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Hockey Day Minnesota A Success

I haven't seen any sort of numbers to back this up, but at least from a personal standpoint, I found the first Hockey Day Minnesota incredibly entertaining.

The first game of the day, Lake of the Woods HS vs. St. Paul Johnson on Baudette Bay was a fun game to watch. I think it's amazing that with so many variables and things that could go wrong, outdoor hockey games like this always seem to work out so well. A lot of credit goes to the people up in Baudette for pulling that thing off so well because it was not an easy task.

Lake of the Woods and Johnson certainly aren't two of the best teams in the state, but it actually ended up being one of the most competitive high school games that FSN has shown this year, with the game going back and forth a couple times.

FSN ran a lot of great features between the games as well. The suggestion I would try to make it a little more inclusive. Jess Meyers of INCH made the point that it was disappointing that FSN seemed to be focused on just Minnesota and not the other four teams in the state. They did do a couple nice features on some SCSU alums who are having success in the pros(though really, the pool of Minnesota-born Gopher alums is pretty thin for something like that), and they had Craig Dahl on for a few minutes. I thought Dahl was excellent again in a commentary role, and he did a nice job of mentioning some of other teams in the state. It would have been cool to see features on Joel Otto or David Backes though. There's only so much time in a day though. Maybe next year.

It was kind of disappointing that on a day where there was so much talk of sportsmanship, Minnesota went out and ran over Denver's goalie twice in the first period, the second of which resulted in a brawl. It was a very physical series, with way too much stick-work from both sides, which meant the game ended up with a ton of penalties. Referee Todd Anderson did a pretty good job of quieting things down after the first period though, and kept the game from getting too out of hand.

One of the positives was that it was great to see Mike Vannelli get a hat trick. He's a very classy kid, and has developed into a top-notch player as a senior, so it was great to see him get rewarded.

The final game of the day was pretty boring for the most part. It was interesting to go straight from a college game to an NHL game. Both the Wild and Stars play a pretty conservative, defensive style, but what amazed me most was that you didn't see any of the obstruction and stickwork that you saw in the college game. I would absolutely love to see the NCAA do what it takes to make their game more like that, even if it means an insane amount of penalties for a while.

The shootout was pretty thrilling, and it's just a shame that the Wild couldn't pull it out. I think shootouts happen far too frequently in the NHL now, but they're still great to watch.

All in all, it was a great day for hockey in Minnesota. I hope the sponsors of the event will do what it takes to continue this tradition.