White Bear Township is slated to host Hockey Day Minnesota in 2022 or 2023 following an initiative taken by a local group headed by Corey Roberts.
It will be a prestigious achievement to join the list of hockey-prominent communities that have hosted the event since 2007.
“They don’t just hand this out,” Roberts said. “There has to be a lot of interest from the community, and there has to be lots of hockey history and tradition there.”
Hockey Day Minnesota is a joint effort of Fox Sports North and the Minnesota Wild on one end, and the local community and a group representing it on the other end.
“They (FSN and the Wild) internally have told us we will follow Mankato,” said Roberts.
Mankato is slated to host the 2021 HDM with White Bear Township on tap for 2022. If the event is not held next season due to the pandemic, it will be Mankato in 2022 and White Bear in 2023. The official announcements will come in a few months, Roberts said.
“With that, we are announcing that White Bear Township adopted a resolution to host the event in 2022 or 2023, and a local group is mobilizing to ensure it happens,” Roberts said.
The site chosen for the games, he said, are two soccer fields in Polar Lakes Park in White Bear Township.
Roberts owns The Minnesotan, an apparel store downtown White Bear Lake. He played hockey for Forest Lake, and his father, Mick, was a center in White Bear Lake’s region runner-up team in 1958.
He wanted to find a way to “get involved in the community,” and with his hockey background, he decided to throw the town’s hat in the ring for Hockey Day Minnesota. Site exploration started in 2017.
The puck is now in White Bear Lake’s zone, so to speak, after getting the nod.
“Once FSN and the Wild grant a host city, then everything relies on the local community, and the biggest piece to handle is the financial piece,” Roberts said. “They will offer some guidelines, but the community has to raise the money.”
In addition to constructing an outdoor rink with plenty of seating, the hosts must provide elements of the Minnesota Hockey Day experience such food trucks, beer garden, a bonfire pit and merchant booths.
Roberts said his group proposed a significant change in the format: four-team boys’ and girls’ tournaments with a trophy, rather than single games for each team, which has been the custom. Fox and the Wild were “intrigued,” he said.
White Bear Lake played in the 2009 event, losing to Duluth East 6-3 at Xcel Energy Center. (It was moved inside that year due to poor outdoor ice.) This would be the Bears’ first appearance since then.
The event also includes Wild and Gopher games and two more college games, all at other locations, and several preliminary events at the host site. Roberts said they plan to have the facility operating for 14 days, with all the youth association teams getting a chance to play there.
So far, Roberts has been assisted by Jon Anderson and Nick Guzzo. Plans are to assemble a committee of six to eight people, Roberts said, adding that they will plan as though they will host in 2022.