Little Canada, Minn. – Take a drive just north of St. Paul, Minnesota, and you’ll find a small American community with a Canadian name.
Little Canada was founded in 1858 by a French-Canadian, Benjamin Gervais, who as the story goes, was drawn to the land and the neighboring lake.
“I think Ben Gervais originally called it ‘Petite Canada’,” Mayor John Keis said.
More than 150 years later the community is still proud of those Canadian roots.
The water tower, which rises above the town of 10,000 is red and white. The flag is red and white too. It’s a maple leaf, and in the middle, is a fleur-de-lis.
“It kind of has that small town feel,” Keis said.
Little Canada is a sister city with Thunder Bay and in August, they even hold “Canadian Days”. A celebration for businesses where locals can also sometimes be spotted in red and white.
“The people that I’ve met up there have been very gracious and welcoming,” Keis said.
While its mayor said there aren’t many Canadians now living in Little Canada, they are equally welcoming to any Canadian who wants to stop by to their historical society and hear the origins of their town. Especially after the Minnesota Wild beat the Winnipeg Jets Sunday night.
“Doing this interview is a little easier because we won yesterday,” Keis joked.
Little Canada doesn’t just share a name and a border with its northern neighbors, but a love for the game.
Minnesota, after all, is called the “State of Hockey ” and like Manitoba, its residents know what it’s like to love and lose a team.
The Minnesota North Stars called Minnesota home for 26 years before they went south to Dallas.
A narrative similar to the Jets, who’s team was shipped to Phoenix in 1996.
“I still by mistake call the Wild the Stars,” Keis said. “And I get reprimanded for that.”
While he can empathize with Jets fans who finally got their team back, he’s not willing to switch his allegiances to a Canadian team.
He may be the Mayor of Little Canada, but the community is in the Wild’s back-yard.