With all respects to "Badger" Bob Johnson, it's a great morning for hockey. Just felt like hockey weather out there today, didn't it? Good thing, too. Because we're about to get the girls' state hockey tournament rolling. The first of four Class 1A games today begins at 11 a.m. with No. 2 seed Breck (23-3-1) squaring off with New Ulm (14-13).

Right now, the massive Xcel Energy Center is pretty much empty. Last-minute preparations are being made. When I walked in the last "The MSHSL Welcomes YOU" banner was being hung over Gate 1. The signature blue MSHSL flag has JUST been raised next to Old Glory. And the last Zamboni lap has just been completed.

Speaking of the ice, if you get a chance to come out here in the next few days, and you're a regular at the X, your eyes are not deceiving you. The Minnesota Wild logo and lettering at center ice really is that bright. I mean, it POPS out at you. I'll post a picture below, but it probably doesn't do it justice. It looks brand-spanking new. I've had the fortune of being here a lot, and I've never seen anything that bright on the ice.

(I could now roll into some dorky phrase about how the players' talent might match the crispness of it, but I'll spare you.)

We've got under an hour to go before the first of five state tournaments between now and March 24 begins. In fact,  48 hockey games will be played here between now and March 27. And don't forget about the hundreds of wrestling matches. Whew! It's time for me to pour over some stats and get ready for game one.

I'll update here after every period, probably, and then also take you through Game 2 between No. 3 seed South St. Paul (19-8) and Hutchinson (12-15).

We'll also have you covered here for the night session - and pretty much everything else for the next five weeks.

This is an exciting time, prep sports fans. And it's about to get nuts.


Oh, here's a shot of center ice: