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November 15, 2007

Aaron Broten

Aaron Broten is one of three hockey playing brothers to come out of Roseau, Minnesota. Aaron is generally regarded as the 2nd best of the trio. Younger brother Paul played 322 games in the league, while older brother Neal is considered by many to be the greatest American player ever, and certainly of his era. All three brothers played at the University of Minnesota and have extensive international hockey accomplishments to add to their NHL resume.

Growing up in the large shadow of brother Neal must not have been easy for Aaron but he quickly established his own sporting recognition. He was a high school standout who was considered to the #1 college recruit in 1978-79. In that time he was also one of the state' s outstanding junior golfers and played on the varsity baseball team.

Aaron joined Neal the University of Minnesota in 1979-80. WIth his brother taking a leave from the University to play in the Olympics, Aaron made a name for himself, seting a school record for most assists (47) by a freshman. In 1980-81 the Broten brothers were reunited at the U, playing on the same line. It was Aaron's star that shone brightest though, as he set school records with 59 assists and 106 points. Like his brother, he would leave school early in order to turn pro at the end of the 1981 college season.

Aaron, too, enjoyed a long career in the NHL, playing 748 games with some of the weakest teams in the leagues. He was a long time member of the Colorado Rockies/New Jersey Devils during the 1980s. Those teams were pretty weak which gave Aaron a good chance at some playing time. Like his brothers Aaron, was small and frail but quick and deft with the puck. More of a playmaker than a goal scorer, Aaron shied away from aggressive play which limited his effectiveness.

It took Aaron a while but he soon established himself as a scoring leader in New Jersey. Playing on a line with Kirk Muller and Pat Verbeek, by 1986-87 he led the team with 79 points, and upped that to 83 in 1987-88. That was the year that the Devils made the playoffs for the the first time in history, and then went on a remarkable run into the final four. Broten was a key player in that, scoring 16 points in 20 games.

Aaron and the Devils took a step backwards the following year, and by midway through the 1989-90 season Aaron was traded for the first time in his career. He was happy with the trade though as he was sent to his hometown Minnesota North Stars where, for the first time since college, he would get a chance to play with his star brother Neal.

The reunion was short lived however. Aaron played 35 games to finish the season but during training camp the following year he was waived to Quebec. His stay was short there too, lasting only 20 games there before being traded to Toronto. His stay with the Leafs was again brief as he was released after 27 games. The Winnipeg Jets gave Aaron a shot halfway through the 1991-92 season, but he was again released and this time unable to find NHL employment.

Aaron opted to retire. He had played in 748 games, scoring 186 goals and compiling 329 assists for 515 points in a respectable career.

However it wasn't the last time Aaron would put on the blades. In 1998-99 Aaron, along with brothers Neal and Paul and former standout Joey Mullen dressed for Team USA in a qualifying tournament in the 1999 World championships. The team was dangerously close to slipping out of the A pool in world hockey championships. Team USA did qualify, edging out Kazakhstan and Austria, thanks to the retired stars.

It was the first time that the brothers had played together on a serious level of hockey. Aaron picked up no points in the 3 games, but he was a veteran presence on the bench blessed with international experience. Aaron had played in as many international events as a NHLer could during the 1980s. He played in the World Junior Hockey Championships, played in 5 previous World Hockey Championships and played on two Canada Cup teams.

Aaron, who became a born-again Christian thanks to the influence of New Jersey teammate Chico Resch, returned to Roseau and became an investment advisor. He would also stay involved in hockey, coaching his old high school team and becoming active with Hockey Ministries International.

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