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Hockey Day is coming to Bemidji; 13th annual event set for winter 2019

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Bemidji High School boys hockey coach Eric Monsrud gives the "Let's Play Hockey" command before the Minnesota Wild's game Saturday night at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. (Rick Orndorf/Minnesota Wild)3 / 7
Bemidji High School boys hockey coach Eric Monsrud gives the "Let's Play Hockey" command before the Minnesota Wild's game Saturday night at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. (Rick Orndorf/Minnesota Wild)4 / 7
Former Bemidji High School boys hockey coach and Bemidji State star Bryan Grand pours water from Lake Bemidji onto the Xcel Energy Center ice before the Minnesota Wild's game Saturday night. (Rick Orndorf/Minnesota Wild)5 / 7
Former Bemidji High School boys hockey coach and Bemidji State star Bryan Grand pours water from Lake Bemidji onto the Xcel Energy Center ice before the Minnesota Wild's game Saturday night. (Rick Orndorf/Minnesota Wild)6 / 7
Bemidji High School boys hockey coach Eric Monsrud gave the "Let's Play Hockey" command before the Minnesota Wild's game Saturday night at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. (Rick Orndorf/Minnesota Wild)7 / 7

BEMIDJI -- Hockey Day Minnesota is coming to Bemidji.

The Minnesota Wild and Fox Sports North announced Bemidji will host the 2019 edition of the popular winter event prior to the telecast of Saturday’s Wild game in St. Paul.

“For just the community and for our kids in our program to have an opportunity to do something like that, to be honest with you, it’s kind of a like a dream come true,” said Bemidji High School boys hockey coach Eric Monsrud, who was on hand with former BHS coach and Bemidji State star Bryan Grand for a pregame ceremony at the Xcel Energy Center.

“We’re ready to roll out the red plaid carpet because we think that hosting Hockey Day Minnesota on the shores of Lake Bemidji is the perfect place to celebrate the State of Hockey,” said Bemidji Mayor Rita Albrecht.

Hockey Day Minnesota features a slate of high school games played on outdoor rinks, as well as college hockey games and a Minnesota Wild game in St. Paul.

The exact location for the outdoor rink is still being finalized with an official announcement expected to come in the next few weeks.

Hockey Day will fall on a Saturday in winter 2019, though the precise date for the event will not be determined until after the Wild’s 2018-19 schedule is released this summer. The Wild will play at home at the Xcel Energy Center on the date.

This year’s event featured three outdoor games, including two high school boys games and a college women’s game, as well as a high school girls game Friday.

The Bemidji High School boys and girls hockey teams will host games on the outdoor rink as part of the festivities. All told, the event will include three or four outdoor games, three of which would be televised on FSN.

Event organizers are hopeful to involve Bemidji State as well, though the details are still being worked out.

“We certainly hope to include Bemidji State in some capacity,” said Brian Bissonette, who is involved with the organizing the event and is also a broadcaster for BSU games on the Beaver Radio Network. “They’re a part of the committee. Whether they play outdoors, indoors, if they play, when they play and whether it’s televised -- all to be determined. But we certainly want to include all of the local hockey teams that we can, including BSU’s men’s and women’s teams.”

The announcement had been in the making since last fall. The organizing committee first looked into hosting Hockey Day in 2015 and had inquired into hosting this year’s event, but St. Cloud was ahead of them in line. The committee officially received word Bemidji would host Hockey Day 2019 about a month ago.

“We’ve been working at it for a while and it’s something that will be not only great for our community, but it will be a great way to showcase what we can do and our community spirit to the rest of the State of Hockey,” said event chair Tom Kuesel.

St. Cloud hosted this year’s event, which was the 12th in the series since the inaugural Hockey Day in 2007. Baudette Bay hosted the first two years with other host sites including Phalen Park in St. Paul, Hermantown, Moorhead, Minnetonka, Grand Rapids, Elk River, Holman Field in St. Paul, Duluth and Stillwater.

Funding for the event will come from local sponsorships, ticket and merchandise sales, food and vendor sales with Sanford Health serving as the main sponsor.

Each year, hundreds of volunteers have helped to make Hockey Day Minnesota a crown jewel on the state’s sporting calendar. That will be no different in the coming months before Bemidji takes its turn in the spotlight, which should come naturally to the First City on the Mississippi.

“In Bemidji there’s a lot of people who are active in hockey, so we don’t think that’ll be a problem because Bemidji loves its hockey,” Albrecht said. “Whether that’s little ones all the way up to Division I men’s and women’s hockey at Bemidji State University.”

“I’m hoping that when this is all said and done,” Kuesel said, “we can look back on it as what a great celebration, of not just the hockey community in Bemidji, but the community as a whole and the northern spirit and the willingness of our community to pull together for an event like this and make it great.”

Austin Monteith

Austin Monteith is a sports reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer. He is an Illinois native and a Butler University graduate. Follow him on Twitter @amonteith92.

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