Friday, November 16, 2012

Minnesota hesitant to play North Dakota in hockey for now…

Recently, I wrote a blog post about the UND and UMN rivalry and from the outside looking in; it would appear that UMN is shying away from the historic rivalry. If you ask UND fans, a lot of them will tell you it appears to be for egoistic reasons. From this UND fan’s perspective, it smacks of “elitism.”

I have seen some UMN fans try to blame UND’s former moniker on the lack of a scheduling agreement.  I think that excuse is convenient when you have nothing else to fall back on.  

After the state wide vote this past summer – that objection has been overcome – they can no longer blame the Fighting Sioux nickname, that’s a nonfactor – the Fighting Sioux nickname is gone.  One has to wonder if this goes deeper than a nickname or wanting to play teams from Minnesota… Does this smell like a possible riff between the two athletic departments?

Like I said before, the University of Wisconsin kept dates open on their future schedule with the caveat that if UND didn’t change the Fighting Sioux nickname the future nonconference games would be canceled. There is no reason that the University of Minnesota could have done that as well unless they really didn’t want to play UND in the first place.

I’ve had UND fans ask me, why the heck did we change the name to appease the B1G schools, only to have them turn around and tell us that they don’t want to play us anyways.

I have also read where UMN has said that they need to focus on the team in the State of Minnesota first as well. Really! How many times is UMN going to “actually” travel to BSU, Duluth, Saint Cloud and Minnesota State? Yeah! I can see Minnesota saying, sure we will play you but at our rink, with the possibility they “may” make an occasional trip from time-to-time.

UND Hockey beat writer Brad E. Schlossman has this article in today’s Grand Forks Herald and this is what UMN’s head coach Don Lucia had to say about the rivalry last winter. 
Minnesota coach Don Lucia was unavailable for comment Thursday, but has said in the past that he may not want to play the rivalry every year.

“We will go back there as a nonconference team,” Lucia said at a media gathering in January. “We have a great rivalry. Sometimes, it gets a little over the top and I’m not sure that is healthy for anybody. So we will continue to play, but I doubt we will continue to play each and every year.”
Wait, what? When I read Don Lucia’s comments last winter I thought those comments were over the top. I have learned that coach speak at times is tough to decipher at times and you have to be able to wade through some of it to actually figure out what their trying to say. This time it’s pretty evident.

What is Luica really saying? If I am reading his comments right, and I think I am, Lucia is saying in so many words, that he didn’t want to play UND in hockey for a few years because they [UND] have beaten us up pretty bad in the physicality department.

I can’t imagine Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves, Denver head coach George Gwozdecky or Nebraska Omaha head coach Dean Blais saying something like this. Honestly, does that not make you ask the question; what the heck is that?

If you think that I am being melodramatic this is like the Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma telling the Philadelphia Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette that his team doesn’t want to play the Flyers anymore because the games got a little rough.  

 Is Men’s Division I Hockey not a game played by men? College sports are about heated rivalries and at times rivalry games do get a bit out of hand. But so what?

Since the 2004-05 season, when Dave Hakstol took over the coaching duties the University of North Dakota has a 18-13-2 record against the University of Minnesota. All you have to do is go to YouTube and do a search of Sioux vs. Gophers and you will see hours of highlights of fights, dustups and handshake lines that have gone awfully wrong. One could liken the rivalry the feud between the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s.
But again; so what?

Finally, the UND and UMN series is one of the best rivalries in all of college sports. I agree with Coach Hakstol, “The rivalry, tradition and history is important.”  I also think the fans deserve to have this historic rivalry continue. Let’s hope the two schools can set aside their differences and get this done.

Originally posted at the Hockey Writers - Combine.