Friday, February 19, 2016

2016 Hockey Weekend Across America and the 2016 NHL Stadium Series

Today is the start of the 9th annual Hockey Weekend Across America.

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Activities begin today with Wear Your Favorite Jersey Day. Fans are not only encouraged to wear their favorite jersey, but submit photos to the USA Hockey Facebook and Twitter pages.

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Saturday is "Try Hockey Day", which is sponsored by the NHL. More than 300 rinks in 45 states will host Try Hockey For Free clinics, during which thousands of kids will get an opportunity to experience hockey for the first time. This event has it's own dedicated webpage,, which allows you to find the nearest location for you to. Near us, there are 14 rinks to choose from.

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Sunday is "Celebrate Local Hockey Heroes Day", which encourages all involved in hockey to develop ways to honor their local hockey heroes. Again, fans are invited to submit stories and photos to USA Hockey's Facebook and Twitter pages.

Sunday is also NBC's Hockey Day in America, which begins at noon Eastern time with a tripleheader of games, including the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Buffalo Sabres followed by the Stadium Series game from Minneapolis between the Chicago Blackhawks vs. the Minnesota Wild, both on NBC. The third game, the Detroit Red Wings at the New York Rangers, will air on NBCSN. The coverage will include special features showcasing hockey at all levels in the United States.

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For those living in the St. Paul-Minneapolis Twin Cities area, there is more hockey than you can possibly fit into one weekend. Friday sees the Semifinals of the Minnesota Girls State High School Tournament taking place at the home of the NHL's Minnesota Wild, the Xcel Energy Center, with Class A at 11 AM and 1 PM, with Class AA at 6 PM and 8 PM.

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The boys sectional playoffs continue with four games divided between Aldrich Arena and Parade Ice Garden, each holding a double header at 6 and 8 PM.

The University of Minnesota Golden Gophers women's team has the crown jewel of it's schedule this weekend, with the #3 ranked Gophers (27-3-1) hosting the #2 Wisconsin Badgers (30-1-1) at Ridder Arena on the U of M campus. Wisconsin has won both meetings in Madison this season, but the Gophers now have former Kazmaier Award winner and US Olympian Amanda Kessel back in the lineup. Game time is 7 PM Friday.

Saturday sees no less than 20 boys high school sectional playoffs games taking place around the state, starting at 11 AM and starting hourly in various locations through 8 PM.

Saturday also sees the girls high school Class A and AA State Tournament finals taking place with Class A at 4 PM and Class AA at 7 PM to crown two state champions.

The Gophers and the Badgers play their second game at 3 PM at Ridder Arena. Ridder is a five minute walk from TCF Bank Stadium, where Saturday sees the combined team of Minnesota North Stars and Minnesota Wild alumni taking on a team of Chicago Blackhawks alumni in a highly anticipated game at 4 PM.

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Players scheduled to take part in the game include Brian Bellows, Neal Broten, Andrew Brunette, Dino Ciccarelli, Dennis Maruk, Gilles Meloche, Mike Modano, Gordie Roberts, Brian Rolston, Bobby Smith and Wes Walz for the Minnesota side, while Chicago has Murray Bannerman, Chris Chelios, Dave Christian, Jack O'Callahan, Jeremy Roenick, Denis Savard and Jimmy Waite in a game with five Hockey Hall of Famers (Ciccarelli, Modano, Chelios, Savard and Blackhawks team coach Tony Esposito) and four members of the 1980 Miracle on Ice United States Olympic team (Broten, Christian, O'Callahan and Wild/North Stars team coach Mike Ramsey).

In some respects, it's unfortunate that the women's game could not have been made the preliminary to the Alumni game outdoors rather than having the two games overlap within a stone's throw of each other. Still, it's probably for the best that this vital women's game between these two highly ranked teams is being played indoors without any concerns about playing conditions due to ice quality or weather conditions. Even so, it would have been nice if the women's game early enough at 1 PM to allow fans to attend both if they so desired.

The weekend's main event is Sunday's NHL Stadium Series game where the Wild take on the Blackhawks in the first NHL outdoor game in Minnesota at 2:30 PM.

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The slumping Wild fired their head coach last weekend and promoted John Torchetti from their AHL affiliate in Iowa. Torchetti will be making his first appearance as the Wild's head coach in Minnesota on the team's largest stage of the season - outdoors and on national TV! The change behind the bench has ignited the Wild, who have now won three in a row heading into Sunday's game against the team that has eliminated them from the playoffs the last three seasons.

Chicago, meanwhile, have had quite a busy week of their own. First on Monday they defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 7-2 at home, traveled to Madison Square Garden in New York City where they defeated the New York Rangers 5-3 on Wednesday, met with President and Blackhawks fan Barack Obama at the White House in Washington, D. C. on Thursday before making their way to Minnesota for the Stadium Series this weekend.

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Today's feature jerseys are the 2016 Minnesota Wild Stadium Series Zach Parise jersey and the 2016 Chicago Blackhawks Stadium Series Jonathan Toews jersey. These jerseys feature oversized numbers on the back and sleeves as well as bolder striping, wider than the average NHL jersey, all scaled up in size for increased visibility in the larger football stadium setting.

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Blackhawks 2016 Stadium Series jersey photo Blackhawks 2016 Stadium Series jersey.jpg

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