Ground control for the statewide celebration of the 11th Annual Wells Fargo Hockey Day Minnesota 2017 will be Stillwater, approximately 150 miles down 35 South from Duluth's 2016 festivities, and the 10th respective city overall.
The unofficial holiday has continued to expand at the site location and across the State of Hockey since the first two years at Baudette Bay.
Kevin Gorg, hockey analyst for FOX Sports North, has become one of the faces of Hockey Day Minnesota, having now covered each event since the Minnesota Wild originated it in 2007.
Phalen Park (2009), Hermantown (2010), Moorhead (2011), Minnetonka (2012), Grand Rapids (2013), Elk River (2014), Saint Paul (2015) and Duluth (2016) have all partnered with the Minnesota Wild, FOX Sports North, Minnesota Hockey, Wells Fargo and fans across the Land of 10,000 Lakes to continuously expand and define what Hockey Day means in each respective community.
For 10 consecutive years Gorg has experienced the different flavor of each location, its teams and fans and expects the momentum Duluth inherited from Saint Paul to continue after the great show up North.
"It seems like every year Hockey Day really takes on a whole different vibe," Gorg said when asked about the various rotating host cities.
"I'm excited," Gorg said. "I've lived here all my life and Stillwater, like Duluth, is one of those cities that you'll drive to just to see the city."
Next year's outdoor rink will sit along the shores of the St. Croix River with the lift bridge a short distance away, in similar fashion to Lake Superior hugging the Hockey Day Minnesota 2016 rink in Duluth, and the lift bridge peering across the water at the day's events.
Stillwater will no doubt rise to the occasion, utilizing downtown's Lowell Park as the epicenter, but they do have a high bar to reach after the success at Bayfront Festival Park.
"To see the pride that everyone in Duluth took in the event, walking around town both the day before and the night of the event -- everybody wanted to hear our opinion of the city and what the Hockey Day event was like compared to others," Gorg shared.
They are all special but it really does come down to the host city and I thought Duluth did an unbelievable job of creating not only a great place to have it but a great city to host it as well."
During the 2016 event Jason Royce, Wells Fargo's Area President of Northern Minnesota beamed as he took it all in.
"It's been an amazing day," Royce said. "The city of Duluth has done an amazing job. Our partnership with FOX Sports North and the Minnesota Wild has really brought together a tremendous day for these young athletes and the local community."
And no matter what location within the state is hosting the outdoor rink, the goal to celebrate the game remains the same and was summed up wonderfully by Glen Andresen, executive director of Minnesota Hockey.
"I hope all associated realize that they didn't just put on an event for this year's participants. They also inspired kids around the state who will now want to play hockey so they can also be a part of this amazing State of Hockey culture that is so evident on Hockey Day Minnesota."
And now Stillwater has the honor and responsibility of carrying the torch for the next Hockey Day Minnesota as the never-ending celebration in the State of Hockey continues.