BEMIDJI-The 13th annual Hockey Day Minnesota was one for the record books.
At the onset of the yearly event celebrating the state's beloved winter sport, the temperature in Bemidji stood at 26 below, breaking the previous record of 17 below set in 2008 in Baudette. Despite the frigid temperatures, though, thousands of fans and the hockey players themselves still enjoyed the day on Lake Bemidji's South Shore.
"I don't think I could be happier," said Brian Bissonette, a member of the Bemidji Hockey Day organizing committee. "In a huge event like this, you know there's going to be bumps in the road and the weather certainly threw us a curveball. Mother Nature tested our fortitude but we passed that test."
The event is always held on an outdoor rink in different cities every year. The program is organized by the Minnesota Wild, as well as cable sports channel Fox Sports North, which broadcasts the outdoor games throughout the day.
For some fans, the day started with the morning matchup between the No. 1 Class 2A team Minnetonka and No. 2-ranked Andover.
Minnetonka won the game, earning a 5-2 victory. Mark Lemen, a resident of Buffalo, Minn., and a BSU graduate, arrived to see the end of the top-ranked matchup and stayed for the rest of the competitions.
"It's been incredible," Lemen said. "This is a really neat deal for the kids. We have tickets to the BSU game tonight, too. Last night I didn't make it up for the Friday game, but we listened to it over the radio."
Lemen was speaking about the Friday night overtime thriller, where the BSU men's hockey team downed Michigan Tech 4-3 on the outdoor rink. The Beavers played Michigan Tech again Saturday night, this time inside the Sanford Center.
The outdoor BSU men's game was one of two played before Saturday. The other featured the Bemidji high school girl's team in a 2-1 loss against Woodbury on Thursday night.
In the final two games on the outdoor rink, the home teams went 1-1, with the Minnesota State University, Mankato defeating the BSU women's team 2-1 and the Bemidji High School boys squad earning a 3-0 win against Greenway.
"This is another notch in our belt," Bissonette said. "The hockey history here runs real deep, and hopefully people have learned about that over this weekend. I think hosting Hockey Day was the natural evolution."
While the number of fans in the bleachers are still being determined, the final game was a big draw and Bissonette was encouraged by what he saw throughout the entire event.
"I think the play was good and the attendance is what we've hoped. We have adventurous folks up here," Bissonette said. "It's a testament to the hundreds of volunteers and all the planning we've gone through."
Bemidji hosted Hockey Day a year after it took place in St. Cloud. For the 2020 edition, Hockey Day Minnesota will be held in Minneapolis, the state's largest city.