With hockey season vastly approaching, we can barely contain ourselves. But why? Why do we love this game so much in Minnesota? Here are 20 reasons to start the conversation.
1. With ponds, parks, more than 200 arenas and 10,000 lakes, there's never a shortage of available ice. If you want to skate, you can.
2. We play for our communities. The Minnesota model is unique in this way. We represent our community on the ice and we play with our neighbors, classmates and childhood friends, from Mites through high school.
3. Minnesota Hockey State Tournaments, the pinnacle of youth sports tournaments. An opportunity to represent your community, with your friends, on the big stage, for the right to call yourself a State Champion.
4. The state high school hockey tournaments, where we cram more than 18,000 people into Xcel Energy Center. The buzz from the girls’ and boys’ tournaments draws both local and national attention to West 7th Street. The aura surrounding it sends chills down our spine and it is the envy of every high school sporting event across the country.
5. Instead of dreading winter, hockey allows us to thrive in it. It's the best outdoor activity from December through March and of course the season puts an extra jump in our steps. Nobody embraces winter more than Minnesotans.
6. The gear. No other sport can match the love hockey players put into their equipment. Whether it’s picking out a new pair of wheels or putting the perfect tape job on your trusted twig, hockey gear can be as unique as the players using it.
7. It’s the talk of the town. At work, at school, in the media, hockey is the A-topic of conversation. We want to talk hockey every day – and we do. Wherever you are, a fellow hockey enthusiast is nearby.
8. We believe in miracles. Minnesota was an integral part in the most monumental moment in sports history, the Miracle on Ice, from head coach Herb Brooks on down to the 12 Minnesotans dotting the roster. And don’t forget the Forgotten Miracle of 1960, where Team USA, led by Eveleth’s John Mayasich and seven other Minnesotans, captured Olympic gold at Squaw Valley for the very first time in USA Hockey history.
9. It's in our blood. From the age of 4 to 94, hockey is as much a part of our culture as lutefisk, Minnesota Nice and “oh, yeah, you betcha.” Your grandfather, mother and brother may have all likely played, along with the majority of your cousins and aunts and uncles. It's a Minnesota family tradition.
10. We know where the real Hockeytown USA is. Here’s to you, Warroad.
11. Backyard rinks are not uncommon. They are a labor of love and an annual ritual for many families.
12. Even in early fall, there are plenty of opportunities to get your hockey fix. Wild preseason games and open practice in Duluth, Elite League, CCM High Performance 14/15 Fall Festivals, Little Wild, Try Hockey for Free and other recruiting events. Even just the act of registering for the season gets us excited.
13. The sounds. The sounds of a tape-to-tape pass, skate blades cutting the ice and a ringing post are therapeutic to the Minnesotan. There should be a Pandora station or a sleeping CD for hockey sounds.
14. Personal connections to the game’s best players. Last year, 39 Minnesota natives played in the NHL and 844 men and women played NCAA hockey. With so many great players, most Minnesotans that grow up playing hockey have the chance to play with or against some of hockey’s future stars.
15. College hockey. The in-state college hockey programs are always filled with local players and they’re always contenders, which makes for some great puck. There are no bigger fans of the college game than Minnesotans.
16. The rivalries. Whether it’s Roseau vs. Warroad, the Gophers and North Dakota or the Wild taking on the ‘Hawks – there’s always an intriguing matchup near you.
17. Our barns. There are so many arenas with so much character and uniqueness throughout our state. It’s an honor to suit up – and even spectate – in rinks like the Eveleth Hippodrome, IRA Civic Center in Grand Rapids, Aldrich Arena in Maplewood, Braemar Arena in Edina and Graham Arena in Rochester, just to name a few. We have fond memories of each venue and the good times had inside.
18. The locker room. It truly is a sacred place. It’s where players really get to know each other. It’s where you share your support through the ups and the downs. It’s where you laugh and develop a bond that will last a lifetime.
19. Opportunity. No matter what age or skill level you are, there is a team and league for you to play on – and you don’t have to travel far.
20. The friendships. The friends you make in hockey will become friends for life. The memories you make will remain forever special. It’s true when they say hockey people are the best people, so let’s cherish each moment together.
Why do you love hockey in Minnesota? Tell us on Twitter at @MinnHockey.