SARTELL -- The first-ever Hockey Day in Central Minnesota is here, an event that shines the spotlight on the passion for the sport in the heart of the State of Hockey.

The event kicked off with festivities on Friday night in Little Falls as the Flyers hosted the Mora-Hinckley-Finlayson Mustangs.

Today, an open skate was held for players of all ages at Bernick's Pepsi Arena in Sartell.

Jonathan West organized the event and says that it is meant to give hockey in central Minnesota more exposure.

"I thought it was a good idea to showcase hockey at all levels in our local neighborhoods," West says. "And just a 24-plus hour period of celebrating hockey."

West says he hopes the event gains support in the community and one day bring the statewide Hockey Day to the area.

"In years past, Hockey Day in Minnesota [featured games from all over the state], this was the first year they didn't," West says. "The ultimate idea of [this event] is finally getting Hockey Day in Minnesota here."

Hockey Day in Central Minnesota continues this afternoon in Princeton, as Becker-Big Lake plays Northern Lakes and wraps up tonight as the Granite City Lumberjacks host the Twin City Steel.

Pregame festivities will be held before the puck drops at 7:30 p.m. at Sports Arena East in Sauk Rapids.

"This is a chance to kind of get out and rediscover what you loved as a kid," West says. "Or as a kid or a parent, get out and enjoy the sport you love together."

Photo by Isaac Schweer, WJON