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Every year local sports station FSN puts a lot of work into Hockey Day in Minnesota. At this point it’s practically a statewide holiday. Who wouldn’t want to spend a cold January day watching hockey for 12 hours? That is, if you aren’t playing in one of the hundreds of games around the state at all levels.
The live games broadcast throughout the day on FSN are its primary focus. It begins with outdoor high school hockey. Smaller schools play at 10 am, bigger schools in the afternoon. They’re always the highlights of Hockey Day for me, a perennial lover of the Minnesota State High School Hockey Tournaments.
It’s even more special for me this year, as the games are being held practically in my back yard at Holman Field in downtown St. Paul. Added to that, the first game featured Johnson High School, the pride of my East Side. Sure, I went to their rival Harding, but since they don’t have a team anymore they combined with Johnson years ago (along with a few other St. Paul schools). Considering their 100+ year tradition it’s only fitting.
Their game, against the Luverne Cardinals, will be hard to match as far as excitement goes. After a scoreless first period the teams scored a combined nine goals, Johnson squandering a 5-1 lead to end the period 5-4. The score remained there for most of the third period before the Cardinals tied it up with under five minutes to go. In dramatic, East Side fashion, the Governors broke the tie with one minute to go on a possible shove of the goalie before holding on for the win. That’s how we do it on the East Side! Small town kids take note.
Considering that their brewery used to be just a few blocks away from Johnson, I had a Hamms to celebrate.
As a St. Paul Public School kid (holla!) I’ve always been leery of big, private high schools. It's a time-honored tradition, isn't it? More than anything it's just a fun rivalry. Regardless, you can't ask for a much better match-up than St. Thomas Academy and Hill Murray. I’m writing at a weird point, as this game has just begun. It's kind of nice not having a dog in the race because I can just sit back and enjoy good hockey.
Bigger draws for Hockey Day are college and professional games. Today the Gophers play the Badgers and your recently surging Wild take on the Arizona Cardinals (I mean Diamondbacks…I mean Coyotes). Although fun, I feel bad for the employees at the Xcel Energy Center who have to stay for a late shift on a Saturday night…
But it’s all worth it, I suppose. Anybody involved with Hockey Day should be proud.
While the competition is the heart of the event, Minnesota hockey heritage, community outreach, and focus on the military are its most important aspects. This year they’re even broadcasting from a base in Kuwait (KFAN’s Dan Barriero even did his show from there yesterday). During and between games FSN does a great job with vignettes showcasing the local area they’re broadcasting in and other interesting hockey stories from around the state. They really shine. It’s one of the best truly local events of the year.
As I mentioned in an article about Hockey Day last year, I used to be cynical about it. Fortunately for me I dropped my pretense and now see it for how wonderful it is. I hope that everybody finds some time to enjoy it.
Erik Ritland is a writer and musician from St. Paul, Minnesota. His blog and podcast Rambling On features commentary on music, sports, culture, and more. He is also a contributor for Minnesota culture blog Curious North. Support Erik's music via his Patreon account, reach him via email, or find him on Facebook and Twitter.