DELANO, Minn. — It sounds like the plot of a feel-good movie.
Small-town girl works hard, gains some fame, gets a big break on the East Coast, and then trouble strikes. Undaunted, she comes back home to her Midwest roots to find love and a new start, back where it all began.
For Katie Emmer, real life is imitating the best cinematic formula these days, as she prepares to return to her broadcasting roots on Saturday as part of the Fox Sports North crew for Hockey Day Minnesota 2021.
“I’m excited to do some things I’m passionate about again,” said Emmer, 25. “It will be a fun, quick day, but it will be unique and it will be awesome to be a part of.”
Emmer will be part of the team broadcasting live from the John Rose OVAL in Roseville, as the scaled-back event will be one day only and primarily on video, with no outdoor games or community celebration, in recognition of the pandemic and the restrictions on congregating.
“Hockey Day Minnesota is special for a number of reasons. One of those is that it allows us to make new connections, as well as reconnect with friends and colleagues," said Mike Dimond, senior vice president and general manager of FOX Sports North. "For example, Jamie Hersch and Katie Emmer. We are so happy Katie could participate again this year and return to her roots where her career began.”
Strong first shift
It was just a little more than three years ago, when Hockey Day Minnesota came to St. Cloud in 2018, that Emmer’s name and face became familiar to a statewide TV audience. As a senior at St. Cloud State and a member of the Husky Productions broadcast crew covering SCSU hockey, she was already a well-known name and face in the Granite City.
The call from FSN in advance of the outdoor games at Lake George in St. Cloud turned out to be a big career break.
That one-day gig in St. Cloud led to a full-time position with FSN, primarily doing sideline reporting for Minnesota Gophers hockey as well as some in-studio work for Minnesota Wild games in the 2018-19 season. She was also part of the FSN crew at Hockey Day Minnesota 2019 in Bemidji, and gained a following among viewers for her conversational interviewing style and her sense of humor, which often produced a smile from athletes even if they had just suffered through a disastrous second period.
After one hockey season with FSN, Emmer got called up to “the show” as a member of the Philadelphia Flyers studio team, hosting their pregame and postgame shows.
“Looking back on the year, I wish it didn’t go so quickly, but it was super fun to work with Al Morganti and Chris Therien and other phenomenal people,” she said.
Emmer got to cover the story of Flyers forward Oskar Lindblom, who fought cancer, and the ups and downs of the team, which went to the second round of the NHL playoffs in the late summer, after the pandemic-paused season was resumed.
Cheesesteaks and challenges
Life in Philadelphia, which has a metro area population roughly double that of the Twin Cities and an unbridled (some would say unruly) passion for the local teams, was an eye-opener on a few levels.
“It was great to walk around the city and find the best coffee places, and I did look at cheesesteaks as a challenge,” Emmer said, admitting that she preferred Geno’s to Pat’s in the head-to-head competition between the city’s most famous cheesesteak vendors, which are located across the street from each other in South Philly. “The wonderful people I worked with welcomed me to the city and told me the places I needed to go, and I went to every one of them.”
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Learning how to safely navigate the city amid the more aggressive motorists of the East Coast was another challenge. Although Emmer admits being significantly closer to her father — U.S. Congressman Tom Emmer (R-Minnesota) — was an advantage and she made the drive of just over two hours to Washington, D.C., to see her parents a few times.
The pandemic has disrupted every facet of life, and Emmer was not spared in the millions of job lost as a result. Just days before the 2021 Flyers season began, Emmer and Therien were laid off from their positions with NBC Philadelphia. So she headed back home, where another exciting new position was offered to her.
Web videos and wedding plans
In late January, after breakfast at a restaurant in Wayzata, Emmer’s long-time boyfriend Ben Storm offered an engagement ring. She said "yes" to the former Huskies captain and four-year hockey letter-winner, and they will be wed in July.
“It’s amazing and life-changing, and here I am planning a wedding,” Emmer said.
With e-sports seemingly growing in popularity every day, Emmer has been doing some freelance video work for the Madden League, and despite the challenges of the past year, she remains thankful for the opportunity for a return to her roots with Hockey Day Minnesota, and hopeful for the next opportunity, whenever it may come.
“There is a lot of exciting stuff happening and I’m very fortunate for that. I wish I could be covering hockey, but I’ve kept the faith,” she said. “There are a lot of people in worse positions, and I’m happy to be home, and in a fortunate situation to be around family. I just stay positive.”