MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It’s just a few weeks until the boys’ state hockey tournament. It’s always a big draw. There’s the hockey hair, rivalry and unexpected outcomes. That may be why it’s the hottest ticket in town. But there’s a waiting game to score season tickets.

There’s an unmistakable excitement that surrounds boys state AA hockey. Those who played in the tournament still remember it.

“It’s probably one of the most exciting moments in your life, because that’s what you live for,” Jim Knutson said.

Knutson played on the Edina team that won the school’s first state hockey championship in OT against Warroad in 1969. He’s gone back every year since that victory. Knutson’s parents became season ticket holders the first year he played, in 1967. They passed them down to him and it’s become tradition.

“Friday night I go with one son, Saturday I go with a different son,” Knutson said.

He’s taken his grandson and seen old rivals, like Henry Boucha, who became friends, calling the tournament a reunion of sorts. Thousands pack the stands.

“For the hockey fan, you’re not going to get a more exciting event than watching the state high school tournament, because these kids are so competitive. They work so hard,” Hall of Famer Lou Nanne said. “I just enjoy watching the kids compete. Every year it’s something you can go to that you can’t predict the outcome.”

Nanne will be in tournament’s broadcast booth for his 56th year.

Erich Martens, executive director of Minnesota State High School League, calls the tournament one of the “marquee events” in the country.

“When people talk about state tournaments that really gather attention, they talk about Texas football, they talk about Indiana basketball and they talk about Minnesota hockey,” Martens said.

Spectators are only guaranteed a seat year after year if they hold season tickets. There are upwards of 10,000, but it’s not enough to meet the demand. The wait list continues to grow, currently sitting at 2,611.

“I would call every year to see what position I’m at,” Steve Poferl said.

Poferl slowly moved up the list in the last six years to second in line.

“I’ve been waiting patiently. I think, regardless of age, I think it’s always a good time to be there and watch. It’s one of the most popular things in the state,” Poferl said.

There are other ways to get in. About 5,000 tickets are set aside for the schools competing. Others wait in long lines for a shot a standing-room only tickets sold an hour before each game.

But more and more seek and savor the guarantee of getting in. Only roughly 150 season tickets are released each year when someone turns theirs in. Making the estimated wait to get off the list 12 years.

“That could be a long wait for someone who’s just getting on the list, but once you have them, you have them for life,” Poferl said.

Someday Knutson will pass his down to his kids. You can only transfer them to immediate family.

“I still get excited every year. It’s something to look forward to,” Knutson said.

Season tickets are limited to two. Each costs $104. That gets you into six sessions. Here’s a link to the application form.

You can still buy daily general admission tickets for boys’ A games.

Jennifer Mayerle