Hockey Day Minnesota holds a very special place in my heart. As a native of Elk River, I had the good fortune of my hometown being selected to host the annual celebration of all things hockey last year in the very place I first learned to skate, Handke Pit. Even though I live far from Elk River now, I gladly returned for my pilgrimage home to be apart of the festivities and relish all the pomp and circumstance it entailed. From having Elk River hockey alums returning home to lead out the current boys and girls high school teams to the ice; which included 1989 Stanley Cup winner Joel Otto, to the many other tributes to State Championship teams it was such an event, to quote ‘Badger’ Bob Johnson, “a great day for hockey.” Of course having the Wild game finish with Nate Prosser scoring in overtime against Dallas that day finished off what was an already pretty epic day for fans from Elk River. Beyond the high school games; which of course represent the core of the State of Hockey’s proud hockey heritage there is a college game featuring Minnesota’s “Pride on ice” in the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers men’s team as well as the event being capped off by the Minnesota Wild. Its a 16-hour marathon of Minnesota hockey, and I am not afraid to admit I make sure I have no other commitments on that day so I can celebrate every moment of it.
Today the Wild announced that Hockey Day Minnesota 2015 will be played at Holman Field in St. Paul for January 17th, 2015. Holman Field is of course closely tied with the Minnesota National Guard (34th Combat Aviation Brigade “the Red Bulls” & 147th Assault Helicopter Battalion), who have been major sponsors of the event. The day will be major celebration of Minnesota’s military families and the brave men and women serving in our nation’s armed forces. I have little doubt that the charity Defending the Blueline will be prominently featured; as the organization designed to help military families support their hockey playing sons and daughters started in Minnesota. This also marks the 2nd time that Hockey Day Minnesota has been in St. Paul, as it hosted the event in 2009.
It is also the 3rd time that St. Paul Johnson High School will be playing in the outdoor games. The Governors have a very proud history; with a number of notable hockey alumni including Herb Brooks, Les Auge, Wendell Anderson, Alana Blahoski and Warren Strelow just to name a few. St. Paul Johnson will play the upstarts from southwestern Minnesota in Luverne who feature a plethora of young talented players like Jaxon Nelson and Chaz Smedsrud, while the 2nd game will be a private school battle between St. Thomas Academy and Hill-Murray in the boys high school games; while Cretin-Derham Hall will battle Duluth in girls high school action. For college hockey fans, the Minnesota Golden Gophers will play arch-rival Wisconsin at Mariucci Arena while the Minnesota Wild will faceoff against the Arizona Coyotes to culminate the day’s activities. No matter what there should be more than enough hockey for even the most die-hard of fans. It may not be the NHL’s Winter Classic, but its perhaps the best day long celebration of hockey of its kind in the United States in this humble writer’s opinion. I highly recommend to any fan of the game to attend it, and you’ll be glad you did!