Roy’s View: The Premier Hockey Tourney is Here
Minnesota's premier state high school tournament begins Wednesday at Xcel Energy Center. Arguably, it's the top boys high school hockey tournament in the nation.
Bringing together the excitement of playoff hockey and one of the top sports venues in the country sets the stage for a big weekend in downtown St. Paul. If you need a little inspiration to get fired up for the tourney just watch the videos included below.
The Class A games begin Wednesday. The two southernmost teams in the field are underdogs in the early session. New Ulm faces No. 2 seed Mahtomedi and Section 1A representative New Prague challenges defending state champ East Grand Forks. I enjoy cheering for the northern Minnesota teams. Especially when they face private schools and ritzy Twin Cities teams. Hermantown is the top seed and has lost in the finals in each of the past five years. The Hawks should advance to a semifinal game against Breck. A northern Minnesota team vs a Twin Cities private school? Easy to know who 90 percent of the arena will be cheering for in that one.
The Class AA field is filled with the usual suspects. Defending state champ Edina is in its 26th state boys hockey tournament. Bemidji draws the Hornets in the 11 a.m. opener on Thursday. Hill Murray is appearing for the 27th time. They'll tangle with top-ranked and unbeaten Lakeville North. Duluth East is there for the 22nd time. The Greyhounds will see St. Thomas Academy. The Cadets are appearing for the first time in Class AA after dominating the A field for years. Mammoth schools Eden Prairie and Blaine will battle in the No. 4 vs. No. 5 nightcap on Thursday.
I plan to stand in line early on Thursday to get a ticket to the AA quarterfinals. So many of the small things make the event a joy. The contrasting team colors as the boys come out for warm ups. The battle of the bands at intermission. The roar of the crowd on a scoring chance that doesn't go into the net. (Not much beats a highlight reel save.) Students chanting "You can't do that," after a penalty is called. The players saying "Hi, Mom" during televised introductions. The smell of mini donuts when you enter Xcel Energy Center. Walking the concourse and seeing all the players and fans from cities across the state there watching the tournament and dreaming of being in the event next year.
Olympic champions have talked about the Minnesota high school boys hockey tournament as their career highlight, so let's drop the puck on another classic in St. Paul.