The puck stops here – in Hockeytown USA®
NorthStream Fiber and Minnkota Power Cooperative joined the community of Warroad in preparations for Hockey Day Minnesota 2024.
Over five days in January, the population of Warroad, Minn., swelled from just over 1,800 people to nearly 15,000. Hockey Day Minnesota had finally come to Hockeytown USA® after 15 years in other Minnesota communities. For those who call Warroad home, every day is hockey day. But this is the hockey day they’ve been waiting for.
“We are part of it! We’re embedded in it! It’s awesome,” said Warroad native Robin Marvin, warming herself near one of several fire pits around the community’s temporary Hockey Day Village.
Robin is one of the 12 children of Hockey Hall of Famer Cal Marvin, called the Godfather of Warroad Hockey. She was born and raised on the ice. And on the evening of Jan. 27, she would watch her son Murray play during the main event of the week – a decades-long-rivalry game between Warroad High School and its neighbor 20 miles to the west, Roseau High School.
“It’s a mountain of history, it’s a mountain of heritage, it’s a mountain of respect. It’s passion,” Robin said as friends and family nodded in agreement.
Hockey Day Minnesota is a program of the Minnesota Wild, in partnership with Bally Sports North and Minnesota Hockey. The celebration of hockey started in January 2007 in Baudette, Minn., where a single game was played on Baudette Bay. Since then, Hockey Day Minnesota has grown into a multi-day docket of open-air high school, college and alumni games, and more.
In 2021, after watching the event be hosted in cities like Bemidji, Minneapolis and St. Cloud, the people of Warroad decided it was time to bring Hockey Day Minnesota home.
“There have always been dreams that someday Hockey Day Minnesota should come to Warroad – our hockey town,” said Brenda Baumann, co-chair of the Warroad event. “We put together a proposal and ran it in front of the Minnesota Wild and Bally Sports North. They came up, they did a site visit, and I think they liked what they saw.”
“They knew they were going to like the story, and I think once they saw the town and saw the people, they were sold,” added co-chair Tad Palmquist.
Pulling the team together
Once their date was set, Warroad organizers went to work finding local partners to help pull off this gargantuan event. They would need sponsors, volunteers, infrastructure, lodging – the to-do list was mighty for a community so mini.
“This town really takes any challenge head on, so there was never really a challenge where we thought, wow, we’ll never get past that,” Palmquist said. “We got a really strong group together.”
One of the challenges presented was a requirement from the Bally Sports North broadcasting team. They would need two gigabits of internet speed, which Warroad did not have at the time. Thankfully, Wiktel telecom services and Sjoberg’s, Inc., with assistance from the team at Roseau Electric Cooperative’s NorthStream Fiber, joined together to complete the process of bringing high-speed internet to the community.
Roseau Electric Assistant General Manager Ryan Severson explained that Warroad was already within NorthStream Fiber’s upcoming buildout plans. The timing was perfect.
“It just made sense to partner with Wiktel to help bring internet to Warroad and Hockey Day Minnesota, along with another 123 Warroad homes that we connected last summer,” Severson explained. He pointed to the jumbo screen at the end of the rink, livestreaming the afternoon game currently underway. “You see the media, the TVs, all of this – it doesn’t just happen. There’s a fiber connection in the background that makes a big difference. We’re going to be able to strengthen this in serving Warroad for years to come.”
NorthStream Fiber, along with Roseau Electric and Minnkota Power Cooperative, also chipped in as proud sponsors of Hockey Day Minnesota 2024. Dozens of local organizations did the same, investing their money, but also labor and goods. A Warroad trucking company plowed the entire site for Hockey Day Village on the high school football field during a storm of rain and sleet. A local wood burning stove manufacturer supplied branded fire pits for Hockey Day Village and boiler heat for the entertainment tent. The high school’s sports teams came out to stack firewood, lay down event flooring and hang banners throughout the site. Even the community’s senior citizens asked how they could help.
“Whatever the problem was or whatever the need was, it seemed like the community stepped up,” Palmquist said.
“Everybody wanted to be a piece of Hockey Day, and that’s what makes this so incredible,” Baumann added. “Small town stuff – everybody just wants to pitch in.”
Rivals and friends
As Severson found a seat in the chilled stands that Saturday night, among thousands of hockey fans waiting for the puck to drop for the Warroad-Roseau game, he found warmth in the competitive energy burning in his chest. As luck would have it, he played hockey for Roseau High School as a teen – as did his three sons. He had lived the hockey rivalry, and this was a big moment in that rivalry’s history.
“You get goosebumps just talking about it,” Severson said. “It’s always been a great rivalry. And I still have good friends from Warroad. It’s not a hatred. It’s a competitive, good-hearted rivalry.”
The game, broadcast to hundreds of thousands of people across five northern states, was a cold-weather classic. Fans clad in Roseau green and Warroad gold mixed throughout the bleachers, cheers and jeers blending into one sound – joy.
Robin Marvin’s son scored one of the six Warroad goals that led the team to its 6-2 Hockey Day Minnesota win. The goal and the victory meant a lot to her. But so did the spotlight on northern Minnesota hockey.
“I don’t know if you can put it into words. I believe that it’s in the soul and it runs through the blood. It’s an absolutely amazing community that brought this together,” Marvin said. “I am so proud of what Warroad has done. And the surrounding communities. I mean, Roseau? Outstanding. Baudette? It’s just that Northern Minnesota vibe.”
MAIN IMAGE: Roseau High School goalie Brayton Levesque adjusts his helmet during the team's Jan. 27 game against Warroad High School. (Minnkota/ Michael Hoeft)