by Jim Boyle
Elk River is in the hunt for Hockey Day Minnesota 2014, and officials for the Elk River Area School District along with other Elk River community leaders believe they have the idyllic setting in the Handke Pit.
Among the leaders pushing have been Elk River High School Principal Terry Bizal and Elk Area
School District Superintendent Mark Bezek along with Debbi Rydberg of the Elk River Area Chamber of the Commerce, Elk River City Administrator Cal Portner, Elk River Economic Development Director Annie Deckert.
They have been applying pressure for the honor, and they ramped up their efforts at Hockey Day Minnesota 2012 two weekends ago.
The goal is to take advantage of the glacier-formed bowl stadium that has been home to thousands of hockey players, including four NHL hockey players.
“We are the iconic hockey town,” Rydberg said. “Hockey is in our veins! Between Handke stadium and the success of our hockey program producing NHL players, we are powered by hockey.”
“There is no better storybook setting than the Handke Pit,” Portner said.
Hockey Day Minnesota takes the State of Hockey back to its origins, just like the Handke stadium hearkens Elk River back its own early days.
Dedicated in 1925 and enlarged as part of the New Deal, the Handke (formerly Elk River High School) Pit is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
District representatives along with Elk River Youth Hockey, the city of Elk River and the Elk River Area Chamber of Commerce made a pitch recently to Fox Sports North, one of the main sponsors of the annual event.
“Minnetonka had it this year,” Bezek said. “Grand Rapids will have it in 2013, and we hope to have it in 2014.”
The Minnesota Wild, FSN and Wells Fargo recently held the sixth annual Hockey Day Minnesota, which included a telethon and online auction that raised more than $200,000 for the Jack Jablonski Trust Fund.
Hockey Day Minnesota 2012 on FOX Sports North also included more than 16 hours of consecutive hockey-related programming designed as a celebration of the game from peewees to pros.
The day included three high school games, a Minnesota Golden Gopher game and a Wild game versus Dallas.
Bezek said organizers have two big requirements, including a good hockey program and a unique venue.
“We think we have both with our teams and the Handke Pit,” Bezek said.
Among the hockey players champing at the bit to play are members of Elk River’s Let’s Play Hockey Bantam team (third in the state for 2010 and eighth in 2011).
Deckert is excited for an opportunity to showcase downtown Elk River’s natural beauty and the character of the community.
“Hockey Day Minnesota is the perfect platform to tell our story and provide the Elk River experience to thousands of people and businesses that may otherwise never be exposed to our community,” she said.
The 2013 event will be held at Pokegama Lake in Grand Rapids. The exact date will be announced this summer.
“Our message is clear,” a marketing brochure states. “Our community is ready to host and welcome Hockey Day Minnesota 2014.”