Originally posted on Fox Sports North  |  Last updated 1/18/13
ST. PAUL, Minn. When Saturday hits, thousands of people in Minnesota will be thinking about hockey, although this won't be any old Saturday in the "State of Hockey." Many people have been thinking about and planning for Saturday for a long time a couple years in fact. Saturday is Hockey Day in Minnesota 2013. The day will feature three high school games played outdoors on Lake Pokegama, a University of Minnesota game at Mariucci Arena and a Minnesota Wild NHL game at the Xcel Energy Center. Including coverage of all five games, FOX Sports North will air more than 21 consecutive hours of hockey-related programming. Grand Rapids has been working toward Saturday for more than two years since the city was named the 2013 host of the seventh-annual event. "It's a labor of love," said FOX Sports North's John Stroh, who's been a part of each of the first six Hockey Days in Minnesota as a producer for the outdoor high school games. To bring viewers and hockey fans hours of games and stories starting at 9 a.m. on Saturday, planning began when Grand Rapids, about three hours north of the Twin Cities, was named the host on April 15, 2011. The city has prepped since then to put on three high school games -- two boys games involving four teams that will air live and a third between the Grand Rapids and Hibbing girls teams, which will be aired on tape delay. It hasn't been easy for Grand Rapids, which has worked hard to create a unique environment on Lake Pokegama. Though other areas might have had premade rinks or infrastructure to support the building of rinks, Grand Rapids wanted to take hockey back to its roots on the pond. "It's a good old-fashioned pond hockey game and it's the way it was first dreamed up and the way it's meant to be," said Sholom Blake, the co-chair of the Grand Rapids Hockey Day committee. "We're excited to really show the rest of the state what we pulled off. Logistically, it's been challenging. It's not impossible and we pulled it off, and it's going to be great. But it's definitely more work" Starting in January, blessed with the freezing temperatures necessary, Grand Rapids went to work building the rink. Workers shoveled snow off the ice and started flooding the area to ensure a smooth, thick surface. About two weeks ago, they began putting up the boards with anchors drilled into the ice. Fencing followed, lines were painted on the ice which is about 2 feet thick now and soon a rink was complete. "It's their baby," Stroh said. "They love it. They're sending pictures every day of the arena. Having the whole city behind it is going to be great, seeing everyone and being able to enjoy it on Saturday." With other homemade rinks nearby and other activities available in the area, Blake believes it will be the idyllic winter setting to showcase the city's hearty nature. Beyond the committee and workers who have been involved in the preparation, about 200 volunteers will help out Saturday. "It's a pretty stressful deal," Blake said. "A labor of love is a good way to explain it. We're pretty into it and excited to make it happen." FOX Sports North is excited as well. The programming will include an update on Jack Jablonski, the paralyzed Benilde-St. Margaret's hockey player who had last year's Hockey Day in Minnesota dedicated to him with a telethon that raised more than 134,000 in donations for his medical fund. Features will also include an update on Wild goaltender Josh Harding, who is dealing with multiple sclerosis, a story on Caitlin Tate, the starting goalie for Park High School in Cottage Grove who was born without a hand, and a look at the history of hockey in Grand Rapids. Broadcasting five games from three locations requires more than 100 FOX Sports North employees and crew. The network will have production trucks stationed at Pokegama Lake in Grand Rapids, Xcel Energy Center and Mariucci Arena, a total of 20 cameras, seven on-air reporters and three play-by-playgame analyst duos. But the biggest challenge will come while broadcasting the outdoor games. "The biggest thing I've learned is always prepare for change," FOX Sports North coordinating producer Trevor Fleck said. "Every year, there is an element that comes in that you're not planned for." The ability to adapt has become paramount. Some of the changes have included freezing weather that affected equipment and warm weather that affected the quality of the ice. Last year, the high school games were forced indoors because of warm weather. "Last year, we changed two weeks before we went on the air," Fleck said. "We made it a whole benefit for Jack Jablonski. This year, the announcement that the Wild were going to be back and starting on Hockey Day happened a week before. Every year, there is a major change that happens within the final two weeks and everything you have planned and prepared for, you have to readjust." The opportunity and effectiveness of broadcasting three outdoor high school games doesn't happen without the support of the host city and some willing employees. "The beauty with Grand Rapids is the whole community has gotten behind it and has really become a team effort," FOX Sports North executive producer Tony Tortorici said. "Doing something on a lake outdoors is just fraught with peril -- just the logistics of what could happen are pretty amazing. It's just different because they're not used to it. When you do a Wild game, the infrastructure is there and everybody in the arena kind of knows what to expect when television is there. With something like this, nothing is really taken for granted and everything has to be discussed or laid out or kind of thought through." But the uniqueness of Hockey Day in Minnesota showcases the special people involved in the sport and is what has allowed the event to become what Tortorici called "our Super Bowl." "Our goal of the day is to show how hockey, the importance of hockey, how it affects all levels and all areas of the Minnesota communities," Fleck said. "It's a fabric that is woven through all aspects of Minnesota communities, and our goal is to highlight and showcase the impact it has throughout the state in a variety of ways and a variety of levels. And that's high school, college, pro, which we showcase with games, with great games and being outside and on an outside rink. But it's also inspirational and heartfelt and warming stories of how hockey brings communities together." Follow Brian Hall on Twitter.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Report: RG3 to be given four out of five first-team reps

Chris Sale says White Sox put business over winning

Report: Peterson likely entering last season with Vikings

Cubs trade for Chapman a risk, but potential payoff too hard to ignore

White Sox fan wears a fantastic taped-up Chris Sale jersey

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Wisconsin kicker will wear 27 to honor Nebraska's Sam Foltz

Dennis Schroder wears disguise to play in German streetball tournament

Browns indicate they will give Josh Gordon another chance

Prince Fielder to undergo season-ending neck surgery

Eagles want Carson Wentz to be 'starter ready' Week 1

Report: 49ers concerned Anthony Davis will quit again

Ten hottest golfers heading into 2016 PGA Championship

Five NFL sophomores poised to break out in 2016

Tre Mason's family concerned about RB's mental health?

Dion Waiters' deal signals the end of the 2016 money grab

Tom Jackson could leave ESPN after almost three decades

Cavs sign coach Tyronn Lue to a five-year extension

More than 10,000 people registered for Jaguars Pokemon Go night

NFL issues new concussion protocol

Angels listening to offers on Hector Santiago

Five U.S. Olympians favored to win multiple gold medals

Kevin Durant’s OKC restaurant will be closed, rebranded

Lamar Odom said to be held back by one 'toxic friend'

NHL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Five U.S. Olympians favored to win multiple gold medals

WATCH: What teams should join the Big 12?

One Gotta Go: Do NBA players really love NBA2K?

Effect of ban on Russia could span beyond the Olympic Games

One Gotta Go: NBA players hate Facebook too

QUIZ: Name every city to host the NBA All-Star Game

One Gotta Go: NBA players settle the fast food beef

One Gotta Go: NBA players make tough choices on their favorite rappers

One Gotta Go: NBA Summer League is not about that Game of Thrones life

The top NHL free agents available as offseason winds down

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker