UPDATE: Hail, Hail the 218! Grand Rapids and Hermantown win the AA and A championships, respectively!
The sun rises on a hockey holiday in the state of Minnesota. The class A and AA championship games take place today in St. Paul. Thrilling many here, no doubt, these showdowns feature three teams from our hardscrabble hockey-loving 218 area code of Northern Minnesota.
After upsetting top-seeded Eden Prairie last night, the Grand Rapids Thunderhawks will face the Moorhead Spuds in the AA Championship. That game starts at 7 p.m.
Meanwhile, the Hermantown Hawks will play Monticello-Annandale-Maple Lake for the Class A title at noon.
The semifinal round featured some exciting play and close games, previewing what could be a pair of great championship games.
MinnesotaBrown.com World Headquarters sits squarely in the Grand Rapids school district. Three genuine Thunderhawks dwell within, so my loyalties are clear. Regardless, it’s good to see some Northern success after several years of suburban domination at the state tournament.
I was raised in Cherry, one of the small pockets on the Iron Range where hockey just isn’t a thing. So my ties to hockey are more casual. But there’s no denying the excitement that envelops a town like Grand Rapids when a state title is on the line.
Grand Rapids last won the state title in 1980, after a decade of dominance. Back then, Grand Rapids’ bright orange uniforms earned the team the nickname “The Halloween Machine.”
I am constantly ensnared in elaborate discussions of whether or not Grand Rapids is part of the Iron Range. The answer is nuanced. Grand Rapids is culturally distinct from the Mesabi Range due to its location and more diverse economy, but is legally, historically and geologically part of the Mesabi.
But on a day like today, I’m betting Grand Rapids enjoys more Iron Range support than usual.