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NHL Winter Classic: Justin Morneau's Backyard Hockey Game Tradition

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Baseball and hockey will take center ice this weekend when the NHL Winter Classic comes to Target Field on New Year's Day.

This week, special correspondent Carly Zucker is sharing some unique stories from the State of Hockey. She met up with former Twins first baseman Justin Morneau and Wild winger Mark Parrish during a backyard hockey game among their retired teammates.

CARLY ZUCKER: Winter Classic is coming is coming to Minneapolis, little did we know this is happening right in our backyard. How did this pickup game start?

JUSTIN MORNEAU: A lot of us guys are looking for something to do in the winter so it's usually baseball guys come out here and get a few hockey guys come out here to join us. We don't usually play at night, we usually play when the kids are in school so we come out here and have some fun. It's not quite glory days, but remember how out of shape we are, but also remember how much we like to compete and play. It's about having fun and seeing old friends. This is the fourth year. It's normally a Canada-USA battle. North of the border, south of the border battle and then talk trash for a week or two until we play again.

CARLY ZUCKER: There's some big names who come out here. What's the competition like? Is it more mental or more physical?

MARK PARRISH: Definitely more mental. It's all about bragging rights. One-hundred-percent bragging rights. You gotta go out there, put it all on the line, hope the coach doesn't bench you the next time coming out and beat up on the baseball guys.

ZUCKER: We don't see pick-up games among friends with different backgrounds in different sports as much. Something we used to see when we were younger.

MORNEAU: So much of today's sports is structured. It's an appointment, a lesson or a personalized instructor. For us, this is really is the last generation of go shoot a pick off the garage door for an hour and a half and try to get better on your own or figure it out on your own. This group of guys, whether it was pickup hockey, pickup basketball, it was golf, baseball, whiffle ball, whatever it was, we took pride in the fact we could do more than one thing. And I think you see that in these guys you got baseball guys, you got hockey guys.

ZUCKER: Mark, be honest, how good are the baseball players?

Justin Morneau Mark Parrish Backyard Hockey Game
Mark Parrish, Justin Morneau and Carly Zucker (credit: CBS)

PARRISH: I can't stand the fact I have to say this, they've got great hands. We're lucky, their feet don't move quite like us hockey players. Kidding, of course. Like Justin said it's about coming out and having fun. You come out here and you're instantly back to being a 12-year-old and out there skating with your buddies on the pond all day long, all night long and just again, realize how out of shape we are.

ZUCKER: It's so exciting to have the Winter Classic in the State of Hockey, we've been wanting it for a long time. What does it mean for you to see it at Target Field?

MORNEAU: It's going to be pretty cool. I get to go out there and skate as part of the media day and skate on the rink where I played first base. That to me sums it all up. Being out there you never thought something like that would happen. Obviously, it's a great venue for it, a small venue everything is kind of on top of you. I'm looking forward to that, I have friends flying in from Canada, they're going to come in just to go to that game. We're excited to see the outdoor game.

PARRISH: I've been wanting it for so long. It's the one thing, other than winning a Stanley Cup, I wanted to do during my career. They look like so much fun. I know the ice is tough to play on and the lights can cause problems for the players, but bottom line they always have a boatload of fun. And I'm sure they will in our State of Hockey.

ZUCKER: Having hockey at a baseball rink has got to be a dream come true for these guys out here today.

PARRISH: For me, it's two worlds collide. Being a huge North Stars fan, but a bigger Twins fan, I wanted to be a baseball player growing up. So hockey on a baseball field is my dream come true.

MORNEAU: It's kind of crazy for me, the first time I skated outside wasn't until I came to Minnesota. I never skated outside in British Columbia growing up, it never got cold enough where I live. We'd get rain and cold for a couple days but we could never have something like we have here. What we see is my dream and all of a sudden we get to see it at Target Field, see an outdoor game, see hockey go way back to how it started. And you look at it you get to be a small part of it and get to pretend we're a part of it out here too.

ZUCKER: What's the punishment for the losers out here?

MORNEAU: The team that loses, has to shovel off the rink. The team that wins stands on the boards and gets to talk trash, while the losers get the rink ready for the next game.


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