Saturday, January 19, 2013

2013 Hockey Day in Minnesota

The timing of the return of the NHL could not have been better, as today is the seventh annual Hockey Day in Minnesota.

Hockey Day logo, Hockey Day logo

The event is run in cooperation between Fox Sports North and the Minnesota Wild. FS North will feature over 21 hours of hockey related programming, beginning at 9 AM central time.

Grand Rapids has been chosen as the site for several outdoor games to be played on Lake Pokegama. The forecast looks good, with a high of 17º and a 50% chance of snow, but winds of 20 mph will test the players and spectators as the wind chill factor reaches 0º.

Lake Pokegama, Lake Pokegama
The rink being prepped at Lake Pokegama

The day begins with a pair of boys high school hockey games starting at 10 AM with #4 AA ranked Eagan from the Twin Cities metro area taking on Hibbing from the north, who are ranked #14 in he smaller Class A. That game will be followed by #13 AA Grand Rapids hosting the defending state champions #6 AA Benilde-St. Margaret's at 1:30. Benilde-St. Margaret's is the school of paralyzed player Jack Jablonski, who is currently an assistant coach for Benilde-St. Margaret's, and he will be featured during one of the feature stories FS North will be airing between games.

Jablonski, Jablonski
Jack Jablonski

The excitement of the day will really become electric at 5 PM when the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers host the University of North Dakota in their final WCHA matchup of this historic, intense rivalry, which dates back to the 1940's. As we covered yesterday, both schools will be leaving the WCHA next season, with Minnesota heading to the new Big 10 Hockey Conference, while North Dakota will be one the founding members of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference, making this the final meeting between the long-time conference rivals. Minnesota is currently ranked #1 in the nation, while North Dakota comes in to Mariucci Arena ranked 5th.

Minnesota vs North Dakota, Minnesota vs North Dakota

Following the college game, it's finally time to drop the puck on the NHL season when the Minnesota Wild will host the Colorado Avalanche in a highly anticipated game which will see the debut of the Wild's blockbuster twin signings of hometown talent and forward Zach Parise and defenseman Ryan Suter.

Suter Parise, Suter Parise
Ryan Suter and Zach Parise

Wild fans have been anticipating this game since the pair signed on July 4th, and were forced to wait three and a half months for this new era in Wild hockey to finally begin. How excited were the fans in Minnesota? Over 15,000 turned out for Wednesday night's scrimmage at the Xcel Energy Center! Attendance today at just the Gophers and Wild games combined is likely to reach nearly 30,000 fans, with many more taking in the festivities in Grand Rapids as well as all the other 50 boys high school games scheduled to take place around the state today.

Following the Wild game, Hockey Day in Minnesota will conclude with a tape delayed broadcast at 11 PM of the Hibbing vs. Grand Rapids girls high school outdoor game from Lake Pokegama.

Aside from the feature on Jablonski, there will be other feature programming about Grand Rapids and it's hockey tradition, Wild goaltender Josh Harding and his diagnosis with Multiple Sclerosis this summer and a story on Caitlin Tate, a varsity goaltender for Park High School, who was born without one of her hands.

Josh Harding, Josh Harding
Josh Harding

In addition to the FS North programming, also currently taking place is the U. S. Pond Hockey Championships from Lake Nokomis in south Minneapolis, which will certainly receive some coverage during the Hockey Day programming.

It's going to be a fantastic, fun filled day of hockey, hockey and more hockey and a great way to kick off the return of the NHL. 

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