Hockey Day Minnesota: Three words have never sounded so good together. A morning when nearly the entire state wakes up feeling like it’s their birthday. A rite of passage. A daylong celebration of our heritage. The Saturday, Jan. 19 date has been earmarked on calendars all across the Land of 10,000 Lakes – and it’s now just days away.
One concern leading up to the event was the NHL lockout. These are worries no more as your Minnesota Wild is set to debut its new-look squad Saturday night at 8 p.m. at Xcel Energy Center. While the Wild vs. Avalanche is certainly a hot item, here’s a Hockey Day to-do list for all our fellow Minnesotans.
10. Head to your local pond/park. Outdoor puck on Hockey Day is like Grandma’s apple pie on Thanksgiving. It needs to happen. If you don’t already spend your Saturdays on the neighborhood rink, pencil it in for this week. Breathe the crisp air. Feel the wind on your face as you try and pull the toe-drag around your buddies and slide the puck in under the cross-bar. Hockey in its purest form. The way nature intended.
9. Eagan vs. Hibbing (10 a.m., FSN, Pokegema Lake). Catch the battle between the old-school Iron Range club versus the metro power. Hibbing boasts the electric Adam Johnson, a potential Mr. Hockey candidate and future Minnesota Duluth Bulldog. Eagan carries a horse by the name of Zach Glienke, who could be an NHL draft pick this year.
8. Drive to Grand Rapids. Make it a weekend trip. Grand Rapids is bursting with hockey history. The city is one beaming example of how special this sport makes our state. Take in all the games firsthand. Kids are encouraged to bring their skates as plenty of space will be made available for the public to participate. Plus, the breathtaking view of a hockey rink on Pokegama Lake will make the tank of gas worth it.
7. Benilde-St. Margaret’s vs. Grand Rapids (1 p.m., FSN, Pokegama Lake). The defending Class 2A Minnesota State High School League champions are packing up their gear and heading north for Hockey Day. This game is oozing with future college hockey players. Grand Rapids’ Jake Bischoff will play for the University of Minnesota. Benilde's Dan Labosky is committed to Colorado College and Grant Besse will head to Wisconsin.
6. Call your friends. Hockey’s all about having fun with your friends. Be sure to dial up your buddies and organize some hockey viewing and playing. Take it a step further and invite some friends that don’t already play hockey. After they experience Hockey Day Minnesota, they’ll be hooked!
5. Hibbing vs. Grand Rapids girls (4 p.m., 11 p.m. tape delay on FSN, Pokegama Lake). The growth of girls’ hockey in Minnesota continues. Tune in for some Iron Range girls’ puck at its finest. Grand Rapids shut out Hibbing 2-0 in their first meeting of the season one month ago. Senior goalie Sydney Helmbrecht has registered a 2.05 goals-against average and .920 save rate to go with three shutouts for the Lightning. Hibbing will be looking for revenge.
4. Organize your own events. Minnesota Wild Chief Operating Officer Matt Majka said it best in the “History of Hockey Day” feature that ran in the December issue of Minnesota Hockey Journal: “It’s kind of had this organic growth apart from the site of Hockey Day Minnesota every year. Many communities now are creating their own little mini Hockey Day Minnesota tournaments or events on that day. That, I didn’t anticipate – and that’s been really cool.” Cool, indeed. Get your team or association together to help celebrate.
3. Gophers vs. North Dakota (5 p.m., FSN, Mariucci Arena). Tensions will be at an all-time high as these two programs will collide for the final time in WCHA conference history. The crowd will be buzzing. Whether you’re a Gopher fan or not, there will be plenty of Minnesota natives on both benches for this one.
2. Tweet and Facebook us! We want to know what you’re all up to. Heading to the Wild game? Are you up in Grand Rapids? Does your association have their own events planned? Share your stories and photos with Minnesota Hockey on Facebook and Twitter. Be sure to check on our pages throughout the weekend.
1. Wild vs. Colorado (8 p.m., FSN, Xcel Energy Center). Head into downtown St. Paul. This is it, folks. This is the moment we’ve been waiting for. Your Minnesota Wild will open the season against the Colorado Avalanche at 8 p.m. Debuts from Zach Parise, Ryan Suter and Mikael Granlund will add even more fuel to an already action-packed day. Can’t make it to the Twin Cities? Organize a viewing party and catch the action live on Fox Sports North.