With much hoopla after years of anticipation, the first puck dropped Friday night at the Bemidji Regional Event Center, signaling a new era for Bemidji State men's hockey.
Three lawmakers responsible for gaining the $25 million in state bonding for the nearly $50 million project - Sen. Mary Olson, DFL-Bemidji, Sen. Dave Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm, and former House Speaker Steve Sviggum - dropped the ceremonial first puck at the BREC.
Olson and Tomassoni steered the bill through the Senate to be included in the 2008 bonding bill. Tomassoni, a former Denver University hockey player in the WCHA, chairs the Senate panel on economic development.
"This is a great facility, even better than we imagined when we passed the bonding bill," Tomassoni said in an interview. "This will serve the community well for many years to come."
Sviggum, representing Gov. Tim Pawlenty as commissioner of the Department of Labor and Industry, was House speaker when $3 million was initially sought for planning and design, with Pawlenty's support. Sviggum was also here last weekend to cut the ribbon for the BREC to open it to the public.
The dropping of the second ceremonial puck by longtime Beaver coach R.H. "Bob" Peters, however, got the most cheers from the crowd. The Bemidji City Council passed a resolution naming the ice sheet the Robert H. Peters Rink. The Beavers have 13 small college and national championships under him. With 744 career wins, Peters has a winning percentage of more than 70 percent.
There was also the passing of the torch from last year's captain, Kyle Hardwick, given to him after the last game in the Glas, to this year's captain, Matt Read.
"The full significance of this facility to the northern half of the state has sunk in to the whole community here tonight," Olson said in an interview. "People have flown here from all over the world."
It started with Peters' dream, she said, culminating in one of the premier hockey arenas in the state."The stars were aligned right."
The rink exploded with cheers when for the final ice finishing prior to the start of the start of the game, dueling Zambonis took the ice, with the new BREC machine joined by the old BSU John Glas Zamboni, driven by long-timer Vance Bolstad.
Third line left wing Jamie MacQueen of St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada, made BSU hockey history by scoring the first goal in the BREC at 1:52. He was assisted by right wing Ryan Cramer. Cramer on a break-away fed the puck up the slot to MacQueen on one on one past North Dakota goalie Brad Eidness.