Top 10 Hockey Things to Do in Minneapolis
In Minneapolis, hockey has a rich history and a passionate contingent of players, coaches and fans. Around the city, you’ll be sure to find something to whet your hockey appetite. But there are a few experiences every resident or visitor who loves hockey should add to their Minneapolis to-do list.
Here in Minnesota, hockey is strongly woven into our fabric of life. Learning to skate, shoot and stickhandle is a rite of passage for countless Minnesota kids every winter in cities and towns across the state. Hockey in the North Star State is about trudging through the snow to reach the warming house at the local park. It’s about skipping school or work to go to or watch the state high school tournament. It’s about hockey moms and dads. It’s about youth, high school and college rivalries. It’s about Mites, Squirts, PeeWees, Bantams and a nation-leading population of girls’ hockey players.
Right here in Minneapolis, hockey has a rich history and a passionate contingent of players, coaches and fans. As the largest city in the State of Hockey, Minneapolis is chock-full of hockey-related activities. Around the city (and in surrounding communities), you’ll be sure to find something to whet your hockey appetite. But there are a handful of experiences every resident or visitor who loves hockey should add to their Minneapolis to-do list.
1. Play Pick-up Hockey Outside
There is perhaps nothing as pure in the game as heading to a pond, lake or park to take part in the age-old tradition of pick-up hockey. You lace up your skates in the warming house or in a snowbank, head out onto the rink and throw your stick at center ice where a kid with a stocking cap pulled over his eyes tosses sticks in either direction to determine the teams. From there, it’s fun, creative hockey where the score doesn’t really matter, coaches are non-existent and lifting the puck is strictly prohibited.
In Minneapolis, we’re blessed with the second-most ice rinks per capita of cities in the United States, with perhaps the most popular outdoor hockey spot being on Lake of the Isles. There, you will find recreational rinks for hockey while the rest of the frozen lake is perfect for skaters of all skill levels. It’s just one site among many in the city to offer fun outside on a frozen sheet of ice. For more suggestions of Minneapolis places to lace up the skates in the great outdoors, check our favorite places to go ice skating.
Can’t find a game at your local outdoor rink? Or perhaps it’s a little too warm for a game of pond hockey? No problem. Head to neighboring Roseville and the Guidant John Rose MN Oval which features the largest artificial outdoor skating surface in North America. Go there during any public skating time from November to March, and you’re sure to find a pick-up game.
Pictured above: Lake of the Isles
2. Compete in the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships
You’ve honed your game at the park or the pond to the point that you’d like to take it to another level. You’re in luck. Minnesota offers several pond hockey tournaments where you and your buddies can test your mettle against teams from around the state and nation. Chief among the outdoor hockey tournaments is the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships, contested each January on Lake Nokomis in Minneapolis. It’s a strictly amateur, just-for-fun tournament (the players themselves shovel the rinks before games), though some teams have ringers with pro and college hockey experience. It’s good-natured chaos, with team names like the Mighty Drunks and The Little Lebowskis, with a persistent, underlying concern that the beer will run out before the end of the day. Not a chance.
Pictured above: U.S. Pond Hockey Championships on Lake Nokomis (photo: Krivit Photography)
3. Visit a Small Local Hockey Shop
If you’re going to play the game, you better make sure your skates are sharpened. And why not take your skates to a place where the person sharpening your blades knows your name? While there are plenty of options, there’s something special about bringing your skates to a local mom-and-pop shop. In South Minneapolis, the go-to spot is Bill St. Mane Sporting Goods, but the city is surrounded by a plethora of options to sharpen those blades, from the legendary Strauss Skates in Maplewood to General Sports in Edina.
Pictured above: Bill St. Mane Sporting Goods (photo: Vintage Minnesota Hockey)
4. Attend a High School Hockey Game
Ready to take a break from skating and want to watch the future stars from the State of Hockey? There is no shortage of opportunities in Minneapolis and beyond. In the city, the best spot to take in a high school hockey game is Parade Ice Garden. Just steps from downtown, Parade features three rinks – two full-size hockey rinks and one studio rink – and serves as the home of the Minneapolis boys’ and girls’ varsity teams. Just outside the city are a plethora of iconic rinks, from Bloomington Ice Garden, Aldrich Arena in Maplewood, Braemar Arena in Edina and many, many more.
Although the boys’ and girls’ high school state tournaments take place across the river in St. Paul (more on that below), the section tournaments to determine the state participants are hosted in arenas across the state, including Minneapolis. Parade Ice Garden routinely hosts section final games, as does the University of Minnesota’s 3M Arena at Mariucci. For a lot of high school hockey fans, nothing matches the passion and emotion on display in these games to determine who earns a trip to St. Paul and who stays home.
Pictured above: Minneapolis vs. Providence Academy at Parade Ice Garden
5. Experience a Game in One of Minnesota's Coldest Arenas
You haven’t experienced “cold” until you’ve watched a hockey game in one of the state’s most frigid ice arenas. In Minneapolis, try Minnehaha Ice Arena or Northeast Ice Arena and enjoy the odd feeling of needing to go outside in the middle of a Minnesota winter to warm up. For more toe-numbing experiences near Minneapolis, head to Osseo Ice Arena (specifically the west rink) or Shoreview Ice Arena.
Pictured above: Minnehaha Ice Arena (photo: Vintage Minnesota Hockey)
6. See The Stanley Cup When a Minnesotan Inevitably Brings It to His Hometown Each Summer
Every summer at a pair of cities across North America, the Stanley Cup Final is contested to determine who gets to raise Lord Stanley’s Cup. And, almost annually, a Minnesota native is a member of each season’s NHL champion and is awarded with a day to spend with the 34-pound trophy. What that means is that, although the Wild has yet to win hockey’s biggest prize, the Stanley Cup is likely to make an appearance somewhere in the State of Hockey. Usually, the player will bring the Cup to his childhood hockey arena, allowing the public a chance to get their picture taken with the 3-foot-tall trophy. Minneapolis boasts four players with their names inscribed on the Stanley Cup – Cully Dahlstrom, Virgil Johnson, Tom Kurvers and Tom Chorske.
Pictured above: Former Eden Prairie HS and University of Minnesota defenseman Nick Leddy won the Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2013 (pictured at 3M Arena at Mariucci)
7. Watch a Youth Hockey Game
Those homegrown Stanley Cup champions got their start in hockey as Mites, Squirts, PeeWees and Bantams at rinks across Minnesota. Stop in any one of those arenas – including Minneapolis’ Parade Ice Garden and Northeast Ice Arena – to see the next generation of possible NHL stars or Olympians playing the game they love with their neighborhood buddies. There’s never a cost to attend and you’re sure to be impressed by the skills displayed by even the youngest of skaters.
Pictured above: Minneapolis youth hockey goalie
8. Catch a Minnesota vs. Wisconsin or North Dakota Men's Hockey Game
Just outside of downtown sits 3M Arena at Mariucci, a 10,000-seat maroon and gold shrine to University of Minnesota men’s hockey. When archrivals Wisconsin or North Dakota come to Minneapolis, Mariucci can be the hottest ticket in town. If you can nab a seat, get to the game early to check out the team photos and murals from the 101-year history of Golden Gopher hockey. Before finding your seats in an arena that has nothing but good ones, watch the band march around the concourse, then spell out M-I-N-N-E-S-O-T-A after every goal against the hated Badgers or Fighting Hawks.
Pictured above: The Gophers and Fighting Hawks will next meet in Minneapolis on Oct. 21-22, 2022 (photo: Richard Brian/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
9. Go to a Minnesota vs. Wisconsin Women's Hockey Game
The State of Hockey is blessed with a nation-leading number of girls’ hockey players. And the best of those players often end up wearing the “M” at the University of Minnesota or the “W” at the University of Wisconsin. At least two times each season, the Gophers host the Badgers at Ridder Arena, one of the nation’s first facilities devoted to a women’s college hockey program. The regular season games between Goldy and Bucky are always competitive and are often a preview of postseason match-ups that inevitably help decide which team will be in the driver’s seat to earn conference and national champion honors.
Pictured above: Minnesota hosts Wisconsin at Ridder Arena on Jan. 21-22, 2022 (photo: Brad Rempel/University of Minnesota)
10. Tour Locations from "The Mighty Ducks"
As the State of Hockey, it was only natural that Disney decided to film much of the Mighty Ducks movie trilogy in the Twin Cities during the 1990s. Fans will be excited to know that Minneapolis played a big role during the shooting of some famous scenes and can see them first-hand. Sites include IDS Center, Peavey Field Park, Parade Ice Garden, Theodore Wirth Chalet, the Stone Arch Bridge and many more across Minneapolis, the Twin Cities metro and greater Minnesota. To take in the full Mighty Ducks experience, take a tour using this comprehensive list of all the best moments from the original movies filmed at our favorite Minneapolis locations and beyond (and don't miss this Google Earth tour of the Rollerblade journey the Ducks took in "D2: The Mighty Ducks").
Pictured above: Coach Gordon Bombay meets the Ducks for the first time at Peavey Field Park in Minneapolis
OTHER TWIN CITIES HOCKEY MUST-DOs
1. Experience the boys’ high school hockey state tournament
In Indiana, it’s basketball. In Texas, it’s football. In Minnesota, it’s hockey. High school hockey is truly something special. And nothing is more special than the annual boys’ hockey state tournament in St. Paul. The Xcel Energy Center is jammed to the rafters with die-hard hockey fans watching Minnesota’s top high schoolers battle for state supremacy.
If you can get your hands on tickets, soak in the atmosphere with bands, student sections and groups of nervous parents creating a buzz unlike anything else the state has to offer. Make sure to arrive early on day 1 to watch the on-ice introductions of the players, coaches, cheerleaders, mascots and officials, and stay until the very end late on Saturday night when one team jubilantly tosses its helmets, sticks and gloves in the air while the other team is overcome with the agony of defeat.
2. Watch a professional hockey game
Want to see some of the world’s best hockey players face off? Minnesota’s capital city has a pair of options: the NHL’s Minnesota Wild and the Premier Hockey Federation’s Minnesota Whitecaps. Get your hands on some tickets and head to downtown St. Paul a couple hours before the game. Make sure to have dinner at either Tom Reid’s Hockey City Pub (a hangout jam-packed with hockey memorabilia) or Herbie’s on the Park (a restaurant inspired by the legacy of Herb Brooks). Speaking of Herbie, don’t miss getting your photo taken with the statue of the legendary coach just outside the doors of the St. Paul RiverCentre.
Before you find your seats for a Wild game at Xcel Energy Center, take your time checking out the historical displays, trophies and photos, as well as jerseys from every Minnesota high school team, throughout the arena. But don’t be late getting to your spot for the game. You don’t want to miss yelling “Let’s! Play! Hockey!” just moments before the opening faceoff.
Just outside of Minneapolis sits Richfield Ice Arena, the home rink of the Minnesota Whitecaps of the Premier Hockey Federation, the only professional women’s hockey team in Minnesota to regularly play games in the state. The 2019 NWHL champions feature a slew of past, present and future national and Olympic team members, battling for women’s pro hockey supremacy in front of capacity crowds.
3. Take in a night of Da Beauty League
Hockey fans in Minnesota really are spoiled. Where else can you spend $10 to watch three games in a night between teams filled with current and future NHL stars? In the State of Hockey, you simply head to Edina’s Braemar Arena on Monday and Wednesday nights in July and August to watch the spectacle that is Da Beauty League. Serving as a training ground for players as they prepare for their upcoming pro and college seasons, Da Beauty League games are fast paced with tons of goals. But the action doesn’t stop on the ice. Before and after each game, fans line up outside the arena to catch a glimpse, autograph or selfie with one of the many NHL beauties that dot the rosters.
Pictured above: Minnesota State High School League Boys' Hockey State Tournament at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul