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Eric Peterson, Published June 23 2010

Hockey Day in Minnesota 2011: Putting the ‘outdoor’ back in ice hockey

Former Moorhead Spuds star Matt Cullen used to play on an outdoor rink across the street from the Moorhead Youth Hockey Arena in his youth.

Cullen, who plays for the Ottawa Senators, still has fond memories of those experiences.

“To me, that’s what the game is all about, playing on the outdoor rink with your buddies and your brothers,” Cullen said. “We would play all day and all night, and we had a rink in my backyard.”

Outdoor hockey will be featured in Moorhead on Feb. 12 when the city hosts the high school portion of the daylong “Hockey Day in Minnesota” event, which will be broadcast on Fox Sports North.

The high school matchups for the event were announced Tuesday outside the MYHA. Roseau and Wayzata will play the first game followed by Moorhead vs. Hill-Murray.

Those boys games will be played on an outdoor rink near the MYHA. A college game between Minnesota and Denver at Mariucci Arena and an NHL game between the Minnesota Wild and the St. Louis Blues will also be part of the coverage on Fox Sports North.

Spuds head coach Dave Morinville said he expects the high school games to be played at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. with the college and NHL game to follow.

“It’s just going to be such a neat event for the city and also to showcase Moorhead youth hockey and our arena,” Morinville said. “I am an (alumnus) here so I played outdoors all the way until I was in ninth grade.”

Former Spuds Brian Lee, who plays for the Senators, and Chris VandeVelde, who has signed with the Edmonton Oilers, were also there Tuesday along with representatives from the Wild, including players Brent Burns, Nate Prosser and Brad Bombardir.

Moorhead Mayor Mark Voxland was presented a dark green No. 11 Wild hockey jersey at the news conference that read “Moorhead” on the back.

“It’s almost sad that we have to miss this game. I’m sure it’s going to be a blast,” Lee said. “I’m sure it will be a great experience and I hope the weather pans out for them.”

Cullen and his family made a donation to help in the construction of the outdoor rink.

Moorhead officials hope to build a grandstand that seats around 1,000 people for the outdoor rink. They also expect to have 3,000 to 5,000 fans at the event.

Morinville said the four schools involved will have their junior varsity teams play inside the MYHA. There are also plans to host activities in the MYHA parking lot.

Prosser, from Elk River, Minn., is impressed with the outdoor hockey idea. Previous host cities for “Hockey Day in Minnesota” are Baudette, Hermantown and St. Paul. Baudette hosted the event in its first two years.

“I was I could have been a part of something like this,” Prosser said. “Minnesota has got such strong support for the hockey community. You see all the support on the road tour.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.

Peterson’s blogs can be found at www.areavoices.com