Hockey Day in Hastings will make huge impact on community

Great relationship with community groups, city a big bonus for organizers


Planning is well-underway for Hockey Day Minnesota 2026, to be hosted at the United Heroes League, 15211 Ravenna Trail, Hastings.
UHL Founder and President Shane Hudella updated the Hastings Rotary Club at its meeting at Second Street Depot on Thursday, Feb. 22 on the scope of the event, which will be held in January 2026. The exact dates aren’t set until the Minnesota Wild schedule for that season is published the summer before.
“The last two years, maybe a little longer than that, United Heroes League has worked with the Minnesota Wild and Bally Sports North, trying to bring Hockey Day Minnesota to our community here in Hastings. On Jan 27, some representatives from our organization, representatives from Hastings Hockey, as well as our mayor and some other city staff traveled to Warroad, MN where we were announced as the official host site for Hockey Day Minnesota 2026.”
The annual event is run in cooperation with the Minnesota Wild and Bally Sports North.
“It celebrates the game of hockey throughout the state,” said Hudella.
He said the Wild holds all rights to the event, and the process of applying for it is arduous, including multiple site visits.
Hastings organizers now have to put together a plan for the event and work to secure $150,000 in corporate sponsorships.
The event is televised all day on Bally Sports North on the Saturday, featuring local teams and possibly a college game. It culminates with a Minnesota Wild Game at the Xcel Energy Center that night.
“Hockey Day for the local organizing committee and the venue is really 7-10 days long. Every kid that skates for the Hastings hockey program will have an opportunity to play. They may not play that Saturday when it’s televised, but they will have an opportunity to come out when the village is set up and the bleachers are in. They’ll have a chance to skate on the rink at UHL,” he said. “There will be many peripheral games.”
All told, it’s a huge deal for Hastings.
“There will be tremendous festivities around the 7-10 period. What impact does it have on the city? It’s a massive impact for tourism. When we went to Warroad, the closest hotel room we could find two weeks out from the event was 1-1/2 hours away. Every single hotel room in this community will be full, Treasure Island, Cottage Grove and other communities,” said Hudella.
It will be enormous for restaurants and bars and other hospitality industries.
“It’s a huge deal. It’ll be millions and millions of dollars in our community. It’s also now 12-24 months of immediate promotion by the Minnesota Wild and Bally Sports.”
This is also the first time the host community has two years to prepare. The event previously has been put together in one year.
“You are involved with Rivertown Live,” he said of the Hastings Rotary-sponsored music festival. “It’s a big event. It’s a 12-month window. You do the event and start right away on the next one. Hockey Day Minnesota is substantially bigger, and they were running into issues announcing one year out. It was just a very tight timeline to maximize profitability. So, we’re the first community now where the Wild has shifted to a two-year notification window, which we’re super excited about. It’ll be a huge advantage for partnerships, to lay out the venue and things like that.”
He said the event will be a huge economic boon to the Hastings Hockey Association, the partner program that will help run the event.
“Mankato that hosted a couple of years ago netted around $750,000 after all expenses were paid. We anticipate doing better than that.”
The bonus in Hastings is that the UHL already invested in a refrigerated NHL-sized outdoor rink that has been hosting events since its grand opening Veterans Day weekend. Also, UHL plans to invest in the necessary bleachers to seat the crowd.
“The single biggest expense for Hockey Day Minnesota is for that local community to pay to bring in a temporary refrigerated rink to conduct the event and then pay to have it torn down and shipped out,” said Hudella. That could cost $150,000 alone.
The UHL site also will be expanded to 62 acres soon, which means there’s plenty of room for the up to 20,000 people expected.
And there will be challenges, notably with traffic on Ravenna Trail.
“If you’ve been down Ravenna Trail, it can be a very busy two-lane road right now. Now, you’re going to try to cram 10,000-20,000 more people on the challenges.”
He said another big benefit is the excellent working relationship with the City of Hastings, which other host communities hasn’t enjoyed.
“We’re super lucky to have a great partnership with the City of Hastings,” he said. “We’re super excited to have a lot of proactive folks at the City of Hastings helping out.”
The Hockey Day site village boasts vendor tents, games and several food and beverage spots.
“In Warroad, they had a dozen different spots inside and picnic tables so people can get out of the cold. The event is typically around the third Saturday in January. It could be 20 below. It could be like this year and be 50 degrees. You just don’t know,” he said.
Hudella said UHL is also considering flooding its trail system to have a half-mile skate through the site.
Bally Sports liked the photogenic UHL site, with its large Veterans Memorial in the background. He said other local sites, including along the riverfront downtown, on Hastings School District land or at Todd Field were also considered.
“The problem was where do you put the Hockey Day Village. Where do you park? It’s such a massive layout for this event that even the area down by the bridge, there wasn’t enough square footage of land in one stretch. And none of those other areas have a refrigerated rink,” said Hudella.
Organizers are excited about the prospects of putting in the work to make the event a huge success.
“We’re excited about this partnership with the city and Hastings Hockey to bring this to the community. It’s not just a United Heroes League Event. The event itself is more about the community of Hastings and our hockey program here. We’re the host site, but it’s an equal voice,” said Hudella.