Hockey Rules All in This Tiny Midwest Town

They've got the World's Largest Hockey Stick… sort of.

Photo courtesy of Matthew Goudreau
Photo courtesy of Matthew Goudreau
Photo courtesy of Matthew Goudreau

It looms, right on Monroe Street: the World’s Largest Free-Standing Hockey Stick. At 10,000 pounds and 110-feet long, it’s a fitting idol for Eveleth, Minnesota, aka the “Hockey Capital of the United States.” Propped up next to it is a puck, a “biscuit” in hockey parlance. If that biscuit were chocolate it would be 700 pounds of delicious.
Nearby on Hat Trick Avenue is the reason most people make the pilgrimage to this miniscule Iron Range town, population 3,600: The US Hockey Hall of Fame Museum (not to be confused with the other, much bigger Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto). 

Opened in 1973, its three eclectically-curated floors feature vintage ice skates, an old Zamboni, and a giant scoreboard from The Mighty Ducks. There’s footage and memorabilia from the legendary 1980 Olympics “Miracle on Ice” game, when the US team-almost two thirds of which hailed from Minnesota-bested the Soviet Union 4-3.  The sportscaster’s voice still echoes in a dramatic climax, even with the outcome well-known: “Five seconds left in the game…. Do you believe in miracles?!?”In the Land of 10,000 Lakes, ravenous hockey fandom comes with the territory. “Hockey’s one of those sports you either love or you don’t. If you don’t love it in Minnesota, you probably end up moving,” says Michele Woods, owner of The Rink Sports Bar & Grill, whose burgers sport names like “Smothered Puck” and “Blue Line.” (It’s not the only hockey-themed joint in town; the Penalty Box is a worthy stop for karaoke.)

“Skates are a popular baby gift up here,” adds Woods. “Our kids basically get skates before shoes.”

Eveleth’s claim as the Hockey Capital of the US stems from its well-earned reputation as a factory for elite players. 12 of the 180 or so Hockey Hall of Fame inductees hail from Eveleth, including USA Hockey Executive Director Doug Palazarri and the famed John Maysich, member of the US ice hockey team that won a silver medal at the 1956 Winter Olympics, and the gold in 1960.  
Weirdly, Eveleth owes its hockey prominence to the sport of curling. In its early days, hockey was relegated to outdoor frozen lakes and tough guys who could withstand subzero temperatures. It was the Eveleth curling team-returning from bonspiels, or curling competitions, up in Canada-that jumped on the idea to build an indoor sports arena featuring both a curling rink and skating rink. The building opened in January of 1919, stimulating local interest in hockey and almost immediately churning out above-average players. A few years later the building was replaced by the Hippodrome-the “Hipp”-now the oldest operating arena in Minnesota, with its own mini museum of hockey memorabilia.   These days in Eveleth you may also run into some actors: It’s the set of the upcoming Way of the Warriors, an underdog tale of a high school coach who-spoiler alert-overcomes adversity to probably lead his team to victory. Screenwriter and Minnesota native John Montague told local news that he was inspired by a visit to the hockey-crazed town. “As a kid growing up, you just really revered all those teams and towns up in Northern Minnesota,” he said. “We always looked at that really being the home of hockey and where so many of the quote-unquote real hockey players come from.”Maybe the film will weave in the dramatic sublot of The Big Stick, or The Stick if you’re in the know. When it was unveiled in 1995 it was touted as the “World’s Largest Hockey Stick,” until someone mentioned that there was a stick in British Columbia that was… bigger. Eveleth’s original stick was 107 feet long, but Canada’s clocked in at 205. To make matters worse, the slighted stick had begun to crack, and had to be taken down in 2001. 
But never fear: After some investigation it was discovered that Canada’s stick was not actually a standalone stick, but a sculpture, tacked to a building. Eveleth could once again claim the recognition and a new stick was erected, at 110 feet, on a vacant lot now known as “Hockey Plaza,” later joined by statues of greats John Mariucci and Frank Brimsek, by artist Jeff Kreitz.
They’re diplomatic about it though, and now call theirs “The World’s Largest Free-Standing Hockey Stick.” Speak softly and all that.Want more Thrillist? Follow us on InstagramTwitterPinterestYouTubeTikTok, and Snapchat!

Vanita Salisbury is Thrillist’s Senior Travel Writer. She’s seen The Mighty Ducks.


Ditch your Phone for ‘Dome Life’ in this Pastoral Paradise Outside Port Macquarie 

A responsible, sustainable travel choice for escaping big city life for a few days.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

The urge to get as far away as possible from the incessant noise and pressures of ‘big city life’ has witnessed increasingly more of us turn to off-grid adventures for our holidays: polled travellers at the start of 2023 and 55% of us wanted to spend our holidays ‘off-grid’.  Achieving total disconnection from the unyielding demands of our digitised lives via some kind of off-grid nature time—soft or adventurous—is positioned not only as a holiday but, indeed, a necessity for our mental health. 

Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, an accommodation collection of geodesic domes dotted across a lush rural property in Greater Port Macquarie (a few hours’ drive from Sydney, NSW), offers a travel experience that is truly ‘off-grid’. In the figurative ‘wellness travel’ sense of the word, and literally, they run on their own independent power supply—bolstered by solar—and rely not on the town grid. 

Ten minutes before you arrive at the gates for a stay at Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, your phone goes into ‘SOS ONLY’. Apple Maps gives up, and you’re pushed out of your comfort zone, driving down unsealed roads in the dark, dodging dozens of dozing cows. Then, you must ditch your car altogether and hoist yourself into an open-air, all-terrain 4WD with gargantuan wheels. It’s great fun being driven through muddy gullies in this buggy; you feel like Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park.  As your buggy pulls in front of your personal Nature Dome, it’s not far off that “Welcome…to Jurassic Park” jaw-dropping moment—your futuristic-looking home is completely engulfed by thriving native bushland; beyond the outdoor campfire lie expansive hills and valleys of green farmland, dotted with sheep and trees. You’re almost waiting to see a roaming brachiosaurus glide past, munching on a towering gum tree…instead, a few inquisitive llamas trot past your Dome to check out their new visitor. 

To fully capture the awe of inhabiting a geodesic dome for a few days, a little history of these futuristic-looking spherical structures helps. Consisting of interlocking triangular skeletal struts supported by (often transparent) light walls, geodesic domes were developed in the 20th century by American engineer and architect R. Buckminster Fuller, and were used for arenas. Smaller incarnations have evolved into a ‘future-proof’ form of modern housing: domes are able to withstand harsh elements due to the stability provided by the durable materials of their construction and their large surface area to volume ratio (which helps minimize wind impact and prevents the structure from collapsing). As housing, they’re also hugely energy efficient – their curved shape helps to conserve heat and reduce energy costs, making them less susceptible to temperature changes outside. The ample light let in by their panels further reduces the need for artificial power. 

Due to their low environmental impact, they’re an ideal sustainable travel choice. Of course, Tom’s Creek Nature Domes’ owner-operators, Cardia and Lee Forsyth, know all this, which is why they have set up their one-of-a-kind Nature Domes experience for the modern traveller. It’s also no surprise to learn that owner Lee is an electrical engineer—experienced in renewable energy—and that he designed the whole set-up. As well as the off-grid power supply, rainwater tanks are used, and the outdoor hot tub is heated by a wood fire—your campfire heats up your tub water via a large metal coil. Like most places in regional Australia, the nights get cold – but rather than blast a heater, the Domes provide you with hot water bottles, warm blankets, lush robes and heavy curtains to ward off the chill.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

You’ll need to be self-sufficient during your stay at the Domes, bringing your own food. Support local businesses and stock up in the town of Wauchope on your drive-in (and grab some pastries and coffee at Baked Culture while you’re at it). There’s a stovetop, fridge (stocked as per a mini bar), BBQs, lanterns and mozzie coils, and you can even order DIY S’More packs for fireside fun. The interiors of the Domes have a cosy, stylish fit-out, with a modern bathroom (and a proper flushing toilet—none of that drop bush toilet stuff). As there’s no mobile reception, pack a good book or make the most of treasures that lie waiting to be discovered at every turn: a bed chest full of board games, a cupboard crammed with retro DVDs, a stargazing telescope (the skies are ablaze come night time). Many of these activities are ideal for couples, but there’s plenty on offer for solo travellers, such as yoga mats, locally-made face masks and bath bombs for hot tub soaks. 

It’s these thoughtful human touches that reinforce the benefit of making a responsible travel choice by booking local and giving your money to a tourism operator in the Greater Port Macquarie Region, such as Tom’s Creek Nature Domes. The owners are still working on the property following the setbacks of COVID-19, and flooding in the region —a new series of Domes designed with families and groups in mind is under construction, along with an open-air, barn-style dining hall and garden stage. Once ready, the venue will be ideal for wedding celebrations, with wedding parties able to book out the property. They’ve already got one couple—who honeymooned at the Domes—ready and waiting. Just need to train up the llamas for ring-bearer duties! 

An abundance of favourite moments come to mind from my two-night stay at Tom’s Creek: sipping champagne and gourmet picnicking at the top of a hill on a giant swing under a tree, with a bird’s eye view of the entire property (the ‘Mountain Top picnic’ is a must-do activity add on during your stay), lying on a deckchair at night wrapped in a blanket gazing up at starry constellations and eating hot melted marshmallows, to revelling in the joys of travellers before me, scrawled on notes in a jar of wishes left by the telescope (you’re encouraged to write your own to add to the jar). But I’ll leave you with a gratitude journal entry I made while staying there. I will preface this by saying that I don’t actually keep a gratitude journal, but Tom’s Creek Nature Domes is just the kind of place that makes you want to start one. And so, waking up on my second morning at Tom’s —lacking any 4G bars to facilitate my bad habit of a morning Instagram scroll—I finally opened up a notebook and made my first journal entry:

‘I am grateful to wake up after a deep sleep and breathe in the biggest breaths of this clean air, purified by nature and scented with eucalyptus and rain. I am grateful for this steaming hot coffee brewed on a fire. I feel accomplished at having made myself. I am grateful for the skittish sheep that made me laugh as I enjoyed a long nature walk at dawn and the animated billy goats and friendly llamas overlooking my shoulder as I write this: agreeable company for any solo traveller. I’m grateful for total peace, absolute stillness.” 

Off-grid holiday status: unlocked.

Where: Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, Port Macquarie, 2001 Toms Creek Rd
Price: $450 per night, book at the Natura Domes website.

Get the latest from Thrillist Australia delivered straight to your inbox, subscribe here.


Our Best Stories, Delivered Daily
The best decision you'll make all day.