On a hot summer day, they were outside talking hockey at Minneapolis’ TCF Bank Stadium Wednesday for the official prelude to an outdoor NHL game in Minnesota. “This is an unbelievable day for us,” Wild owner Craig Leopold said. “We have worked really, really hard in the last seven, eight years to try to get an outdoor game for our market, for our fans.”
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.
TCF Bank Stadium will hold an outdoor doubleheader Friday afternoon at the Hockey City Classic, featuring the Minnesota Gophers men’s and women’s hockey teams. The men’s team took to the ice late Thursday afternoon in preparation for Friday’s game. It was also a chance to see the ice at nightfall, checking out the sight lines under the lights. Coach Dan Lucia says there will be one other element in play that’s a bit more distracting than the waning sunlight.
The act of embracing winter is what makes living in Minnesota bearable. And for many, it means standing alongside an outdoor hockey rink. Thousands of folks are doing just that in Elk River this week, site of the 2014 Hockey Day in Minnesota events. The city was chosen in large part due to the historic Handke Stadium, where organized hockey began in Elk River nearly 60 years ago.
The NHL’s New Year’s Day tradition of outdoor hockey games was bolstered by a thriller yesterday in Philadelphia.