The admission was free, and good seats were abundant.
I nabbed my viewing spot right at right at center ice, about halfway up the bleachers of the old St. Paul Civic Center. High school kids never got seats this good. The place was practically empty.
It was back in 1985 when the first quarterfinal in the evening session, Bloomington Jefferson against Minnetonka, extended to three overtimes. They suspended the game until 9 a.m. the next morning. My buddies weren’t interested in rolling out of bed that early, much less walking across the street from our hotel to the game.
But I was there sitting in the best seat in the old barn, ready for a glorious morning filled with free hockey. The puck dropped, and it took Bloomington Jefferson’s Brock Rendell 2 minutes and 21 seconds to score, giving the Jaguars a 4-3 victory. And that was that. One-hundred and 41 seconds of “free hockey.”
What a buzzkill.
That was the only time in state tournament history a game has been suspended and concluded the following morning.
“The heretofore unused rule calling for suspended games — which can affect any contest except the final game of any evening session — was put on the Minnesota State high school League books in 1977 after a 1976 consolation game that didn’t finish until 6:15,” wrote Dennis Brackin in the Star Tribune, explaining the odd situation.
The rule has never been used since, although Thursday’s Class 2A triple-overtime quarterfinal between Eden Prairie and Lakeville South was 57 seconds away from being suspended until Friday morning at 8 a.m. High school league officials alerted both coaches of the possibility after Thursday’s first overtime.
Eden Prairie coach Lee Smith chose not to warn his players about the potential early morning wake-up call.
“I didn’t even hear about that,” said Eagles senior Jack Jensen, who scored the winner, thus averting what would have been an awkward announcement telling fans they were welcome to return in the morning to watch the finish. “That’s unbelievable. That makes me even more speechless.”
There’s no cheering in the press box, but once word of the pending suspension of the game spread, media members were heavily in favor of a goal. Any goal.
“Nobody wanted it to end more than me. I don’t get paid overtime,” longtime tournament television analyst Lou Nanne quipped.