‘THIS IS HOW WE HOCKEY’: Hockey Day brings the Mankato community together

Hockey Day Minnesota has come to Minnesota State University, Mankato for a week of winter fun as those of the community come together for hockey games, food, and music. 

Turning MSU’s Blakeslee Stadium into an outdoor frozen hockey rink, the football stadium is ready for players to take the ice.

In the works for three years, Hockey Day Minnesota is now in Mankato after being postponed last year due to COVID-19.

With bumps along the road, the city of Mankato also experienced an influx of snow Saturday, the day before Hockey Day activities first kicked off. 

Michelle Schooff, Hockey Day Minnesota Co-chair of the Local Operating Committee, shared how touched she was by the overwhelming generosity of the community. 

“The support we’ve seen is insane. When we had that unexpected snowfall on Saturday we had restaurants calling to see if they could donate food and beverages and it was just so heartwarming to see the community come together in order to get those kids on the ice Sunday morning,” Schooff said.

She says about 150 volunteers came to help shovel non-stop Saturday from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., expressing that without them they wouldn’t be able to host the Sunday games.

“We are so excited to show the rest of the state of Minnesota this is how we hockey and I think we’re off to a great start,” shared Schooff.

Mankato will go down as the first southern Minnesota location where this event is held as the previous years it has been up-state. 

Generating millions, Schooff forecasted the traffic from just the Friday and Saturday events to have a five to six million dollar economic impact on the hospitality industry.

“I think this will be a big economic boost for Mankato and the restaurants and hotels and really the industries that have been hit hard over the past few years,” Melissa Bradley, Hockey Day Minnesota Treasurer of the Local Operating Committee and MSU alumna, said.

With all-hands-on-deck, community members, organizers, and volunteers have put in hours upon hours of work to make this week possible. 

“I’m excited to showcase Mankato to the whole state and seeing how the community has gotten behind this. It’s amazing the amount of volunteers and committee members that have put so much time and effort into this and I want the events to highlight all the wonderful people who helped out,” Teresa Bergs, Hockey Day Minnesota executive committee member, shared.

Those in the Mankato area can predict a significant amount of foot traffic on Friday and Saturday as Hockey Day Minnesota is known to draw in many Hockey fans.

Originating back in 2007 by the Minnesota Wild, this day was intended to celebrate the game that has made Minnesota the State of Hockey.

As for the events, this year’s Hockey Day Minnesota kicked off on Sunday was the first set of games in the temporary rink featuring the youth leagues which competed against other southern Minnesota region teams. 

With Monday and Tuesday following they held games during the evening and Wednesday featuring women’s hockey which included Mankato East vs Mankato West.

Tonight is community night, costing $10 for admission with all proceeds going to various charities. This will consist of the  Minnesota Warriors starting at 5:30 p.m., Ceremonial Puck Drop by Officer Arik Matson of Waseca, MN in the Southern MN Celebrity game at 8:00 p.m. and the Ceremonial Puck Drop by Mankato Mayor Najwa Massad ending with live music by Johnny Holm Band at 8:30 p.m.

Friday night the gates open at 4:30 p.m. with a $20 admission fee. The boys will take the ice as Mankato East vs Mankato West will play at 5:30 p.m. The games will be streamed on public access television and Bally Sports North +. The MSU Alumni game will follow starting at 8:45 p.m. with Minnesota State Hockey Coach Mike Hastings dropping the puck. This night will also feature a live music performance by IV Play.

Saturday the gates will open at 8 a.m. with a $65 admission fee stepping right into the action with the Edina vs Andover girls hockey game at 9:30 a.m. Following is the East Grand Forks vs Prior Lake boys game at 1:00 p.m. To end the night, the final game will feature the MSU’s men’s hockey team as they take on St. Thomas at 4:30 p.m. The MN Wild vs Chicago Blackhawks game will also be streamed at the arena while showcasing the Shane Martin band.

The last day entails all things family having no admission fee and gates opening at 7 a.m. Sunday will feature mites games as well as the MSU Women’s Alumni game at 11:00 a.m, the MSU vs St. Thomas Women’s game at 1:00 p.m., MN Mullets vs Steele County Blades at 4:30 p.m., and finally the Pub 500 vs Rounders game at 7:30 p.m.

There will also be various food vendors set up around the arena serving warm foods, hot drinks, and Hockey Day Minnesota merchandise.

Header Photo: Hockey Day Minnesota is an event-filled, week-long celebration of hockey that is being held in Mankato this year. Its aim is to grow the sport while bringing communities together. (Mansoor Ahmad/The Reporter)

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