A crowd of people got a chance to skate around the rink built in TCF Bank Stadium for the Hockey City Classic. (Renee Jones Schneider, Star Tribune)
Growing up in St. Paul’s North End neighborhood, Tim Sager and fellow hockey players shredded the ice at outdoor parks such as Rice Lawson, then took part shoveling and flooding to do it all over again.
Sager, now White Bear Lake’s varsity hockey coach, said he misses the days when “players who were 6, 16 and 26 played shinny hockey on the same ice until the sun went down.”
No coaches. No rehearsed positions or plays. Just a shared love of the game.
Beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday, 10 high school hockey teams take a step back in time, chasing pucks under the open winter sky at TCF Bank Stadium as part of the High School Hockey Faceoff.
The first game on the stadium rink will feature the Minnetonka and Eden Prairie girls’ teams.
“This game could be the most unforgettable game all season,” Minnetonka coach Eric Johnson said. “Our girls probably don’t understand yet how cool this is going to be.”
It will be followed by four boys’ games: Benilde-St. Margaret’s vs. Minnetonka (12:30 p.m.), Lakeville South vs. Bloomington Jefferson (3 p.m.), White Bear Lake vs. Cretin-Derham Hall (5:30 p.m.), and Eagan vs. Eastview (8 p.m.).
Next Friday it’s the college teams’ turn in the Hockey City Classic. Defending NCAA women’s hockey champion Minnesota plays Minnesota State and the Gophers men’s team takes on Ohio State.
Saturday’s high school games are far from friendly exhibitions. On the girls’ side, Minnetonka and Eden Prairie are battling for ground in the Lake Conference title chase. All four boys’ games are conference showdowns. In addition, Benilde-St. Margaret’s game against Minnetonka holds seeding implications in ultracompetitive Section 6 in Class 2A.
“It’s a really important game and you don’t like to have an artificial atmosphere,” Red Knights coach Ken Pauly said. “But I think we’ll have good ice and we’re happy for the wonderful opportunity.”
The high school and college games at TCF Bank Stadium were organized by Intersport, a Chicago-based sports and entertainment marketing agency, in partnership with the University of Minnesota.
They are separate from Hockey Day Minnesota on Jan. 18, when Elk River plays host to three outdoor high school games on Fox Sports North. The network organizes the event with the Minnesota Wild.
The Red Knights played a televised outdoor game in Grand Rapids last year as part of Hockey Day Minnesota. Pauly said that event “is going to stand on its own. Everyone is competing for eyeballs, but this [High School Hockey Faceoff] is a one-time deal.”