Few things in this world compare to Minnesota high school hockey.
In Texas, there is high school football. High school basketball is king in Indiana. Here in Minnesota our pride and joy is high school hockey.
The hockey community in Minnesota stretches proudly across the state. There are teams from the “cities” and teams from the north, public and private schools, double-A and single-A, and some that are simply just more popular than others.
Hockey sticks are put in youngster's hands before they are able to walk. Ponds and backyards become makeshift hockey rinks. On game day, players are all business dressed in suit and tie. It’s a feeling that only “Minnesotans” know, when national networks recognize individuals who grew up in the state, then talk about how passionate we are about the game of hockey.
37Minnesota high school hockey alumni have played in the National Hockey League already this season. There are also more Minnesota born players in the NHL than any other state. It boasts alumni such as T.J. Oshie, Zach Parise, Nick Bjugstad, Ryan McDonagh, David Backes and Jordan Leopold among others. Names like Lou Nanne and Phil Housley, along with numerous members of the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” team including Rob McClanahan, Dave Christian, Mark Pavelich, Neal Broten, and the late legend Herb Brooks, all call The Land of 10,000 lakes home.
The Minnesota high school hockey state tournament is the ultimate dream. Ask any youth hockey player in the state what their goal is and the response would more than likely be to play at the Xcel Energy Center in high school. Those who fall short of qualifying can still be found at the games, but rather in the upper deck sporting street clothes. Students do whatever it takes to ditch school and watch the best the state has to offer compete at the highest level on the biggest stage. The games are televised and broadcasted statewide on the major networks. Single game records have surpassed 18,000 spectators and rival attendance numbers of the NBA finals. The opportunity to play in this environment is magical, but unfortunately it can be only be experienced by a small number of athletes.
Those who have been fortunate enough to play in “The Tourney” will forever be grateful, while those who never made it are still dreaming of what it might have been like.
Sports revolve around winning, but in this case it’s just an honor to be a part of the tradition.