This week’s news has t-shirts, Top Chefs, and grandmas.  Read on.


The (very large) Marsh family in Dickinson is selling t-shirts in support of the Stark County Association of Deputy’s youth-and-resident-in-need program. (Dickinson Press)

Students in Wahpeton put together a fast – and highly effective – gift basket auction (with thanks to many area businesses) to raise money for a local family who lost a son on February. (Wahpeton Daily News)

Bismarck’s Stephanie Miller is typing up her apron as a contestant on the Bravo TV show “Top Chef.” (KX Net)

Employees at Dickinson’s CountryHouse Residence got grandma Marilyn Wert to Bozeman, Montana so she could surprise her granddaughter at her college basketball game. (Dickinson Press)

I put up another one of my Flash Fiction stories – this one based on a conversation I had with another hockey mom, who said her son only scores when she’s in the bathroom.  You can read it here.