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More than 13,000 attend Hockey Day: Three-day event brings in the fans

BEMIDJI--The 13th annual Hockey Day Minnesota event in Bemidji had, fittingly, more than 13,000 attendees last week. According to organizing committee member Brian Bissonette, over the three days of hockey-related festivities, a total of 13,400 p...

Lumberjack hockey cheerleaders and fans cheer on the Bemidji High School boys hockey team against Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin during Hockey Day Minnesota’s final matchup in Bemidji on Saturday. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)
Lumberjack hockey cheerleaders and fans cheer on the Bemidji High School boys hockey team against Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin during Hockey Day Minnesota’s final matchup in Bemidji on Saturday. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)
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BEMIDJI-The 13th annual Hockey Day Minnesota event in Bemidji had, fittingly, more than 13,000 attendees last week.

According to organizing committee member Brian Bissonette, over the three days of hockey-related festivities, a total of 13,400 people attended the event.

Of the total estimate, organizers said about 3,300 fans attended Thursday night (Bemidji High School girls vs. Woodbury), and 4,200 fans saw the Friday night men's hockey overtime win by Bemidji State over Michigan Tech.

On Saturday, the estimate is that 6,200 fans came through the gates for boys hockey (No. 1 Minnetonka vs. No. 2 Andover), women's hockey (Bemidji State vs. MS-Mankato) and the grand outdoor finale of Bemidji High School vs. Greenway-Nashwauk/Keewatin in boys hockey.

"That estimate is based on tickets sold and the number of credentials provided," Bissonette said. "It's a best guess, but we're pretty confident that's where we're at."

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Hockey Day Minnesota is yearly event by the Minnesota Wild and Fox Sport North. Every year, the event rotates to different host communities and features outdoor hockey games, usually between high school teams.

In 2018, Hockey Day was held in St. Cloud and Bissonette said an estimated 8,000 fans were in attendance on the Saturday last year when high school teams took the ice.

"Our Saturday is a little bit lower, and I think we all know what the reason for that might be," Bissonette said, referring to the week's sub-zero temperatures. "They had 38 degree weather in 2018 and they had a lot of walk-up sales, but when looking at the pre-sales, we were pretty similar with St. Cloud."

Bemidji's Hockey Day was the coldest on record; the temperature was 26 below zero when the puck dropped for Saturday's first game.

Still, Saturday's attendance in Bemidji did come in ahead of the 2017 Hockey Day when it was held in Stillwater. According to Hockey Day Minnesota's social media, Stillwater had more than 5,000 fans in attendance.

With the event now finished, Bissonette said organizers are now crunching the numbers, but it will still be a few months before the totals are determined.

"It's a huge event, and there are still bills to be paid and collected," Bissonette said. "It will be a couple months before we have an idea of how much money is raised. We're confident, though, that we'll cover our costs, break even, and be able to make a contribution to outdoor hockey."

The event took place on the South Shore of Lake Bemidji, just west of the Sanford Center. The site included a 2.7 acre lot for the rink and bleachers, and a 1.1 acre lot for the area to accommodate food, beverage, and other amenities. The land is owned by the Bemidji Economic Development Authority.

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For those who put it together, Hockey Day 2019 was years in the making. Organizers first met with Bemidji city officials to talk about hosting the event in 2016 and work on the site began in June 2018.

"We're just ecstatic on how the whole thing turned out," Bissonette said. "It could not have gone much better."

Related Topics: HOCKEY
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