Passing on a bus trip with Blaine to Hockey Day Minnesota back in 2008 remains a big regret in my 15 years covering high school sports at the Star Tribune.
Then again, the game time temperature was 7-below zero with a wind chill around 27-below on Baudette Bay, located in Way Up North Minnesota. Not sorry about missing that. Blaine lost to Roseau 1-0 as part of the second Hockey Day Minnesota festivities.
A creation of Fox Sports North and the Minnesota Wild to showcase the sport, Hockey Day Minnesota drops the puck for the 14th time with a three-day event outdoors at Parade Stadium on the western edge of downtown Minneapolis. Two high school girls’ games took place Thursday night, followed by a local NHL alumni game Friday, two boys’ high school games Saturday and the Gopher women in the afternoon.
I’ll be there to capture color in and around the 9:30 a.m., game Saturday featuring the Warroad boys against host Minneapolis. My three previous HDM experiences were St. Paul (2009), Moorhead (2011) and Grand Rapids (2013).
Whether in the Twin Cities or greater Minnesota, HDM brings energy to the hockey-loving host communities. The event is a Hockey Homecoming. A happening. A nod to simpler, if colder, times spent on outdoor rinks.
In 2009, St. Paul Johnson players walked the half-mile from their high school to Phalen Park, where long ago the Governors played all their varsity games. Johnson topped Rochester John Marshall 4-0.
The sun was unwelcome on HDM in 2011 in Moorhead. The rink went from a happening to a hazard. Unable to fix the deteriorating ice behind one of the goals, officials moved the goal several feet closer to the blue line. That shrank a playing surface already 15 feet short of regulation. Hill-Murray beat host Moorhead 3-2.
Then in 2013, the wind and cold I missed by passing on the invitation from Blaine found me on Lake Pokegama in Grand Rapids. One Benilde-St. Margaret’s player remarked that the starched American flag looked like it was fastened to a gymnasium wall. Grand Rapids beat the Red Knights 3-2 in overtime.
Days later, I noticed the materials on the fingers of my gloves warped. Evidently I held them too close to the outdoor fire pit too often.
Eagan played Hibbing/Chisholm in the earlier game, after which former Grand Rapids standout John DeCenzo tackled Eagan coach Mike Taylor into the snow and yelled to his old friend, “That’s how we say hello on the Range!”
Here’s to another round of great memories Saturday.