Minnesota, the Land of 10,000 lakes (or close to 12,000, by official numbers). That does not include rivers – ever hear of the Mississippi? To say that Minnesota and water go together, is about as obvious as saying that Zambonis and ice go together, or burgers and fries, beer and well, just about anything. It should be no surprise then, that Minnesota is the true State of Hockey. We even have the original HockeyTown U.S.A up in Warroad, who claimed that title a mere 40 years before Detroit Red Wings stole and copyrighted the name. Suck it, Detroit. So, why is Minnesota the one-and-only State of Hockey? The reasons are plentiful.
The Minnesota Wild have been filling the Xcel Energy Center since 2000. While they sold-out their first 409 regular season and playoff games, they have yet to bring home the Stanley Cup. The Wild have the best arena in the NHL, if you haven’t visited it. Hockey jerseys from every high school team in the state hang in the concourses. There is a big, fricking lighthouse that lights up when the home team scores and Wild jersey #1 has been retired from Day One in honor of all Wild fans.
For you youngsters out there, Minnesota also used to have an NHL team called the Minnesota North Stars that were one of six teams in the Norris Division until 1993 when their greedy, no-good owner,
Norm Green, moved them to Dallas. The North Stars were the second NHL franchise that he moved, the first being the Calgary Flames from Atlanta. Yes, Norm Green still sucks. Yes, Norm Green was being sued for sexual harassment in Minnesota and his wife threatened divorce unless Green moved the North Stars to Dallas to avoid pressure by the media. Did I mention that Norm Green sucks?
Minnesota is also home to the Minnesota Whitecaps, which one of six NHL-level franchises in the newly-rebranded women’s Premier Hockey Federation, along with the Boston Pride, Buffalo Beauts, Connecticut Whale, Metropolitan Riveters and the Toronto Six. The Whitecaps have brought home one Isobel Cup in the 2018-19 season, qualified for the 2019-20 Isobel Cup, which was not played due to COVID-19 and lost last year’s match to Boston during an abbreviated season. The Whitecaps play at the Tria Rink, which is the Minnesota Wild practice facility in beautiful downtown St. Paul.
Next up, collegiate hockey, of course. Last year, all FIVE Minnesota D-1 teams made the NCAA Frozen Four tournament (Minnesota, Minnesota State, Bemidji State, University of Minnesota-Duluth, and St. Cloud State). Three of those teams made the Frozen Four and St. Cloud State made it to the finals before falling to UMass. In all, the men’s teams have eight national championships (Five for Minnesota and three for UMD) and 18 appearances in NCAA championship games.
Women’s collegiate hockey in Minnesota has also seen great success as well. The Women’s Gopher teams from Minnesota have won six national titles and had another three appearances in championship games. The University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs women’s teams have won five national championships in six national title game appearances.
Perhaps, what sets Minnesota apart from any other state is high school hockey. ‘Sota has 256 schools that are a part of high school hockey with teams in girl’s and boy’s varsity and junior-varsity hockey and adaptive hockey teams as well. Want some fun facts about high school hockey in Minnesota? I present thee:
- St. Paul Academy had the first varsity hockey team in Minnesota, which began in 1905.
- The first MSHSL High School Hockey Tournament was held in 1945, the first of its kind in the nation.
- Throughout its history, the MSHSL Hockey Tournament has been played at the St. Paul Auditorium, St. Paul Civic Center, Met Center, Target Center and XCel Energy Center.
- In 2016, an attendance record of 22,244 fans watched the Class AA Semifinals at the XCel Energy Center in St. Paul – breaking the previous record of 21,609 fans in 2015.
- The tournament has its own All Hockey Hair Team!!
- Twenty-two of the tournaments have exceeded 100,000+ fans in attendance.
- In 2015, the championships set an all-time attendance record of 135,618 fans.
Need more reasons why Minnesota is the State of Hockey? I’ve got ’em. Since 2006, Minnesota has been home to the U.S Pond Hockey Championships. It’s not just a bunch of semi-drunk old guys and gals that get together to play hockey on a lake, well, I guess it is. There are 29 rinks that see action on Lake Nokomis in Minneapolis – twenty-nine. There are different divisions including Over-50, a couple of Over-40 divisions, Bender (if you got a late start to your hockey career), Women’s and Sled Hockey all in pursuit of The Golden Shovel – pond hockey’s equivalent of the Stanley Cup. Hockey players and fans come from around the nation and as far as Australia and the U.K. ESPN.com listed the Pond Hockey Championships as one of their “101 Things Sports Fans Must Experience Before They Die” list.
Next up? How about Herb Brooks and the “Miracle of Ice”? Brooks was born in St. Paul who played in the 1964 and 1968 Olympic hockey teams and was a NCAA-winning coach with the Minnesota Gophers in 1979. Over half of the 1980 gold medal champions were from the great state of Minnesota, which also means that most of the players on my original USA vs Russia bubble hockey game in my basement, are from Minnesota. Not to leave the ladies out of the Olympic spotlight, of the 25 players on the 2018 USA Olympic Gold Medal team, 12 of those women, also played for Minnesota colleges and/or the Minnesota PWHPA (Professional Women’s Hockey Player’s Association) team.
My last, but certainly not least reason why Minnesota is the State of Hockey lies in northern Minnesota in a small, quaint town named Eveleth. It is there where you will find a big-ass hockey stick and the United States Hockey Hall of Fame. Aside from all of the inductees, you can see early ice skates and pads from back in the day, old hockey jerseys, a 1980 Olympic gold medal, an early Zamboni, play the aforementioned USA vs Russia bubble hockey game, learn about women’s hockey and so….much….more.
If that is not enough to convince you that Minnesota is the State of Hockey, I will not write it in Crayon, so you understand. Without a doubt, Minnesota is the SOH and there is no valid argument to say otherwise. From kids that can barely walk, let alone skate – up to NHL and Olympic glory, Minnesota is the place to be, if you want to know what hockey is all about.
Norm Green sucks.