It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the Farmington and Rosemount U-12B girls' hockey teams last Wednesday, Nov. 29, at Schmitz-Maki Arena in Farmington. Their game was chosen as the Minnesota Wild's Youth Hockey spotlight game, where the Wild organization picks a youth hockey game, comes to the arena and gives the players involved as close to a professional hockey experience as possible.
Mike Cassano, the director of player development for the Farmington Youth Hockey Association, detailed all the effort that went into making the event happen.
He said that as far as they knew, the game was randomly chosen and the goal was to keep it a surprise from the girls as much as possible. A week and a half before the event, they started notifying parents and the community members/organizations that would be involved. Fox Sports North and the Minnesota Wild work together to put on the event with help from the volunteers from the communities involved.
When the teams arrived at Schmitz-Maki Arena in Farmington, they were welcomed into the arena by the Farmington High School band. The arena and locker rooms were done up like Wild facilities including nameplates and free gear/keepsakes for the players. Each team was coached by a Wild assistant or staff members (director of player development Brad Bombardir and assistant coach John Anderson), while the Wild's public address announcer Adam Abrams announced the game and sideline reporter Ken Gordon interviewed the coaches and players. They even had the Wild's national anthem come perform before the game. However, what really struck Cassano was the community support.
"The big thing that stood out was the community aspect," he said. "You have the boys and girls high school teams there, there's not a seat available and you have hundreds of youth kids all wearing their jerseys and going nuts. What an amazing experience for 12-year-old girls, they'll never play in front of that (an atmosphere like that) again."
"The parents I talked to (after), their kids couldn't sleep last night," he continued. "It's just something really cool that we're happy that the Wild could bring and happy that we could provide that kind of environment for our kids and that's what it's (youth sports) are about."
During an experience like that, the outcome of the game is the last thing that matters, but Rosemount did come out with the 7-2 victory over Farmington.