by Jim Boyle
As the excitement surrounding Hockey Day Minnesota slowly melts away, another burst of it could be felt last week when organizers were honored at an event.
It was announced there could be as much as $130,000 leftover after final expenses are dealt with this spring. That money will likely be used as seed money for a project to enhance the stadium for future community use, according to Superintendent Mark Bezek.
“$100,000 is enough to get something rolling,” Bezek said. “We’d like to reinvest it in the (Handke) pit and make it even more valuable year-round.”
The plan is for the steering committee – which organized the successful event that attracted more than 4,000 fans to Handke on Jan. 18 and garnered a national television audience – to turn over the money to a project committee. That group will work to seek additional grants to do something special to the venue already on the National Register of Historic Places.
Hockey Day Minnesota was a three-year effort, with the first year dedicated to selling Elk River. The second year was spent talking to the Minnesota Wild and Fox Sports North, Bezek said. “The third year was getting the structure in place to make it happen,” he said. “This was a community event.”
The four community partners were the city of Elk River, the Elk River Area School District, the Elk River Chamber of Commerce and Elk River Youth Hockey Association.
There were 10 committees led by two or three co-chairs with many people beyond that. The hockey association brought in 250 volunteers on the day of the event.
There was also a huge volunteer effort to prepare the site, including the creation of seating on the hill along Main Street and installing a set of NHL-sized hockey boards. Those boards still need to be sold.
“I couldn’t be happier with how all the partners worked together to make this happen,” Bezek said. “The town embraced this, and the hockey world embraced this.”