15,000 Fans Visited The Hockey Day Village During Hockey Day Minnesota in Warroad
February 3, 2024
by Laurel Latham
Just east of the Hockey Day Village, seven Warroad Warrior banners, proudly sporting the black and gold Warroad Warrior logo, greeted fans arriving at Hockey Day Minnesota 2024 held in Warroad. Hanging from the street lights along Highway 11, the banners each represented one of the Seven Grandfather Teachings: Love, Respect, Bravery, Truth, Honesty, Humility, and Wisdom. The Seven Grandfather Teachings have always been a part of the Native American culture. These teachings impact our surroundings, along with providing guidance toward our actions to one another.
The Warroad Warrior logo, drawn by Warroad Native American Don Kakaygeesick, replaced an earlier logo that Don felt looked more like a cartoon character.
"I wanted the logo to look more like a Native American," explained Don. "When I drew the new logo, I began by drawing my friend, Vernon Sargent's profile."
Don was recently interviewed by the Minnesota Wild.
"Minnesota Wild came to my house and asked me about the Warroad Warrior logo. They took a video of the interview that will be part of a video of Hockey Day Minnesota 2024 in Warroad. They told me the video will be released sometime in Feb."
Hockey Day Warroad was the 18th year the Hockey Day Minnesota event was held in Minnesota.
"Hockey Day Warroad couldn't have gone better," reports Co-Chair (along with Brenda Baumann) of Hockey Day Warroad, Tad Palmquist. "There were 12,500 in ticket sales over Thur., Fri., and Sat., with another 1,500 fans attending free Wednesday to watch the Mites play. Approximately 1,000 more free fans watched the youth games on Sunday, for a total of 15,000 fans attending Hockey Day 2024 in Warroad.
"Even the weather cooperated," continued Tad. "We had prepared for 15 below weather, so the warmer temperatures in the 20s were perfect. By Sunday, the weather was almost too warm at 36 degrees. All the youth who didn't get the opportunity to play in previous games played on Sunday."
Although Hockey Day in Warroad was officially on Saturday, January 27, there were so many highlights during the week of Hockey Day 2024. Warroad hockey great Alan Hangsleben especially enjoyed watching the Mites play on Wednesday.
"I've been around hockey for 65 years," said Alan. "I've been everywhere and never experienced anything quite like the spectacular Hockey Day, in Hockeytown U.S.A."
When asked what he would consider the highlight of Hockey Day 2024, Alan had a quick reply.
"It was watching the Mites play. Watching the youth play is a reminder that it's not so much about the past, but how Warroad takes care of the future of hockey."
Warroad hockey greats Bill Christian and Dave Christian also traveled to Warroad to attend Hockey Day.
"The Hockey Day event was very special," said an enthusiastic Bill Christian. "I enjoyed everything. Warroad could not have done it better!'
"Hockey Day was amazing! People will surely remember how Warroad showed up to host an incredible celebration of Northern Minnesota hockey," added Dave Christian.
A highlight on Thursday night, Jan. 25, was watching the Baudette Bears in a game with Kittson County Central. Including the Baudette Bears in the Hockey Day event was a sentimental choice. It was the game on the Baudette Bay when the very first Hockey Day celebration of pond hockey was held in 2007.
The Baudette Bears wore the original jerseys worn at that very first Hockey Day event, which may just have brought them luck. The final score of the Bears-Kittson County Central game was 5-1 in favor of the Baudette Bears team.
"When I saw the Bears team wearing the original jerseys that surprisingly looked good all these years later, I couldn't help but recall my cousin, John Clark's, dynamic third period goal in the game with St. Paul, that made ESPN highlights in 2007," reports Baudette Bears' Coach Brandon Storey. "Outdoor venues seem to slow down your more dynamic players, but every team has the same problem. I thought we played well and was very proud to say we rolled all four lines from the start, showing our depth."
On Friday night, Jan. 26, the Warroad-Roseau Alumni game was held. Alumni games are always fun to watch, especially one held between Warroad and Roseau. Warroad players Tom Lund, Blayke Nelson, and Jackson Harren expressed their excitement at taking part in the Alumni game.
"It was surreal to lace up the skates against the old rival in front of a packed house again like I did 25 years ago," said Jackson Harren. "I think we all felt some butterflies, but we took in the moment and enjoyed the camaraderie that only a bunch of old guys who still love the game can have. I've gotten to know several members of the Roseau alumni team over the years and have become good friends, so that is what made it the most fun."
"It was a fun competitive game for a group of old guys! We couldn't believe how many people were there to watch us stumble around on skates," said Blayke Nelson. "I'm so happy to have been a part of what was an amazing overall event in Warroad. It's truly hard to believe that we were fortunate enough to host. So many thanks to the many volunteers and a special thank you to the committee and those who took this event to a new level."
"I thought we had a good turnout," said Tom Lund. "I think all the players worked hard and had a ton of fun. I was glad we got Luke Jaycox and the other guys from our hometown for the game."
The final Alumni game score was Roseau 6, Warroad 2.
Saturday, Jan. 27, Hockey Day highlights included a hat trick by Lady Warrior Taylor Reese in their game with Lakeville North and Warroad Warrior Taven James' hat trick during the Warroad-Roseau game.
The Lady Warriors team is celebrating their 25th year playing hockey. They played a hard game with the final score Warriors 3, Lakeville 4.
"Our team had so much fun playing in Hockey Day 2024," said Coach David Marvin. "We would like to thank the local organizing committee for all their hard work."
The Warroad-Roseau rivalry game was definitely the big highlight of Hockey Day.
"It was a great atmosphere for the kids to play in," said Coach Jay Hardwick. "We had a great start and thought we played well. I told the kids it will be something they will remember for the rest of their lives."
The final score of the Warroad-Roseau rivalry game was Warriors 6, Rams 2.
"The stands were packed on Saturday for the Warroad-Roseau game," reports Tad Palmquist. "There wasn't a seat empty in the bleachers. The bleachers held 3,500 fans and the VIP tent held another 500 fans. Many also watched on the big screen in the entertainment tent and on the big screen in the beer gardens.
"Ruben Bjorkman was chosen to drop the ceremonial puck at the beginning of the Warroad-Roseau game," continued Tad. "Our committee considered many options, but decided on 94 year old Ruben Bjorkman, a Roseau hockey great who has had an incredible hockey career, both playing and coaching."
Rube Bjorkman is a 1947 Roseau High School graduate who played Roseau youth hockey and Roseau Rams hockey. He went on to play for the University of Minnesota and the St. Paul Saints. Rube played in both the 1948 and 1952 Winter Olympics.
Ruben was Head Coach at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (R.P.I.) during the 1963-64 season. He was Head Coach from 1965-1969 at the University of New Hampshire, and Head Coach at UND from 1970-1978. Rube also coached for the Warroad Warriors for three years after retiring as Head Coach at UND.
"It was such an honor being chosen to drop the puck," said Ruben. "I wore my Olympic marching jacket from the 1952 Winter Olympics in Oslo. I had packed my jacket away right after the Olympic games. This is the first time I've unpacked it. That's how much it meant to me to be asked to drop the ceremonial puck."
After the ceremonial puck drop, Ruben pulled Roseau Ram team Captain Noah Urness and Warroad Warriors team Captain Carson Pilgrim close for some heartfelt advice.
"I gave the boys what I consider some good advice," continued Rueben. "I told them to always play hard and to always have fun, because it doesn't last forever. It's over far too soon."
The Minnesota Wild, along with Bally Sports North and Minnesota Hockey, announced that Hockey Day Minnesota 2025 will take place at Valleyfair Amusement Park in Shakopee.