by Jim Boyle
FOX Sports North, in conjunction with the National Hockey League’s Minnesota Wild and Minnesota Hockey, announced the news of the cooperative effort during a FOX Sports North telecast of the Thursday night’s Minnesota Wild game against the Colorado Avalanche.
Supertintendent Mark Bezek and former North Star and Elk River High School Hockey coach Gordie Roberts were interviewed during the station’s pre-game show and again after the second period of the Wild’s 5-3 win over the Avalanche.
Elk River hockey players were among the first to begin Twittering about the news. Roberts was asked to talk about their reaction.
“You can see the enthusiasm (in them),” Roberts said. “To be on television and play in a game like this outdoors will be a chance to make history. It will be great memory for them.”
This will be the Eighth Annual Hockey Day Minnesota presented by Wells Fargo.
The Handke Stadium, or Handke Pit as it is affectionately known, will serve as the backdrop for the three outdoor high school games featured in the Hockey Day Minnesota 2014 line-up.
Dedicated in 1925, the Handke Pit is a glacier-formed bowl stadium with more than 2,000 seats. It has hosted thousands of hockey players, including NHL players Paul Martin, Dan Hinote, Joel Otto and Wild defenseman Nate Prosser. The stadium is listed on the National Registry of Historic Sites, something the Elk River Area School District with the help of the Elk Rotary secured while the service club restored the amenity to its original luster pumping $250,000 into a renovation project.
Bezek sees Hockey Day Minnesota in two lights.
“I see it as recognition of the history and the past and all of the accomplishments. I think of the people who started these hockey programs, but also think of the exposure these kids and the community will get from here on out.”
Hockey Day Minnesota 2014 on FOX Sports North will include a full day of hockey-related programming designed as a celebration of the game from peewees to pros.
“We are extremely honored,” said Bezek, who called the venue the birthplace of Elk River hockey. “Every evening the Pit is packed with kids honing their hockey skills, adults enjoying skating or families sledding on the adjacent hills.”
Additional details and plans for Hockey Day Minnesota 2014, including a date and participating teams, will be announced by FOX Sports North and the Minnesota Wild at a later date.
“Now the real work begins,” Bezek said. “This is one huge community project.”
Partners to date have included the Elk River Area School District, the City of Elk River, the Elk River Area Chamber of Commerce and the Elk River Youth Hockey Association.
There’s a host of improvements that will be needed to ready the stadium, and a fund drive is on deck. The event itself will also require lots of people power, Bezek said.
“This is one of those opportunities you can’t pass when it comes along,” Bezek said. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime shot. We want to put our best foot forward.”
FOX Sports North reaches more than two million homes throughout Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and North and South Dakota and telecasts nearly 2,600 hours of locally produced programming per year. For more information on the Emmy Award-winning regional sports network, visit www.foxsportsnorth.com
Minnesota Hockey, an affiliate of USA Hockey, is the governing body of youth and amateur hockey in Minnesota and the premier developer of hockey players in the state.
With more than 63,000 registered players, coaches and officials, it is the largest state governing body for amateur hockey in the United States.
For more information, please visit www.minnesotahockey.org.