It was Elk River Minnesota’s day to shine, as they took center stage for the entire State of Hockey. The 8th annual Hockey day Minnesota took place in the Handke Pit or as it’s known locally, simply “the pit”. It was arguably the best venue in the short history of Hockey Day Minnesota. The Handke Pit is a natural glacier formed crater in Elk River, transformed manually from a marsh into the perfect venue for an outdoor hockey rink in 1921. The pit is so deep that the rink inside of it is sheltered from wind and many other elements, in order to produce a fantastic environment for outdoor hockey. It has been the home to one of the most historic outdoor rinks in Minnesota’s history, playing host to NHL players like Joel Otto, Dan Hinote, Paul Martin, and Nate Prosser. Surrounding the rink were makeshift bleachers, made from old telephone poles and wooden planks, littered with fans from Elk River and the surrounding areas. It was possibly the most Minnesotan scene in recent history.
The day started bright and early at 10:15 A.M with high school hockey, Rochester Lourdes facing off against Cloquet/Esko/Carlton. This was the first of many games to take place at the pit, Cloquet/Esko/Carlton emerging with a 4-1 victory. The second was host team Elk River (ranked 7th in the state) taking on Still water, eventually defeating them 4-1 as well. The day continued with the Elk River girl’s team losing to Anoka 3-0.
The day continued with The Minnesota Gophers playing their second game in as many days against Ohio State. The first of which was the “Hockey City Classic”, an outdoor game at TCF Bank Stadium, which the gophers won 1-0. The second game in the weekend series did not go quite as smoothly for the gophers, however, as they fell to a 0-2 deficit in the first period. They were able to turn things around near the end of the 1st period, and fueled by a Sam Warning Hat Trick were able to come back to win 4-2.
The real story of the day, though, didn’t come until later when the Minnesota Wild played host to the “no longer north” Dallas Stars. The game itself was tense, with the Minnesota Wild controlling a majority of the play through three periods. The Dallas Stars tied the game up in the third period to force overtime. In what Minnesota fans usually dread, a moment of pure greatness was born. Elk River native Nate Prosser was pinching down low late in overtime when a rebound found it’s way directly to his stick. He finished Hockey Day Minnesota in a fashion that even the best writers could not have come up with: A low scoring, in and out of the roster defensemen pounded home the game winning rebound in over time to beat Minnesota’s old team, to close Hockey Day Minnesota…It was almost poetic.
It would be hard to say that Hockey Day Minnesota 2014 was anything but an enormous success. It was the perfect celebration of the most Minnesotan activity there is, and was enjoyed by countless people throughout the state.