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Minnesota National Guard
Hockey Day 2015: Big games, troop tributes pair well with unique setting

Hockey Day MN ST PAUL, Minn- Hockey mixed with helicopters Saturday at St Paul's Holman Field as Minnesota sent out a combined salute to the sport and men and women in the armed services

This year's Hockey Day Minnesota was organized in conjunction with the Minnesota National Guard and helps benefit the Serving Our Troops organization

The result was what organizers think might be an event unique in the history of hockey: A tournament played on an outdoor rink set up on the tarmac of a working airport

"Everyone is here to watch hockey and say thank you," said Pat Harris, a Serving Our Troops organizer and Metropolitan Airports Commission member

Harris estimated about 6,000 to 7,000 people would come to Holman Field over the weekend for three days of outdoor hockey in mild-for-Minnesota weather

The four high school games played Saturday included shout-outs from Minnesota National Guard troops stationed in Kuwait, where the day's events, including a Minnesota Gophers-Wisconsin Badgers men's game and a Wild-Phoenix game, were being aired via a live feed

In between games, fans could take tours of UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, a CH-47 Chinook helicopter and a C-130 cargo plane parked near the rink

Some spectators watched the games from the air control tower overlooking the ice

"It's kind of a neat spot," said Gino Pitera, of St Paul, who was watching his daughter playing with the Cretin-Derham Hall Raiders "My daughter's super-excited about it"

"People are always ecstatic to watch outdoor hockey in Minnesota," Harris said

"This could be the first rink in history placed inside an active airfield"

"It's awesome that they put a rink in here and shut down the airport," said Mike Tracy, a senior master sergeant in the Air National Guard helping to give tours of the C-130 cargo plane "It's a privilege and honor to help support the hockey community and the families of the deployed"

Scott and Gina Kleive of Duluth came down to watch their daughter, Kalei, in goal for the Duluth Northern Stars high school team

"It's just unique to be able to involve our troops in the state of Minnesota," said Scott Kleive, an F-16 crew chief in the Air National Guard 148th Fighter Wing in Duluth

Gina Kleive said for a high schooler, getting to play on Hockey Day Minnesota "ranks right up there with the state tournament"

It was a special enough occasion that five Hill-Murray students dressed up as a bear, moose, crayon and gorillas to root for the Pioneers in their overtime victory over St Thomas Academy

"We figured like it's Hockey Day in Minnesota It's a big deal We've got to make a big statement We show up in some animal costumes, people are like, 'Where are you from?' We're from Hill-Murray," said Tony Bovrowski, 17, of Woodbury, who was dressed as Ted, the bear

St Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, who participated in a ceremonial puck drop, noted that Hockey Day Minnesota is just one of the outdoor events making for a lively January in St Paul There's also the Beer Dabbler at the State Fairgrounds, Red Bull Crashed Ice on Cathedral Hill and the Winter Carnival

"It's going to be wild," Coleman said

January 17, 2015
Richard Chin, Pioneer Press

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