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How Minnesota Became the State of Hockey

Since Minnesota Wild changed its marketing slogan in the early 2000s, Minnesota has been known as the State of Hockey. And it’s no surprise that the name stuck.

The sport might be Canadian-made, but there aren’t a lot of places that live and breathe hockey quite like this Midwestern state. And you don’t have to live here to benefit from the knowledge of Minnesota’s epic pros. Online hockey training ensures you can step-up your game from anywhere!

With its lush history and fiery passion, the state is one of the biggest American supporters of the game. Below you’ll get to find out why!

A lone ice hockey player on an iced-over lake outdoors. Minnesota is the state of hockey.

Hockey’s History in Minnesota

Hockey has been a major part of Minnesota’s culture and history for over 100 years!

How it Started

The exact origins of hockey are hard to pinpoint, with varying degrees of the game being played worldwide since as early as the 1600s.

In Minnesota, hockey can be directly traced back to a few Canadian immigrants that arrived in the 1880s. And its popularity was quickly and enthusiastically accepted.

Starting as a simple game played on frozen lakes and ponds, the state’s hockey scene rapidly grew into something worthy of an official system.

The First International Hockey Game

Minnesota and Winnipeg are responsible for organizing the first-ever international game of hockey in 1895. 300 spectators lined the grandstands at the University of Minnesota to watch the visiting team pull an 11 to 3 victory.

A loss that immediately lit a fire under the Minnesotans. After that game, school teams started popping up everywhere. The university also funded research into how best to create a hockey rink on the grounds and requests for games were sent across the country.

Marking Minnesota’s first steps on the path to becoming the State of Hockey!

Notable Leagues

An ice hockey player statue in Eveleth, MN, also known as Hockey Town.
Hockey statue in Eveleth, aka “Hockey Town.”

In Minnesota’s hockey history, the Gophers Women’s Hockey Team is a necessary notable mention. Starting in 1916, when 30 women tried out for the first time, the team has been renowned for its success.

Their home arena in Minneapolis has championship banners hanging from the ceiling that number in the double digits! Making it a hub for hockey since its creation in 1929.

Another notable team in Minnesota’s history is Eveleth High’s Golden Bears. In 1926, the team began a major dynasty with three consecutive championships. All thanks to practices held on the indoor rink built by the community years earlier.

Even before their teams started to win, the locals were fostering their love for the game.

Minnesota’s NHL

Minnesota has fought hard for its success since it was first indoctrinated into the National Hockey League.

A hockey stick and puck on the ice with a blurred stadium crowd in the background.

The Minnesota North Stars

After the NHL was first founded in 1917, it wasn’t until 1967 that the league decided to accept more teams into its folds. The Minnesota North Stars were one of those teams.

Though their beginning was a little rocky, the efforts made to keep the team alive only further proves Minnesota’s worthiness of the State of Hockey nickname.

In one of the most controversial moves ever made in the NHL, The North Stars’ first come-back attempt was to absorb another struggling franchise in 1978. And when the team was eventually sold to Dallas, it was all done with the hope that they could start over.

And that they did! In 1997, they officially re-started their legacy with the Minnesota Wilds and have since been one of the best teams in the NorthWest.

The Minnesotan Powerhouse

Now, with over 300 NHL players coming from the state, the Minnesotan Powerhouse is hard to deny. Especially when you compare that number to the next closest state of Massachusetts, which has just over 200 players.

For one place to be so successful in a national league, there has to be something to the State of Hockey nickname. Only true love for a sport could result in so many of the best players of all time.

Players like Phil Housley with some of the highest states in the NHL. Or Neal Broten, one of the few players to have won a national championship, an Olympic gold medal, and the Stanley Cup!

The Rise of Youth Hockey in Minnesota

Minnesota is one of the largest supporters of youth hockey in America!

A group of youth hockey players waiting to get on the ice.
Youth hockey players.

High School Hockey

Minnesotans know that the passion needed to be worthy of the State of Hockey moniker has to be cultivated early. And the proof is in their High School leagues.

The state was the first to create a female High School hockey league in North America. It also has some of the most iconic and historic rivalries. To the point where former coaches and players return every year to watch their teams compete.

In the north, there’s Grand Rapids vs Greenway. A rivalry that started long before Minnesota became the State of Hockey. And you can’t forget the Eveleth Golden Bears and the Virginia Blue Devils, who have been duking it out since 1945!

Every year, the energy surrounding the game of hockey gains that much more enthusiasm from these rivalries. And the healthy competition they promote pushes Minnesotan’s skills further ahead of every other state.

Youth Summer Hockey Camps

More importantly, the State of Hockey extends youth hockey culture past the regular season and into the summer!

Minnesota has some of the best youth summer hockey programs in America. From sleepover camps that put equal focus into fun and the game to day camps that provide hours of intensive training, this Midwest state has it all.

And some start as young as 4 years old!

College Hockey

With a total of 9 Division I men’s hockey teams and 2 women’s hockey teams, Minnesota is famous for its College programs.

And not just for the sheer amount of them. The University of Minnesota Golden Gophers men’s team has won 5 NCAA titles, while the women’s Gophers team has won 6. Which is the most individual wins in NCAA history!

A State of Passion

There is no other state in America that shows its passion for hockey quite like Minnesota.

An ice hockey player in fast action on the ice.

The State of Hockey Initiative

When Senator Gen Olson first put forward the bill to make hockey the official sport for Minnesota state in 2007, she couldn’t have possibly guessed the reaction it would have across the state.

After the bill failed to pass, sixth graders from Minnetonka East Middle School arrived in the capitol to further petition for hockey’s designation as the state’s sport the next year. Explaining how much Hockey meant to them and their communities.

Still, it didn’t go through. Only after another year of petitioning from the community would Minnesota finally get some official validation for its State of Hockey title.

Community Support

Truly passionate sportspeople know that the players are not nearly as important as the community that backs them. And the State of Hockey has a community like no other.

When you arrive in a Minnesota arena, you can always expect a beautiful display of cheers from the crowds. Whether it’s a hometown team or the pros, the atmosphere that the locals create for the game is the same.

And then, there’s the biggest support system of them all. The many cold drives to and from games and hours spent in the driveway shooting pucks would be impossible without the amazing Minnesotan Hockey parents!

Minnesota’s Hockey Highlights

There are many moments in history that point to Minnesota’s impact on hockey and hockey’s impact on Minnesota.

The Miracle on Ice

During the 1980 Winter Olympics, an event took place that none thought would be possible. And has since been known as The Miracle on Ice.

After years of the Soviet Union dominating the hockey scene, there wasn’t much hope for the Americans. The day before the game, a NY Times journalist even wrote that the ice would either have to melt or a miracle would have to happen for the college-aged underdogs to win.

In a thrilling back and forth that kept every fan on the edge of their seats, the American men’s hockey team managed to pull a 4 to 3 victory.

And 12 out of the 20 men on that legendary team were proud Minnesotans!

A St. Paul, MN statue of Herb Brooks, a Minnesota native who was the coach of the Miracle on Ice US Men's Hockey Team in the 1980 Winter Olympics.
Statue of Herb Brooks, US hockey coach for the 1980 Winter Olympics.

Official State Business

The State of Hockey takes the game so seriously there was one year when it was even integrated into official state business.

Instead of the usual rally and speech, Governor Tim Pawlenty scheduled a hockey game for his inauguration. Only in Minnesota is hockey important enough for it to be merged into every part of everyday life.

The Future of Hockey in Minnesota

Hockey has undergone many changes since it was first created and Minnesota is ready for whatever the future holds!

New Hockey Technology

As innovation and progress plow through the hockey industry, the speed and quality of the game continue to rise.

Each player now needs a personalized training schedule that uses all the best hockey-specific equipment on the market to stay on top. And it’s only the beginning!

Who knows what hockey technology will provide in 10 years? To keep its status as the State of Hockey, Minnesota is going to have to keep on top of hockey developments.

Though, with the sheer amount of amazing athletes Minnesota produces, it’s fair to say it’s already doing a pretty great job!

Pro Women’s Leagues

A woman ice hockey player standing on the ice.

The rise of women in Hockey has always been embraced by Minnesota, and the future that Premier Hockey Federation represents is no different.

As the first professional women’s hockey league, the PHF is a great step toward progress within the hockey community.

Minnesota’s spot among the original six teams to join the league is no surprise. And the Whitecaps’ future will definitely be worth your time.

There’s No Doubt that Minnesota is the State of Hockey

A backlit ice hockey player with stick across the shoulders.

When it comes to community, skill, and passion, Minnesota unquestionably earns the State of Hockey title. Because nowhere else in America is hockey loved from such a young age and with so much support.

For more fun facts about the history of the game, check out our Hockey Facts article!