Saturday, January 21, 2012
Today is the sixth annual Hockey Day Minnesota, a celebration of the game in the state of Minnesota during which Fox Sports North runs non-stop hockey programming for an entire day.
The first Hockey Day Minnesota was held back in 2007, which featured two high school games played outdoors on Baudette Bay.
At the conclusion of the broadcast of the first game, FSN ran feature programming on various hockey related topics, such as backyard rinks and pond hockey. Later in the day the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers hosted the Denver Pioneers at Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis followed by the Minnesota Wild hosting the Dallas Stars in an NHL contest over in St. Paul's Xcel Energy Center.
Xcel Energy Center
So successful was the event that it became an instant tradition and led to an expanded schedule of games for 2008. The day began with a return to Baudette in temperatures which plunged to -25º F. Two high school games were held, with storied Eveleth (home of the United States Hockey Hall of Fame) taking on Lake of the Woods High School followed by Blaine from the Twin Cities suburbs battling Roseau. Meanwhile, down in St. Paul, hockey powers Hill-Murray and St. Thomas Academy played at the Xcel Energy Center followed by the New York Islanders taking on the Wild. Later that night, the Gophers game from Denver was broadcast.
Since then, outdoor games for the high schoolers have been held in Phalen Park in St. Paul in 2009, Hermantown (just west of Duluth) in 2010 and Moorhead (across the river from Fargo, North Dakota) in 2011, featuring not only the boys, but now with girls added to the schedule.
Action from Phalen Park
photo courtesy of VintageHockeyMinnesota
St. Cloud was included in the event when they hosted the Gophers in the day's college portion of the event in 2009 before they travelled to Minneapolis to face the Gophers the following year. Denver returned as the Gophers opponent for 2011. (At this point we must ask why the defending national champion Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs have yet to be included in Hockey Day Minnesota, especially as hosts for the Gophers in their brand new Amsoil Arena?)
While the high school games move from location to location, and the college games have as well, one constant has been the Wild, without whose support and cooperation the event would not be possible, hosting a game in St. Paul. The remainder of their opponents have been the Anaheim Ducks in 2009, the Columbus Blue Jackets on 2010 and the St. Louis Blues in 2011.
The Wild hosted the Blues on Hockey Day Minnesota in 2011
This year's schedule begins with White Bear Lake taking on Grand Rapids followed by the #1 and 2 rated teams in the state, as Minnetonka faces off against Duluth East in boys high school hockey followed by the Minnetonka girls playing against Hopkins' girls. The games were originally scheduled to be held outdoors on Lake Minnetonka, but due to the unseasonably warm temperatures a safe and playable surface would not be ready in time, forcing the high school games indoors for the first time in the history of the event.
The Gophers will host the Colorado College Tigers at 5 PM followed by the Wild taking on the Dallas Stars at 8 PM. Additionally, the Golden Gophers women's team's game against Bemidji State will be shown on the Big Ten Network at 4 PM.
With the high school games being held in the Twin Cities metro area for only the second time, those with a hearty appetite for the game can take in as many as four live games at three different locations in one day. For those of you craving your outdoor hockey, there is always the option of a trip to Lake Nokomis in south Minneapolis for the 2012 U. S. Pond Hockey Championships, which would fit nicely in between the early high school games in the west metro area and the early evening college game just 10 miles up the freeway to the north.
Including a stop at the pond hockey championships, all four venues are located within 35 miles of each other, easily doable for the devoted hockey faithful, rather nicely laid out with no backtracking!
A - Pagel Activity Center, Minnetonka
B - Lake Nokomis, Minneapolis
C - Mariucci Arena, Minneapolis
D - Xcel Engery Center, St. Paul
Special for this year is that the over 16 hours of programming on FSN will feature a telethon to raise money for the Jack Jablonkski Trust Fund for the player recently paralyzed from a broken neck resulting from a check from behind in a recent junior varsity high school game. If you would like to make a donation to the fund, please click on the logo below.