Mr. Hockey Day
Ryan Carter completes a three-year journey of Hockey Day hoopla
Ryan Carter’s big sigh of relief is coming.
For the last three years, the longtime NHLer has been knee-deep in Hockey Day Minnesota festivities. With the event in Mankato in 2022, the former Minnesota State Maverick was one of the stars of the weekend, serving as a pseudo-ambassador, playing in the alumni game, broadcasting for Bally Sports North and generally running around like a chicken with his head cut off.
Things didn’t get much easier for him in 2023, with Hockey Day shifting north to his hometown, where the former White Bear Lake Bear is once again one of the starring attractions.
Because the COVID-19 pandemic delayed Mankato’s day in the spotlight by 12 months, Carter has been essentially living and breathing Hockey Day for the last three years.
Good thing he doesn’t have any connections in Warroad for 2024 … right?
“Time to take a Hockey Day breath,” Carter said with a chuckle.
The two Hockey Day experiences have been very different but equally satisfying for the affable Carter, who hasn’t turned down a single photo or interview request.
“Last year, that was college alumni, people who supported the program, and lots of people close to the guys you played with,” Carter said. “So I knew a fair amount of people involved with running it [in Mankato].
“Here with this one though … top to bottom, I think I might know every face that comes through this place. It’s good this has finally come to White Bear. We’ve taken a lot of pride in this and I think we can all see why now with how it has turned out.”
Amazingly, Hockey Day Minnesota, celebrating its 17th annual event in 2023, had never ventured to White Bear Lake, which boasts one of the finest traditions in the State of Hockey.
That’s certainly been the view of many in the community, including former alumni of the White Bear Lake Area High School program, which had so many former players take part in the alumni game, it had to create four teams just to get everybody involved.
“If you were to ask most people, they’d probably say, ‘White Bear hasn’t had it yet,'” Carter said. “It has created a lot of pride in our community, and as much as the other sports have had success, I might be biased, but this is a hockey town. To have the big marquee hockey event here in town is great.”
The last couple of years have provided Carter with a much different look at Hockey Day, who played on the unofficial hockey holiday as a member of the Wild at the tail end of his pro career.
But those Hockey Day experiences were very different, even as a native Minnesotan who was well aware of what this day means to so many.
“You’re kind of in your own world, concentrating on your own game, right?” Carter said. “Then you come out onside and you realize just how big of a deal this is, how big of a production it is and just how many people work so hard to make sure this event goes smoothly. It’s a big deal for these communities.”
While Carter’s seemingly non-stop duties the last couple of Hockey Days have resulted in some long days and nights, he said he’ll do everything he can to try and soak in every last minute he can with his friends and family in White Bear Lake.
“I’d like to get things to slow down,” Carter said, “and just get a chance to talk to people and live a little bit more in the moment.
“Last year was such a scramble, trying to be everywhere, every minute. This year, I’ve tried to build in some time to just take it all in, chill and just hang out. It’s been great to catch up with so many people.”