The Tourney needs little to no introduction around the State of Hockey. Beginning Wednesday and running through championship Saturday, all eyes are on the Minnesota State High School League Boys’ Hockey Tournament.
It’s what the Minnesota model is all about.
“You don’t play hockey in Minnesota to go pro,” said Hibbing native and University of Minnesota Gopher legend Pat Micheletti. “In Minnesota, you play to go to the state tournament. Bottom line.”
And Micheletti believes The Tourney has gotten even better with age.
Last year’s Class AA double-overtime final between Andover and Maple Grove was an instant classic. Greenway’s title run captivated the entire state in 2019. Grand Rapids and Moorhead faced off in the all-northern title game in 2017. Lakeville North capped its perfect 31-0 season with the crown in 2015.
These are just some highlights from the past decade alone. The list goes on.
We chatted with Micheletti to find out how far The Tourney has come and how it’s still stayed the same through its 78 years.
Minnesota Hockey: Describe the state tournament in 10 words or less.
Pat Micheletti: A culmination and celebration of community hockey.
Minnesota Hockey: How does the state tournament do such an esteemed job of showcasing the community-based model that Minnesota Hockey has built its foundation on?
Pat Micheletti: In Minnesota, you aspire to be a Squirt. You aspire to be a Peewee. You aspire to be a Bantam and move up into high school and college, and then if you’re lucky enough, a chance to play in the pros.
You look up to the people that were ahead of you. And they help you get to that next level. Especially on the outdoor rinks, you have Squirts and high school guys, all blended together. You wanted to be like them, and then hopefully, at some point, you set an example in leadership for the younger kids growing up.
Minnesota Hockey: How has the state tournament changed?
Pat Micheletti: I mean, a lot in the game of hockey has changed, but of course a lot has stayed the same, too. Coming up (until 1991), it was one single class competing across the entire state. It wasn’t A and AA. I think some people still want to see it go back to that – the northern teams versus the city teams. For me, a kid from Hibbing, it was always a ton of fun to have those rivalries. But the way it’s laid out now allows for even more teams to get a chance to play on the biggest stage of their high school careers.
Minnesota Hockey: Favorite part of the state tournament for you?
Pat Micheletti: It has to be the way the entire community, and really the entire state, comes out. When you play hockey in Minnesota, you’re never just representing yourself or your school; you’re also representing the city in which you grew up in. It’s about the community and representing them well. You don’t see that anywhere else. You really don’t. In a lot of other places, a team is named after its sponsor, and while they might play in one city or the next, it doesn’t have the same draw and relationship with that community. Here it does. And that’s one thing that you never tend to forget.
Raising the final trophy at the end of the weekend is great, but it’s about accomplishing the feat to even just get there for your hometown that is uniquely special.
Minnesota Hockey: Predictions for this week?
Pat Micheletti: There are a ton, and I mean a ton, of really good teams. But that’s the great thing about every year: there’s no guarantee for anyone. Any team can beat any other team on any given night. It’s all about the hard work to get it done and get to Saint Paul. I can’t wait to see what happens.