The so-called state of hockey is going to be sharing its trademarked title this weekend with 49 wannabes.
Starting at noon eastern time today and ending at midday Saturday, each of the nation’s 50 states will stake a 2 percent claim to the title Minnesota considers its own in what is being billed as a 24-Hour Hockey Game.
The event, organized by USA Hockey, will sweep across the United States from east to west, starting in Maine and ending in Hawaii. The “game” actually will be a series of 30-minute, running-time segments featuring competition from adult players all the way down to mites (age 8 and under), knitted together by one composite scoreboard.
A final score of 97-89 isn’t unrealistic. And for the record, it should be noted that this won’t come anywhere close to the record for hockey’s longest game: Earlier this month near Edmonton, 40 players played hockey for 241 consecutive hours as a fund raiser for pediatric cancer research, raising about $300,000.
The extended game this weekend, part of USA Hockey’s celebration of the 100th anniversary of the International Ice Hockey Federation, tries to do in scope what that one did in duration. The first puck will be dropped at Kennebec Ice Arena in Hallowell, Maine, for a clash of mites. The final seconds of the transcontinental marathon will tick off in Honolulu at Kamilo ‘iki Park between two teams of Peewee Inline skaters.
(Technically, the Alaska and Hawaii half-hours will be classified as “overtime” periods, whether the game is tied by the point it leaves the continental United States or not. It’s a math thing: Twenty-four hours of hockey broken into 30-minute segments would allow for only 48 states. That wouldn’t work, at least not since the days of Ike.)
The Minnesota leg
Smack in the middle of the event — the equivalent of the 10-minute mark of a vast second period — will be Minnesota’s leg, starting at midnight Twin Cities time at Schwan’s Super Rink in Blaine. As late as Wednesday evening, the rosters of Team Stars and Team Stripes — that’s how the score will be kept throughout — were being fleshed out, although they figured to be manned (and womanned) by grown-ups.
“We’ll have some Minnesota Hockey board members, along with some high school coaches,” said Mark Jorgensen, executive director of Minnesota Hockey. “We were hoping to have Govenor [Tim] Pawlenty, but that’s not going to work out. Brad Bombardir of the Wild [former player now in the front office] has said he’ll participate.”
The midnight hour of Minnesota’s portion of the game rule out using youth league players, Jorgensen said. Then the plan to have volunteers of youth hockey participate snagged, too. “We remembered this is a tough time of the year for us to be doing that,” he said. “We have so many regional tournaments going on, and most of our people are busy with that.”
So it will be a mixed bag of talent on the ice. Full discloser: Jorgensen even invited me to play, but my goaltender’s equipment is so old-school that the gloves and pads are actually brown leather. I didn’t want to risk giving up 74 percent of the game’s goals in 2 percent of the game’s running time. And (real reason I demurred) my knees and reflexes are older than my pads.
Still, the event is open to the public and free of charge. The Minnesota players will gather sometime after 10 p.m. at the Super Rink, prepare nutritionally with some pizza and soda, then get busy at midnight after a game handoff from Fond du Lac, Wis. Jorgensen said his group will probably keep the ice for a full hour, though the official action will head to Iowa’s Quad Cities Sports Center in Davenport at 12:30 a.m.
The game, which also will feature disabled and “sled” players, will snake down through Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas before heading back north through Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska. The segment in South Dakota will be played by peewee players at the Bergman Ice Arena in Huron at 4:30 a.m., followed by bantams playing at Veterans Memorial Arena in West Fargo, N.D. For its 25th hour, the game will jump from Ontario, Calif., to Eagle River, Alaska, before wrapping up in Hawaii.
“We’re stuck playing in the middle of the night because we’re in the middle of the country,” Jorgensen said. “Next time, we’ll ask them to start in the middle and work out from here. But it’s OK. Ten or 15 years ago, we wouldn’t have been able to get all 50 states involved in something like this.”