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Shirley's Kitchen: Duluth's ultimate hockey mom's grand dedication

Shirley Kirsch shows her friend Barb Engelking an invitation to the grand opening of Shirley's Kitchen. (Photo by Teri Cadeau)1 / 2
The concession stand in the Sill Arena has been dubbed "Shirley's Kitchen" to commemorate the work of Shirley Kirsch. (Photo courtesy of the Duluth Heritage Sports Center)2 / 2

Elbow pads, shin pads, a helmet, gloves, a jersey, a stick and, of course, skates: these are just some of the things one needs to play hockey.

More importantly, there is something else that one needs: someone to drive them to practices, to cheer for them at their games, to help them keep track of all their equipment and make sure they don't play on an empty stomach. Often this person often labeled a "hockey mom," and this week, the Duluth Heritage Sports Center (DHSC) dedicated the Sill Arena's concession stand to one of Duluth's hockey moms, Shirley Kirsch.

The stand will now be called "Shirley's Kitchen" in honor of Kirsch's continued support of local hockey programs.

Kirsch has often been called Duluth's ultimate hockey mom.

"She's a celebrated mom," said Patrick Francisco, chair of the DHSC. "Of course, she's way beyond just a hockey mom."

"Meaning that I stood in snow banks for years and years," says Kirsch. In addition to keeping her seven sons active in the sport, she has opened her home to hundreds of students from the University of Minnesota Duluth and St. Scholastica over the years, many of whom were hockey players. Kirsch has rented rooms to these young adults and shared meals with them in order to help them feel at home while being away from their families, many for the first time.

In fact, Kirsch is proud to have provided a meal once a week for a large group of UMD hockey players one of the years that they made it to Boston to compete in the NCAA tournament. She kept a scrapbook throughout the season of all the news stories and pictures and called it "The Road to Boston."

Apparently, the players weren't as confident as Kirsch about making it to the tournament.

"They didn't think we'd make it to Boston. And when we did make it, every one of them asked me, 'How did you know?' And I told them, 'I just did,'" said Kirsch. "Even though we lost, it didn't matter. We were there -- that's the most important thing."

At the end of last hockey season, several friends of Kirsch came together to commemorate Kirsch and her efforts while also assisting the DHSC with its fundraising. The fundraising effort started with a generous lead gift of $10,000 by an anonymous donor. That lead gift was nearly tripled by contributions by many others in order to provide Kirsch with well-deserved recognition for her spirited support.

Kirsch says she is very happy to see the DHSC receive support in her name. Francisco states that he found it "just natural" to commemorate Kirsch in

the center.

"The DHSC has an obligation to commemorate a large range of people," he said. "Of course by doing this we're also commemorating all moms, who tend to be the most forgotten group."

Shirley's Kitchen will offer a menu that includes some of the soup styles Kirsch cooks up in her home kitchen.

It now has an awning with the logo "Shirley's Kitchen" placed above the serving window and a brick arch with a photo display conveying Kirsch's story.

Kirsch is also known throughout the area as an avid quilter and one of her quilts will also be included in the

display.

As of the Budgeteer deadline, Shirley's Kitchen is scheduled to have a grand dedication on Saturday, October 19, at 2 p.m. at the Duluth Heritage Sports Center.

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