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East Grand Forks puts community weight behind Hockey Day Minnesota

East Grand Forks plans to send 12 teams and more than 150 hockey players to games around the Twin Cities and Mankato in order to support the Green Wave outdoors on Saturday afternoon.

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EAST GRAND FORKS — The East Grand Forks varsity boys hockey program is one of the centerpieces of Saturday's Hockey Day Minnesota in Mankato.

The Green Wave will play Prior Lake at 1 p.m. in an outdoor game at Blakeslee Field that will be televised regionally on Bally Sports North.

But this weekend isn't about just one team. East Grand Forks youth hockey is throwing its full weight behind Hockey Day Minnesota.

East Grand Forks will send 12 teams and more than 150 players to the Twin Cities and Mankato areas for games this weekend in order to be available to support the game.

"We were supposed to play in Hockey Day Minnesota a year ago but it was canceled, and when it was re-upped this year in Mankato, and we had an invitation for our high school to play ... at the youth level, we immediately decided we wanted to send our squirt and above down there to play games and be part of the high school event," said Mark Dragich, East Grand Forks Parks and Recreation recreation director. "We have a bunch of hockey geeks in East Grand Forks, and it's something where we've seen the event on TV and wanted our people to be in the area and enjoy it and take it all in and support the high school."

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Hockey Day Minnesota started on Baudette Bay in 2007 and 2008. It has played at other outdoor locations including Lake Pokegama near Grand Rapids and Lake Bemidji. But this year will be the first time it has been played at a football stadium. Blakeslee Field (capacity 7,500) is home for the Minnesota State-Mankato football team.

There will be three games played at Blakeslee Field on Saturday: a girls game between Edina and Andover at 9:30 a.m., the boys game between the Green Wave and Prior Lake at 1 p.m. and a men's college game between Division-I newcomer St. Thomas and NCAA Frozen Four semifinalist MSU-Mankato at 4:30 p.m.

The final televised game of the day will be the Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks at Xcel Energy Center.

Some East Grand Forks youth players will get a unique experience in Madison Lake, Minn., where Schulz Rink of Dreams is a unique venue built on a farmstead.

In 2005, Paul Schulz built a rink at his farm for his kids to play. When Paul died in 2006, his wife and the community maintained the rink and it still hosts events today.

"Our kids are just absolutely thrilled to get a chance to go there and enjoy that," Dragich said. "We'll have a lot of people stopping by that rink Saturday morning."

After lengthy planning, Dragich is ready for the events to take place.

"It has been a lot of work," he said. "I'm sick of planning, and I'm glad it's here. Let's go enjoy it. I think there's a lot of energy and excitement for it."

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Dragich said the East Grand Forks community would love to host Hockey Day Minnesota in the future.

The Green Wave aren't the only local boys hockey program competing outdoors this weekend.

Hockey Day North Dakota, which will be hosted in Jamestown, will feature both Grand Forks Central and Grand Forks Red River.

Central plays Bismarck Century at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, while Red River plays Bismarck High in the next game at 5 p.m.

That event will be on the University of Jamestown campus between Wilson Arena and Newman Arena.

Miller has covered sports at the Grand Forks Herald since 2004 and was the state sportswriter of the year in 2019.

His primary beat is UND football but also reports on a variety of UND sports and local preps.

He can be reached at (701) 780-1121, tmiller@gfherald.com or on Twitter at @tommillergf.
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