Hockey in the State of Hockey is a rush to March Madness

Hockey in the State of Hockey is a rush to March Madness

December 14, 2011

            It seems like a good time to reassert Minnesota’s status as the State of Hockey, especially when teams at all levels are deep into play leading to March playoffs and tournament finals.

            At this writing, the Minnesota Wild sit on top of the National Hockey League’s Western Conference Northwest Division, with the most wins and points in all of professional hockey.   And last season, there were 37 Minnesota-bred hockey players in the NHL.

            At the same time, youth and amateur hockey has been thriving for two months, with almost 3,000 referees, 8,000+ coaches and more boys and girls registered for hockey  than any other state in the nation (60,000+).

            Throughout the hockey season, most of those youth teams play a conference schedule, as well as participate in two or three tournaments at some of the state’s 195+ hockey arenas, more than any in the U.S.   On any given weekend at any given arena in Minnesota, at least eight teams (host team + seven from out of town) are playing in a three day competition, staying at local lodgings, dining at local restaurants, and demonstrating  that Minnesota’s hockey economy is vibrant.

            When Christmas break comes around boys and girls high school hockey competition intensifies.  At the December 26-January 1 Schwan’s Cup, held at the National Sports Center in Blaine, top boys and girls high school teams from around the state converge for several days of high end play. 

            January presents the 7th Annual U. S. Pond Hockey Championships on Lake Nokomis in Minneapolis.  Twenty-six rinks are constructed for this January 20-22 spectacle, with teams playing the game “the way nature intended,” with frosty eyes on the prize:  The Golden Shovel.

            There aren’t any shovels needed when the state’s five men’s and women’s NCAA Division I teams enter critical parts of their schedules in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (University of Minnesota, University of Minnesota-Duluth, Minnesota State Mankato, and Bemidji and St. Cloud State Universities).  The top five in the conference make it to the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul March 13-15 for the hotly contested WCHA Final Five.

            The weekend before that at Xcel Energy Center the Minnesota State High School Hockey Tournament will have heated up the arena.  This is the quintessential high school boys hockey tournament in America, and March 7-10, 2012 will be a memorable time in St. Paul for players, families and fans.  The annual State Girls Hockey Tournament is played at the Xcel Energy Center February 22-25.

            Needless to say, Minnesota is a hockey hotbed.