During the month January, Minnesota hosted two hockey events that brought the greatest hockey community in the country together. Hockey Day Minnesota and the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships (USPHC) came to the Twin Cities for a week filled with hockey specific activities. The eight high school hockey teams who played in Hockey Day Minnesota fought for bragging rights, while those at the USPHC competed for the “Golden Shovel.” If you missed it, here’s a recap:
The sights at Hockey Day Minnesota were beautiful and unique. Hosted at Parade Stadium, this was the first time in 14 years that the event took place in Minneapolis. Food trucks and vendors were scattered throughout the venue, selling hockey inspired food and trinkets. The rink where all the action was taking place was just adjacent to the main warming tent. There were white boards camouflaged with snow that surrounded the entire plot of land. Players sped up and down the rink at blazing speeds, their breath creating clouds that followed them everywhere they went. The Minneapolis skyline was visible behind the rink. The skyline looked like a concrete jungle, looming over thousands of people gathered to watch some of the best hockey in the country.
Spectators of the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships were met with a similar phenomenon. Since the event was founded in 2006, Lake Nokomis has been its home. This year was no different. A rainbow of uniforms spread across the lake as thousands of people flocked to watch the game we love. Each of the 28 rinks were encased by fans eager to watch the puck drop. Across the spectacle were coffee stands, vendors and of course, dogs at play.
Countless smells engulfed the attendants at Hockey Day. The aroma of burning firewood and ash spread across the entire area. The endless amount of fire pits strewn across the event were the main contributors to that. If you stepped outside for a few minutes, you’d come home smelling like you just came back from a campfire. The smell of coffee and beer was not foreign to those in attendance either. Local craft coffee and beer brews were readily available to all.
The USPHC gave off many similar smells: burning firewood and coffee. The most prominent smell was that of the cold. You know the smell. The almost indescribable sensation you get when you sniff the cold outdoors. The smell that forces you to go get a hot cocoa. Yeah, that one. That one didn’t escape anyone’s noses over the course of the four-day event.
Hockey Day invited live bands and DJs to perform inside the warming tent for all of those who gathered there to get away from the blistering cold. People inside cheered and clapped for plays or goals that were displayed via the live broadcast. That is not to say that there wasn’t banter between the teams playing against each other. For that, you would have to go outside to the rink itself to the packed stands of students, parents and friends. Chants were recited on both sides of the competition, sometimes in favor of their own team or against the other.
The USPHC offered spectators a more personal experience of the game compared to Hockey Day Minnesota. The sounds of crunching ice, pucks clanking against wooden goals, stick taps and player chatter echoed through the south Minneapolis neighborhood that surrounds Lake Nokomis.
It’s obvious that January was a great month for all things Minnesota hockey. Two amazing events took place that brought together the greatest hockey fans on the planet in admiration of the game. There’s still a lot to look forward to. On Feb. 22, the Herb Brooks Foundation and the United States will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the “Miracle on Ice” at The Greatest Day Celebration in St. Paul. There will be a parade in downtown St. Paul led by the foundation and accompanied by former players who have represented USA Hockey throughout the years.
Just after that, on Mar.2, the Herb Brooks Foundation will be hosting a private VIP experience at TRIA Rink in St. Paul. Members of the 1980 Men’s Gold Medal Champion USA Hockey team will attend the event for a special viewing of the movie Miracle. On behalf of the National Sports Center and the Herb Brooks Foundation, we cannot wait for what’s in store soon for hockey culture in Minnesota and the celebration of our great game.