Minnesota hockey culture: what’s all the hype about?

Everyone has that one thing they would live, breathe, or die for. It can range anywhere from a food, to a hobby, TV show, or sport. In Minnesota, hockey is one of the top sports that many people would live, breathe, or die for. However, out-of-state or international students might not understand what the hype over this sport is all about. That’s why I’m here to tell you all about it. Consider this your crash course introduction into Minnesota hockey culture in 500 words or less. 

I’ve lived in Minnesota for the past 12 years of my life. My dad’s family is from here and about 13 of them have played or still play hockey. I’m one of the few who don’t. However, I’ve been to over 25 different rinks throughout the state and have sat through over 150 hockey games. I’ve shouted, screamed, and wept tears of frustration over this game. I wouldn’t call myself an expert, but an avid fan and supporter. 

For those who don’t know, Minnesota is considered “the state of hockey.” Former hockey player Tim Matson ’88 remembers attending camps with former U.S. Olympic players as well as players from the Minnesota Gophers and Minnesota North Stars — now the Minnesota Wild — that were considered royalty in his eyes. Matson played hockey for Minnehaha Academy and St. Olaf College as a young adult. “If one of those dudes ever needed me to dry-clean their laundry, I’d do it,” Matson said. He still plays hockey occasionally with friends and frequently reminisces about his experience as a player. 

Shattuck-St. Mary’s School, located six miles south of Northfield, is one of the top elite private schools in the Midwest. Its hockey program has produced three of the top professional players in the National Hockey League (NHL)—Sydney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Zach Parise of the New Jersey Devils and Minnesota Wild, and Peter MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche. If you’re doubtful of how wildly popular this sport is in Minnesota, just look up “MN State Hockey Final” on YouTube where you’ll find live-streams with up to 250K views, even at the high school level. 

Minnesota hockey culture can seem extreme and challenging. But in the eyes of many Minnesotans, it just consists of fun times and friendly competition. It’s the memories made out on the pond with friends while fingers and toes slowly freeze, nearly getting frostbite. It’s the excitement of watching a brother or sister score their first goal in mites — the hockey equivalent to Little League baseball. Or if you’re an Ole who’s never skated before, it’s the pain and laughter from falling down repeatedly in the Skoglund ice arena. 

So, if you’re a new student not from around here, take a chance and venture into the world of hockey. This is a culture that allows you to make whatever you want of it. And trust me, it doesn’t have to become something you live, breathe, or die for. 

hardy4@stolaf.edu

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