Every four years the world comes together to celebrate sportsmanship and unity. We cheer for underdogs and experience shared sorrow at loss. We rejoice in the human spirit and the comraderie that comes from global excellence. Of course I am speaking of the Olympics.
But here in Minnesota, we recently celebrated our own special week. A week that celebrates a sport that is so Minnesota, we have become (self-designated but nonetheless equally impressive), the “State of Hockey”. We celebrated “Hockey Day Minnesota”!
It’s a day (a week actually), where the roots of hockey in Minnesota which began on frozen ponds and backyard rinks across the state brought together children in the great outdoors. Hockey begins in Minnesota with pickup games after school on rinks lined with snow piles on skates passed down from one child to the next. Cheeks rosy from the cold, ice dripping from eye lashes and eye brows, with smiles as wide as the plains, children pass the puck with skill or pure luck until someone is lucky enough to bury that hard black disc past the goalie into the back of the net. Cheers muffled by heavy wool scarves echo across the ponds to neighboring homes as the game continues until kids are called home to supper.
Hockey is the purest of fun. Those kids who honed their skills on the ice or playing street hockey in the summer may never grow up to play in the NHL, but the love for hockey they developed as children is deeply ingrained in who they are and in how we support our local teams. Hockey Day Minnesota is a natural extension of that love as we celebrate our love for the sport and the humble beginnings back on those rinks.
Most of the day is held outdoors…no matter what the weather conditions are in a Minnesota January. Snow, wind and biting temperatures (a high of -300 in 2019) are just part of hockey and for players and fans alike, proving our toughness by sitting on a hard metal bleacher to cheer on your favorite team is a badge of honor. Games are played throughout the day and players from high school, college and even the pros get their time in the spotlight. This special day is always capped off by a Minnesota Wild game at the “X” where many of the pros on the ice have the opportunity to relive their own participation in prior Hockey Day’s when they were on high school or college teams. There’s nothing quite like it.
If you aren’t a hockey fan, it’s hard to convey the importance and excitement about this one particular day in the land of 10,000 lakes. To experience it for yourself though, to see the excitement on the faces of the players and coaches, the fans who travel hundreds of miles to the host city, and indeed the competition among cities to become the next year’s host city, is to feel Hockey Day Minnesota.
It may not be on the scale of the Olympics, but Hockey Day still imbibes the same level of competition, the same sportsmanship, and the same fervor among those in the stands. Starting a hockey game with the call“Let’s Play Hockey” is not just a saying. It’s a way of life in the State of Hockey!
Be well my friends….