MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — USA Hockey’s national high school tournament is a big deal for lots of teams around the country, but this year’s event in Plymouth pales in comparison to the Minnesota state tournament in St. Paul.
Attendance at the Plymouth Ice Center won’t surpass the tens of thousands coming to the Xcel Energy Center next week.
There’s now a little more interest, all because of one team that qualified on Sunday. They are the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Eagles from Parkland, Fla. It was Feb. 14 when a former student shot and killed 17 people inside the school building.
“I expect we will have a lot more media attention,” said Wayzata Hockey Association President Greg Gibson. “We probably went from local news to the state news, to possibly the national news when the tournament takes place.”
The Wayzata Hockey Association is sponsoring the three-tiered tournament, two for boys and one for girls. The tournament is held every year for states that sponsor high school hockey, but don’t have an event that’s on Minnesota’s level.
Stoneman Douglas has sent teams to this tournament before. The circumstances are different this time, for the Eagles and everyone else.
“It’ll all cause us to reflect and think about how (a tragedy) touches all of us, and the reach on it,” said Gibson. “I’m sure there isn’t anyone in the tournament that isn’t aware of the situation. Looking forward to meeting them so they can have a great experience here in Minnesota and start to move on. We’ll have a special and eye out for this team, they’ve had way too much difficulty in their lives in the recent past.”
Majory Stoneman entered the tournament as a No. 4 seed, upset the top-seeded East Lake with a 3-1 win and beat Jesuit 7-4 in the title game. The win qualified the team for the national championship tournament in Minnesota.
The five-day tournament starts March 22 at the Plymouth Ice Center and ends one month from today.