Time to make Hockey Day happen in Michigan

Hockey is a big thing in Michigan — that’s common knowledge.

Detroit markets itself as Hockeytown, there are seven successful NCAA Division I hockey programs in the state that are popular in their communities and even Marquette was dubbed Kraft Hockeyville USA in 2016.

However, compared to my home state of Minnesota, Michigan does a pretty weak job of celebrating the sport and its significance in the state.

Saturday was dubbed Hockey Day in Minnesota, a celebration that has been going on for 13 years now. It’s a joint effort by the NHL’s Minnesota Wild and Fox Sports North that also involves college and high school teams in the state.

Basically, a community in the state is chosen to host the festivities, with its local team or teams from the surrounding area being chosen to play games that are televised on FSN that day.

Bemidji is this year’s choice and it’s been quite the affair. The weekend festivities began Thursday with a girls hockey game involving Bemidji High School, and Friday was an outdoor game between Bemidji State and Michigan Tech.

Three local games were televised Saturday, two boys high school games along with a Bemidji State women’s game against Minnesota State, all played on the shores of Lake Bemidji.

The festivities were then followed by an untelevised indoor contest between Bemidji and Tech and a live Wild game against Columbus down in St. Paul. Games between the St. Cloud State and Western Michigan mrn along with the Minnesota Duluth and Ohio State women were also televised by FSN-Plus.

HDIM is a massive event that has been held in places like Duluth and St. Cloud along with smaller communities like Moorhead and Grand Rapids. No matter what the size of the host city, it’s something locals look forward to.

As a former Minnesotan, I take great pride in this event because it highlights just how important hockey is to the state and its residents. After all, it dubs itself the State of Hockey.

After seeing the ads online and watching friends at the Bemidji Pioneer newspaper hyping up the event, it got me thinking.

Could something like this work in Michigan? After all, the sport is important to our culture, too.

I heard that there has been Hockey Day in Michigan celebrations in the past, but that doesn’t appear it occurs anymore.

I say it is time to bring it back and we try to do it like Minnesota does, make a huge celebration. Each year, the Detroit Red Wings and Fox Sports Detroit could highlight a specific community, and here’s an idea, they could remember that the state has two peninsulas, a fact that seems to be forgotten by many people on social media along with the NFL, which hilariously confused the Upper Peninsula for Lake Superior in a tweet.

Let’s say the Red Wings and FSD picked a U.P. town like Marquette, there are quite a few events that could work to go along with it.

Since outdoor games are a definite part of the festivities in Minnesota, you could drop a rink out on Presque Isle Park and play on Lake Superior, or maybe on the Northern Michigan University soccer field. Marquette could play Negaunee outside on the rink, or other U.P. schools could be included.

The Redmen might face off against Sault Ste. Marie, while Negaunee could take on Houghton, Jeffers or another U.P. school.

A game with the Marquette Junior Under-19 mBank girls hockey team could be the third game and then NMU could finish off the festivities in town with an outdoor game.

The Red Wings, of course, would cap off the day with a game at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit.

Another option is instead of just picking one specific town, the Wings and FSD could split the event between the two peninsulas and split the coverage between the main network and FSD-Plus.

One channel could cover two U.P. games and the other two Lower Peninsula games. The conflict with this is that the U.P. is so spread out that if the games were televised, there would have to be a gap in coverage.

If they wanted to have a game in Houghton, they’d have to have the next game be televised eight hours later if they picked Sault Ste. Marie as the other location to take in account game and travel time.

I doubt they’d be willing to do that, so it’d probably have to stay in the same general area. For example, if they decided to set it in the Soo, they could put the rink right on the shore of the St. Mary’s River and the Soo Locks.

Sault High could play the first game and Lake Superior State the second one. If they went with Houghton or Hancock, a rink could go up near the Portage Lake Lift Bridge with the high school teams playing first and Tech to follow.

Some U.P. teams would be left out, but it’s another option for the powers-that-be to choose from.

It probably would take a lot of work for this type of day to occur in Michigan, but it doesn’t have to happen immediately. It’s just a fun idea that has grown very popular in my home state and one that I think if planned properly, could be huge here as well.

Just imagine, high schoolers and college players outdoors in the elements. It would be cold, most likely windy if held near Lake Superior, and maybe snowflakes would litter the rink, landing softly beneath their skates.

Goalies would wear knit hats to cover their heads and coaches wearing scarves to help protect their faces. Their breath fading into the frigid air, but smiles would be on their faces, because what are the chances they’d get to do this again?

To honor hockey’s history in a televised game. It’s hard to top that.

Hockey Day in Michigan has happened before, but let’s bring it back and make it better. It’s been a huge hit in Minnesota. I’m sure it can be here as well.

Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is rstieg@miningjournal.net.


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