Ortmeyer is mystery torchlighter

Lincoln-On the eve of ice hockey's debut in the Cornhusker State Games, 10-year NHL veteran Jed Ortmeyer was introduced as the Games' Mystery Torchlighter at Opening Ceremonies held at Seacrest Field in Lincoln Friday.

The lighting of the caldron marked the official beginning of the 29th annual edition of the state's annual multi-sport festival, with more than 12,000 registered to participate in more than 60 sports at venues in Lincoln, Omaha and surrounding communities. Hockey is set for a solid beginning at Ralston and McLean Arenas with 24 teams and more than 350 players registered.

The Ceremonies also provided a fitting backdrop for Lincoln Mayor Chris Beutler, Governor Dave Heineman and Nebraska Sports Council officials to share details of a major event headed to Lincoln during a 5:30 p.m. news conference on the field.

Ortmeyer is just the second Nebraska native to play in the National Hockey League, and the first since Johnny Matz skated for the Montreal Canadiens in 1924. Unlike Matz, who played just 30 total games, Ortmeyer built a solid 10-year NHL career following standout years with the Omaha Lancers from 1997-1999 and the Michigan Wolverines from 1999-2003, where he enjoyed a sterling career with two Frozen Four appearances, a team captain-ship and two consecutive fan-voted MVP awards.

His 10 NHL seasons included stints with the New York Rangers (2003-2007), Nashville Predators (2007-2008), San Jose Sharks (2009-2010) and Minnesota Wild (2010-2012). Ortmeyer is currently a free agent and weighing options, which include continuing his career with the right offer or retiring as a player to pursue other opportunities.

A mini-concert by Groove Puppet followed the torch-lighting, which highlighted ceremonies complete with skydivers, fireworks, a parade of athletes and a performance of basketball and unicycle tricks by the Crevier Family.

Long-time Lincoln East High School Basketball and Track Coach Ed McPherren led the Parade of Athletes as the Grand Marshal. UNL Softball Coach Rhonda Revelle was the administrator of the Oath of Athletes and long-time sponsors Jeff Barclay and Scott Ritter, co-owners of Goodcents Deli Fresh Subs, delivered the opening declaration as the Games' Honorary Chairmen.

The Ceremonies also had a patriotic flair with the National Guard Honor Guard and Guard volunteers rolling out a giant U.S. flag while 11 year-old Payton Eyler of Fremont sang the national anthem. Eyler earned the right to perform by winning the third annual CSG National Anthem contest.

Skydivers included veterans Larry Bartlett, with American Flag in tow, and Mike Blackshear, who has jumped in all 29 CSG Opening Ceremonies.

Monetary awards were presented to six Nebraska high schools that collected votes as participants entered the Games. The Nebraska State College System, consisting of Chadron, Peru and Wayne State Colleges, sponsored the awards, which were won by Lincoln Southwest, Lincoln East, Creighton, Kenesaw, Weeping Water and Lincoln Lutheran High School.

KOLN-KGIN television anchors Kevin Sjuts, Bridget Fargen and Chad Silber emceed on the field while longtime Lincoln Saltdogs announcer Chris Lofgreen handled P.A. announcer duties.

The opening ceremonies were preceded by SportFest, where athletes enjoyed a free meal and entertainment, including inflatable games, vendor booths, a dance performance by En Pointe Dance Academy and a sportsmanship rally led by members of the Husker Softball and Tennis teams.

Officials noted that entry numbers are up several hundred from the 2012 total of 11,643 with Basketball, Soccer, Volleyball, Softball and ENERGY Walk/Run as the top five sports in participation. Several sports accept late entries, so numbers are not yet final.

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