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Coming this winter: Hockey Day Cloquet

From discussions about making a pitch for Hockey Day Minnesota, a less complicated, more locally driven idea was born: Hockey Day Cloquet.

It's an idea that has legs now that the Cloquet City Council gave the city's blessing to use Veterans Park for the first-time event, set for Jan. 7-17, 2025.

Nate Knutsen, who spearheaded fundraising efforts for the high school's new outdoor athletic facilities and the baseball updates at Mettner Field, presented the idea to the council at Tuesday's meeting. Plans include a regulation-size outdoor hockey rink with boards and glass at Veterans Park, containers that will become heated locker rooms and a storage space for an ice resurfacing machine, spectator bleachers, fire pits, a pleasure rink and space for multiple food trucks and even special apparel for sale.

"Working with Hockey Day Minnesota became a lot of work, with a timeframe 6 to 8 years out," Knutsen said. "Fast forward to about a year ago, we started the idea to do it ourselves with our own manpower and sponsors within our area."

Knutsen and his Hockey Day committee have been working toward making that idea a reality, but they needed city permission before they could proceed.

A week of icy fun would kick off with a Wounded Warriors game on Jan. 7, followed by youth games Jan 8-10 and 12. The highlight of Hockey Day Cloquet would be boys and girls Lumberjack hockey games on Saturday, Jan. 11. They're even hoping to get the games on local television and/or livestreamed. If the weather doesn't cooperate, they have Northwoods Credit Union Arena as a backup.

City administrator Tim Peterson told the council that the event checks all the boxes: The facility would be open for public use once the games are done; and organizers are working with the veterans groups that the park is dedicated to, as well as the city's park board.

"We think it's a really good event and a good way to bring the public down to a great park," Peterson said, explaining that the group had considered other venues.

The temporary outdoor facility would remain open for community use the following week as well.

"Folks that just want to rink-rat or just grab a pair of skates can head down and rip around the rink," he said. "Our responsibility ends that Sunday onsite."

"It sounds like a good event, lots of fun," said mayor Roger Maki.

The council voted unanimously in favor of supporting the event, not financially, but probably with city staff time.