As many of you know, Hockey Day Minnesota is around the corner. HDM is a curious creature; Minnesota has dubbed itself the "State of Hockey," and seems to go out of its way to prove it.
Beyond simply a publicity stunt (though it is also that), Hockey Day Minnesota represents a few different things. First and foremost, HDM serves to spread Serving Our Troops; a not-for-profit organization with a very simple function: they unite families with their troops serving overseas. This could be as simple as a video call, or "dinner with their family" via Skype, but for those whom are served, I can't imagine how much even that could mean.
Manifestly, HDM is a celebration of the sport at multiple levels. The day features the Wild playing against their new goaltender's former team, high school, and college. The games each have themes; old vs new programs, private schools, etc. The full list of games can be found here.
In addition, the day(s) will feature a game between the St. Paul firefighters and police officers. In addition to Serving Our Troops, the proceeds from this game will benefit St. Paul Youth Hockey; rather fitting with the day. There will be a game between the National Guard and the Canadian Armed Forces, as well as the Minnesota Warriors (disabled veterans) who will play the Buffalo Warriors.
Where will all this hockey be played? Good question. The city has constructed a temporary outdoor rink in Holman Field, which includes a rink along with a heated zone with concessions. Curious how to get to this fun event? No problem, as HDM has provided a map.
The celebration, as you see, continues for the entire weekend, culminating in the University of Minnesota playing Wisconsin at an earlier time on Saturday, and the Wild taking on the Phoenix Coyotes for the night cap. The Wild will play in the Xcel Energy Center (sorry, no 20 dollar admission to that).
Why Does this Matter?
Beyond the charities and benefits, HDM represents something else. Hockey is a part of the culture in Minnesota, in a way that is rather unique in the region. As some of you know, I teach in Wisconsin. The school at which I teach doesn't have a hockey team; they are a part of a co-op with schools that are up to and more than 30 minutes away. My fiancee's brother, who is a junior in high school in a suburb of Milwaukee is also in a co-op with 4 or 5 other schools. It is rarer in Wisconsin to find a school district that has it's own team of high schoolers than it is to find this situation. Hockey is simply not a part of the culture here.
An illustration of this was made clear to me the other day. I was seeing my high school band out of the room, when one of my students asked me how I got so into hockey (they know I write for a Wild blog, though not which one). Before I had a chance to answer, someone else said "he grew up in Minnesota," and that was answer enough.
HDM is a chance for us, as a state, to celebrate the game we love, and a chance to come together as a community. I'll be attending the Gophers match up with the Badgers on Friday night... and hopefully I'll see you there!
Do you have any "Minnesota Hockey Stories"? Share them in the comments!