“Ok, when that red light comes on, don’t freak out.”
That’s the advice WCCO TV announcer Mel Jass gave me before we were about to go live for my first-ever Minnesota State High School boy’s hockey tournament.
"Most people are going to freak out when they see that red light. And you’re going to get nervous, but just remember, when that red light comes on, pretend you’re sitting across from someone in your own living room and that will put you at ease.”
He was right. And for the past 54 years I’ve maintained a sense of comfort on camera every March when I sit in that chair and stare at the red light. In fact, now it invigorates me.
You’ve got to understand, while I’m an adopted son of Minnesota, as a native Canadian the state tournament was very foreign to me. I still remember my sitting my dorm room my freshman year at the University of Minnesota and talking to my new Gopher teammates. They kept introducing themselves as “All State” this and “All State” that. I just kept wondering where All State was and thought, geez how did I even make this team.
That first broadcast I got it. I understood what it meant to be a Minnesota high schooler playing in the state tournament. I understood what that tournament meant to the players, coaches, cheerleaders, fans, parents, community and to the entire State of Hockey.
And let me tell you, the state tournament has only grown, even since then. Even as major as it was, it’s nothing compared to today. It continually grew and began to have a broader appeal, more interest statewide. It grew to be something that’s talked about across the country. People talked about Texas football, Indiana basketball and now they also talk about the state hockey tournament in Minnesota. That’s really something.
People often wonder what my favorite moment has been in those 54 years of the high school tournament. Truthfully, it’s hard to big just one. There’s the Apple Valley and Duluth five-overtime game--that was a classic. I’m not so certain that if they had replay today that that Duluth goal didn’t go in. There’s been so many good players I’ve seen through the times, so many upsets, you just can’t believe it.
Most people, especially from the northern part of the state, assume that I cheer for Edina. When my son or grandson are playing, your darn right inside I do, but I try to be impartial. I love to see games well-played, and I love the competiveness of it.
And I’m excited for another tournament. My advice for the boys skating up for introductions--hair flowing in the wind-- just remember what I was taught, and don’t freak out when that red light comes on.