Here in MN we follow and play all kinds of sports, we are real sports/outdoors people, but hockey in Minnesota has a life of it’s own. To many we are known as the hockey state. We are 1 of only 2 states that have over 100 of every 10,000 residents playing hockey. Alaska is number one but since they are so far out there, they are not thought of as often and they don’t have a professional hockey team either. You can’t live here without seeing hockey in Minnesota in some shape or form.
It seems like from the time you can walk, your parents are strapping skates on you and getting you out on the ice. Not too many kids take formal lessons, they just kind of learn as they go. We have neighborhood rinks, we have rinks on ponds and lakes and even many indoor rinks, so you can skate to your hearts content pretty much 24/7, 365 days a year. For many people skating is fun every now and then but for many it is a big deal! It used to just be the boys playing but now girls hockey is almost as big as boys and even adults have their own leagues!
Ask any Minnesota hockey mom about what the hockey life is like! The kids start when they are little and join the pee wee leagues, there are practices and games and then games with friends for fun. Once the kids get older they often are on the school team and in another league with practices at all times of the day and night but the parents are there to drive them whenever because it is for hockey, they live for hockey. The high school hockey tournament in the spring is a huge deal too! Then we move on to college hockey followed by our professional team the Minnesota Wild. Even in the summer months you see the kids on roller blades with hockey sticks playing street hockey!
Minnesota had the Northstars professional team from 1967-1993, at which point they were sold to Dallas – this was a devastating blow to the state of hockey! In 2000 the Minnesota Wild were founded and they play at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. It was just not right for Minnesota not to have a professional hockey team!
Playing on the ponds and lakes is a part of almost every kids life. Because of this it is only fitting that the National Pond Hockey Tournament is held at Lake Nokomis every year. Teams come to compete outdoors where hockey really got it’s start and it is a fun event for participants as well as spectators. They compete over the weekend for the Golden Shovel. This year the tournament in January 20-22. Coincidentally, the tournament typically falls on the coldest days of the winter – this year it will be a bit warmer but we are thankful for the cold snap beforehand to get the ice in shape.