Happy Hockey Day, Minnesota

6:24 p.m. – Wild COO Matt Majka checks in from Moorhead

Happy Hockey Day from bright and shiny Moorhead, Minnnesota…Almost too shiny, in fact. The sun may wreak some havoc with ice conditions this afternoon, but that’s part of the charm of Hockey Day Minnesota. My prediction is that the volunteers here in Moorhead will work their rear ends off to keep the ice as playable as possible, and then the players will just play through it just like they have every other Hockey Day. From the moment this event was conceived nearly six years ago in a mid-summer meeting between the Minnesota Wild and Fox Sports North staff, we had a hunch we were onto something special. Each of the five Hockey Days since then have confirmed that hunch. We’ve seen Hockey Day games played in all sorts of conditions–brutal cold (Baudette Bay), snow flurries (St. Paul), rain, yes, rain (Hermantown) and, now, bright sun and warmer weather (Moorhead). Every year presents a new challenge, and every year the spirit of Hockey Day Minnesota prevails.

That spirit fits perfectly into the Wild’s “State of Hockey” theme. Is there another state in the union where hockey moms and dads, aunts and uncles, and their best friend’s barber will spend countless, tireless, selfless hours to stage a couple of outdoor high school hockey games in the dead of winter? Where else would you see the local bakery whip up a Hockey Day cake in the shape and likeness of an ice rink that looks nearly regulation size? And, what other sport rallies around its tradition and heritage like Minnesota hockey?

Today’s first game between Roseau and Wayzata was a study in contrast (except for the fact that both teams were wearing white due to a little miscommunication…I thought it was fitting, though. In real pond hockey everyone’s wearing a different color jersey and part of the challenge is figuring out who you’re playing with, and against). Tiny, outstate Roseau vs. big, metro Wayzata.

Guess what? The game goes into overtime and a wrester by Wayzata senior defenseman Marc Richards finds its way through a maze of bodies and into the  Roseau net.  Jubilation on the Wayzata side and a bit of despair from Roseau, but within moments the two teams composed themselves and were at center ice shaking each other’s hands because that’s what hockey tradition dictates. And, nothing is bigger in hockey than its tradition.

That tradition is what demanded that Hockey Day Minnesota be played outdoors in the first place. We had high hopes six years ago, but I don’t think any of us would have predicted the scenes we’ve seen since.

I guess we know we’ve made it when Governors and Senators show up to do the ceremonial puck drop as they did in Moorhead today. They expect 7000 people this afternoon when the hometown Spuds take on Hill Murray.

The ice may be soft. The sun may be in the boys’ eyes. The puck probably won’t sit down, but the game will go on. And, I imagine years from now nearly no one will remember the score, but everyone involved will remember the experience. And, for that, our good friends in Moorhead who worked all those tireless hours and so willingly embraced the Hockey Day spirit deserve our sincere thanks and appreciation.

2:48

Now midway through the second period of the game, and the ice is in shambles right now. The Moorhead goalie is literally walking in his crease it is so chewed up. They’ve now gotten creative and moved the net up above the crease, which doesn’t exactly make things even, but safety has to be the priority at this point.

Meanwhile, the Aeros are having a fun time. After a shootout contest (Robbie Earl was the last man not to score) the Aeros were joined by a youth girls team, who took part in some drills with the big guys. This is what hockey is all about!

1:45

I’m now taking the Moorhead-Hill-Murray game from the Al Shaver Press Box. Down below, Mike Yeo his guiding his Houston Aeros through a practice in advance of tomorrow’s big tilt with the Peoria Rivermen here at Xcel Energy Center. By the way, you can still purchase tickets for that game for just $15, but if you can’t be here, the game will be streamed live on Wild.com.

First off, I’m so happy to see Moorhead goaltender the Moorhead goaltender sporting the toque on top of his helmet. I’m a little surprised to not see the same thing on the noggin of Hill-Murray’s Tim Shaughnessy, who was featured last week on Wild.com. Shaughnessy was the goaltender who won the Xcel Energy Center crowd over at last year’s skills competition. He came up big many times in the shootout with Wild players, and saved his best save for last, when he denied Mikko Koivu’s patented backhand flip and then taunted the Wild captain.

We’ve seen some great fashion choices, what with the goaltender’s toque, Al Franken’s hat, but nothing can top the ensemble that Pioneer Press beat writer Bruce Brothers was rocking on the FSN broadcast.

10:11 a.m.

Watching a beautiful rendition of the national anthem by Kallie Frost, who is not trying to over-sing and remembered every word perfectly. Super Bowl organizers, take note. You don’t always need a pop star to be patriotic.

The sun is powerful in Moorhead this morning, so the players are sporting the eye black today. You’ve got to love it.

I’m a little disappointed that neither goaltender is sporting a toque, but Senator Al Franken is more than making up for it with his fur hat as he drops the puck for the opening faceoff.

One thing I’m a bit concerned about is both teams are wearing white jerseys and white socks. Are they going to get confused? Are we going to see 30 goals this game because players keep dishing the puck off to the wrong team? Will players score on their own goalies? I am petrified right now.

And finally, I love the circular buildings in the background. I don’t know if they are silos, or what, but they add character to the beautiful scene. Off we go!

9:12 a.m.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Hockey Day Minnesota is finally upon us. Fox Sports North has 14 hours of hockey coverage on the docket, so I suggest you load up on non perishables today. If you’re not going to attend a hockey game, or play a hockey game, then the davenport is where you’ll want to be.

Kids, you should always exercise, but this Saturday is one in which being lazy is welcome. Let the folks at FSN do all the work.

Check back throughout the day on Wild.com and Wild.com/hockeyday for updates from here, updates from Wild Chief Operating Officer, Matt Majka who is in Moorhead and watching his son play for Wayzata and photos from Moorhead from Jim Rosvold.

We’ll also have videos, and of course, full coverage of the scorching Wild’s rematch with the St. Louis Blues tonight. To get you started, you’ll want to check out the latest Wild TV feature: 4-foot-7: Portman vs. Glen Avon – The Road To City Supremacy. You may have seen 24/7: Penguins vs. Capitals on HBO. But those two teams look like allies compared to the Mini-Mite squads in Duluth.

Stay tuned for more throughout the day, here on Wild.com.

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