MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – You could call it one big hockey celebration this weekend.

Two big hockey events to take in – the 10th Annual U.S. Pond Hockey Championships at Lake Nokomis and it’s Hockey Day Minnesota on Saturday.

This year’s outdoor rink for the big day is at Holman Field in Saint Paul.

Festivities start on Friday afternoon. There are three games on Friday, four high school games Saturday and full day of youth hockey on Sunday at Holman Field.

Also during this year’s Hockey Day (#HDM2015), the Minnesota Wild are showing their support to two local charities: St. Paul Youth Hockey Association and Serving Our Troops.

Final preparations are underway in St. Paul at Holman Field for Hockey Day Minnesota.

The game our WCCO This Morning crew has circled, the Armed Forces Game at 9 p.m. Friday. That’s when the Minnesota National Guard battles it out against the Canadian Armed Forces team.

The starting goalie for Team USA, Major Darrin Janisch, is pretty excited about the event.

Just across the landing pad, inside this Army Aviation Support Facility, the countdown is on for one big outdoor game Friday evening.

Maj. Darrin Janisch of the Minnesota National Guard hopes to lead team USA to victory in the Armed Forces game against Canada.

“I look forward to the challenge though. I’m kind of the last line of defense and in some respects I am comfortable with that and welcome the challenge,” Janisch, who has been deployed overseas a number of times, said.

He will also be deployed this April to West Africa.

Maj. Janisch joined the Army immediately after he graduated Rosemount High School, so he’s no stranger to heavy equipment.

But the helmet he will debut in the game was made with extra care.

“There are exactly 50 stars,” Todd Miska, a local artist in Stacy, said.

Miska’s has been seen across the NHL for decades. The “maker of the mask” has been painting helmets for big names like retired Stanley Cup champion Ed Belfour, Josh Harding, and Manny Fernandez of the Minnesota Wild.

This one is special. Not only is it fully equipped to stop pucks at Holman Field, you could call it an “Advanced Combat Helmet,” because the American pride elements incorporated into the design. Everything from 50 stars, red, white and blue, two bald eagles, troop badges, plus Janisch’s Purple Heart and last name both painted on the back.

“It’s just a phenomenal mask,” Janisch said. “This might be the coolest thing I’ve ever seen in my life.”

“It’s fun to put my time into something for these guys,” Miska said.

Miska has also done murals for movies like The Mighty Ducks. He was asked by Defend the Blue Line, a local Minnesota based charity, to help with the donated design.

Hockey Day Minnesota is honoring family members and soldiers based at Holman Field, who recently were deployed to Kuwait. Miska made sure the mask stayed true to American Pride.

“The eagle’s head has to fit in there; you don’t want to lose the integrity of the bird. The flag, you want all the stars not to get lost. You’ve got their logos in the chin area. You’ve to place everything,” said Miska.

On the back of the helmet a purple heart for Janisch’s deployment to Iraq in the spring of 2006.

Janisch along with 23 members of his company received a purple heart when the returned from the 22 month deployment. The mask stands for much more than a game, but sacrifice that he has made throughout his career.

Crews at Holman Field worked through the night Thursday to freeze the rink. The rink will serve as home base to over ten outdoor games all weekend.

It’s also home base to the Minnesota National Guard 34th Combat Aviation Brigade and 2-147th Assault Helicopter Battalion, who deployed to Kuwait last year.

The heated fan zone opens here at Holman Field at 3:30p.m. Friday and Janisch, said his team will be ready.

“The key to victory, short shifts, back check and move the puck,” he said.

There three games there on Friday – Minnesota Wounded Veterans at 6 p.m., Guns and Hoses game, St. Paul Police tries to take down. St. Paul Fire Department at 7:30 p.m. and the Armed Forces Game at 9 p.m.

To see a full schedule of the weekend long event, or  buy tickets #HDM2015, visit hockeydaymn2015.com.

Ali Lucia

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