If you hadn’t heard, the Junior Gold A championship game between Wayzata and Edina took two days and went into seven (SEVEN) overtimes before a winner was determined. Of course, the first two periods were played on Sunday night before a power outage at Plymouth Ice Center postponed the game for 24 hours with Edina up 1-0. The two teams came together for one more period, which turned into eight, seven of which were 10-minute overtime periods.
Eventually, Edina was crowned as the final State Champion of 2015 and Minnesota Hockey officially concluded the longest State Tournament weekend in history.
For many of the players on the ice, it was the last game of their youth hockey careers. No wonder they didn’t want it to end.
After traveling to 13 of the 14 state tournaments this weekend, I can understand why. Not to get too technical here, but State Tournaments are awesome!
Of course, I can’t speak from experience. I never had the honor (talent?) to play in a Minnesota Hockey State Tournament. But I’m confident in the use of “awesome” to accurately describe the weekend, and not because I had the opportunity to witness joyous celebrations of the teams that eventually hoisted the championship trophy (even if it took some of them 10 periods to get it).
Maybe it was the gorgeous weather across the State of Hockey, but every time I pulled into the parking lot of a host arena, I saw kids and parents chatting happily outside. I even saw some parents tailgating in the parking lot of Hasse Arena in Lakeville. When I stopped for lunch in New Ulm, I saw several tables filled with kids and parents wearing their fresh new State Tournament shirts and hats. On my drive into the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center for the Bantam A & AA banquet, there was a stampede of kids in their team jerseys walking through Canal Park. It seemed like every other car in every parking lot had “State Tournament bound!!!” on their rear windows.
For one weekend, all of these kids felt like stars. They got that one extra weekend in a hotel with the requisite pool party. They had an extra two weeks of practice with their friends. The Warroad Peewee A team had the bus rides all the way from Hockeytown USA to Lakeville and back. They had the chance to play more hockey, which is really what we all want here in Minnesota.
Those are the best parts of the State Tournaments. Those are the reasons so many coaches and volunteers give up their time. They want to see these kids have great experiences. They want to know that for every one frustrating moment in youth sports, there are positive moments like this that will never be forgotten.
These kids will all go on to have much bigger accomplishments in their lives, but getting to State is a pretty good check off the bucket list that not everyone will get to experience.
There are countless things that are great about working for Minnesota Hockey, but State Tournament weekend easily tops the list. I’ll admit, I’ve already looked ahead at next year’s tournament rotation to find out what districts will be hosting State Tournaments in 2016.
I can’t guarantee there will be another seven overtime championship game, but I can guarantee it will be an awesome weekend for everyone involved.
Thanks to all the parents, players, coaches and volunteers for such a great season!