Arriving at 3M Arena at Mariucci before dawn is a stark reminder that sporting cathedrals are downright eerie when unoccupied. How could a place that has housed so much noise be so quiet? How could a box of emotion feel so empty?
Then the Combine participants arrived and shattered the sound barrier for the next twelve hours.
Since 2015, the NOW Prospects Combine has hosted a camp at the University of Minnesota. Past participants include multiple Mr. Hockeys, countless college hockey players, and at least one Olympian. For the past seven summers, scores of boys have made the Golden Gopher campus home for at least a few days.
This year, a twist. YHH and the Golden Gopher women's hockey program have added a girls' camp to the docket, and the results have been nothing short of golden.
Callie Arthur rams her shoulder into one of Jon Francisco's body contact dummies during Monday's morning session.
The guys and gals hit the ice almost immediately for a clinic on body contact, hosted and instructed by former Minnesota Duluth Bulldog and current Hermantown resident Jon Francisco of Francisco Hockey. Francisco typically travels with a set of rubber dummies for his practices, but he might have to make a stop on his way back to the 218 for a few ice bags. Those dummies took a beating Monday morning.
Interspersed during the morning session were headshots, an overview of the Combine's rules and expectations, and introductions from the male and female Golden Gophers, who will be featured as counselors and bench coaches for the week.
Mini-games dominated the afternoon, with teams competing in three 15-minute sprints over the course of two hours. When not bombing up and down the ice at neighboring Ridder Arena, players could be found participating in the Mariucci Olympics, a mix of calisthenics and agility drills, or searching for clues in a scavenger hunt of Ridder Arena.
Maroon's Bodie Nybakken took to the practice ice like a lightning strike.