ELK RIVER, Minn. (WCCO) – The all-day celebration of Minnesota’s official sport is underway across the State of Hockey on Saturday.
Outdoor hockey is at its finest at picturesque Handke Pit in Elk River. Mayor John Dietz says it’s a special venue with a lot of history.
“You know, it’s kind of a rebirth of how the sport was born. It’s just a unique type of thing,” Dietz said.
Elk River was selected this year as the official Hockey Day Minnesota venue.
“About 18 months ago, we put together a video promoting our city, and applying for it. And they gave it to us!” he said. “I’ve said to people this is one of the most tremendous community events that Elk River has ever held.”
At North Dale Rec Center in St. Paul, it’s the first annual St. Paul Winter Classic. A booster club called “Friends of Como Athletics” is putting on this event, and player Erik Jorgensen is having a ball.
“I feel like I’m 12 years old again when I’m skating outside,” Jorgensen said. “Couldn’t ask for a nicer day.”
Jorgensen says the club hopes to boost girls’ hockey in St. Paul.
TCF Bank Stadium is still a hockey rink for now. More than 50 former Gophers, including Ben Hankinson, got together for an alumni game.
“We haven’t done this in a while. The last time I think we did it is when we opened Mariucci,” Hankinson said. “There’s some Hobey Baker winners out here, there’s All-Americans, there’s a little bit of everything, some national championship winners.”
But those former champs might not be the most sought-after players nowadays.
“You want the young guys, are you kidding me?” he said. “Legs feed the wolf. That’s Herb Brooks’ old saying.”
And the ninth annual U.S. Pond Hockey Championships has taken over Lake Nokomis in Minneapolis. It’s a chance to lace ’em up, strap ’em down and celebrate hockey outdoors – the way nature intended.