By Toby Palmiscno
Equipment Manager, Bemidji State
Bemidji State University participated in the 13th annual Hockey Day in Minnesota. The Bemidji State men?s team outlasted Michigan Tech on Friday night with a 4-3 overtime win, and the women?s team fell to Minnesota State on Saturday afternoon by a score of 2-1. Both games played outdoors on the south shore of Lake Bemidji; a quarter mile from the Sanford Center, which is the home arena for both programs.
As the head equipment manager for both the men?s and women?s hockey programs at Bemidji State, I can tell you that hosting this sort of an event was a ton of work; but it was the coolest thing I have ever been a part of.
The planning process for me began four months prior to the official announcement, ten months before the first game. Unlike a NHL stadium series outdoor game, our budget is small, so it was important to take the time to prioritize the basic player needs and still spend as little as possible.
January in Bemidji, MN is typically very cold; but the game temperature reached 15 below zero both days; colder than anyone may have expected. Originally, we had provided base layer tops and balaclavas for our players, but with the new forecast a few days prior, additional neck warmers, glove liners, and dozens of hand and toe warmers were added to the supply list.
The players? benches did have some heat, but out in the cold, I quickly found out that dry erase markers don?t work, neither did any type of hockey tape. My stopwatch malfunctioned, and our Howie?s visor spray froze in less than seven minutes. Ironically, the only player from both teams that did not switch from a clear face shield to a cage scored the game winner in overtime.
Changing steel wasn?t an issue; although I wore a pair of black gloves (two pairs for a $1 at the local Dollar Tree) under my winter choppers, because bare skin became very cold in a matter of minutes. I kept a whistle in my pocket for the linesman; and he switched it out with me every four of five shifts because it started to freeze up on him. I changed a goalie cowling on Friday for one of the high school players; he took a puck to it at practice and it shattered quite easily.
In addition to the college games, four high school games and numerous youth games took place during the event.? Teams would get dressed at the locker rooms in the Sanford Center, then bus to the outdoor rink where four 30?x10? construction trailers served as locker rooms for intermissions.? Teams then bused back to the Sanford Center to shower and hang their gear.? The four members of my student staff spent countless hours helping transport supplies, setting up locker rooms at both sites, and pushing laundry through.
The Bemidji Hockey Day committee and its 300 plus volunteers were vital in the success of the event.? Carly, Tommy, Monty, Chad Pie, and Scrambie were five of the volunteers that braved the cold for endless shifts all weekend, to ensure the matting was free of debris, directed teams to locker rooms, hot coffee pots were always full, and helped the arena crew with anything that was asked.? Similar to visiting locker room attendants, they did all that was asked without batting an eye; the most positive, and cheerful people I saw over the weekend.
As I said earlier, it was the coolest thing I have been a part of in my entire career. The most memorable part would have to be the camaraderie of everyone involved: players, volunteers, fans, coaches, trainers, ice crew, media personnel, and so many more.? No matter what team you played for or who you were cheering for; you could feel the energy from the outdoor rink to the warming tents and across the entire community.