Maverick hockey welcomed home by Mankato faithful

After landing at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and taking the bus ride home, the Minnesota State men’s hockey team made it back to their home rink at around 5:30 a.m. on Sunday. 

It was a tough trip back to Mankato following a loss in the National Championship game, but members of Minnesota State University held a celebration for the National runner-ups on Monday to welcome home the most successful hockey team in program history. 

The reception began with a word from athletic director Kevin Buisman, who introduced Mike ‘Sully’ Sullivan, the hockey team’s announcer, to begin the celebration. The mayors of North Mankato and Mankato made an appearance and together declared Monday, April 11, 2022 Maverick Hockey Day in the cities of Mankato and North Mankato. 

Following, President Inch addressed the crowd and players with a powerful message of his gratitude to be a part of a city and campus that are so connected. 

“I couldn’t be prouder of what they [hockey team] do in support of our community and support of our campus,” said Inch. “But the other thing that became very apparent after the Frozen Four and more apparent after we got here, is how much our community and our athletic programs are connected. You all come out and support our teams. You all come out and fill this arena. It’s an impressive sight and more importantly, it’s an impressive feeling.”

Mavericks’ head coach Mike Hastings addressed everyone next, thanking everyone who has made a lasting impact on Minnesota State’s success this season as a hockey team. With his address, Hastings thanked his fellow coaching staff, the fans, the players, and most importantly, his wife saying, “There’s one person I’ve got to thank more than anybody else for all of this being able to happen and it’s because I got permission to move to Mankato from my beautiful wife Jeann.” 

Without Hastings’ decision to take over MSU’s program, who knows where it would be today. Under coach, the Mavericks have had the most successful stretch in team history, where the team has amassed over 270 wins in 10 seasons including two Frozen Four appearances. 

Buisman explained in his speech to the crowd that during the hiring process of Hastings, which all started in a Pizza Ranch in Iowa, that people told him the success the program is having right now would never, ever happen. 

“We accomplished some things that people said could never be done in Maverick hockey,” explained Buisman. “That having the winningest program over the last decade, a three time coach of the year, and appearing in two consecutive Frozen Fours was just a crazy dream. And that it would never, ever happen. That’s a true story. Someone actually said that about our program.”

He proceeded to say the member who told him this would never be possible, broke off from the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) to form the NCHC. But this was Buisman’s time to repeat a quote from Toby Keith saying, “‘How do you like me now!?’”

Senior captain Wyatt Aamodt got his turn in front of the crowd of around 500, thanking everyone for coming out to Mayo Clinic Health System Event Center. Aamodt’s most powerful message was one every young kid should strive to hear, especially if they want to become a Maverick some day.

“From the second you step on campus, you learn to buy into something greater than yourself.”

Header Photo: Head coach Mike Hastings addresses the crowd of over 500 people at the Mayo Clinic Health System Event Center on April 11th following the Mavericks’ loss in the National Championship game against Denver. (Mansoor Ahmad/The Reporter)

Write to Kole Buelow at kole.buelow@mnsu.edu.

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