Posts Tagged ‘North Dakota’
It’s early on a Friday night, but the Ralph Engelstad Arena is already rocking. Just minutes before the puck drops at center ice, the lights go down in the arena and the cheering somehow manages to get louder. The players gather in the tunnel and slowly emerge from the shadows as they approach the ice.
The PA announcer bellows from the rafters. “Here come your Fightiiiiiiing Hawks!”
Sigh. It’s just not the same.
There’s been quite a bit going on over the past two weeks since the NCAA Regionals, most of the big stories being players leaving school early for the NHL.
Two stories stand out above the rest.
The first is that longtime Colorado College head coach Scott Owens resigned. Owens has been at the helm since taking over for Don Lucia in 1999. During that span, the Tigers made the Frozen Four in 2005 on top of six other NCAA appearances. No reason was given for his resignation, but my theory is that maybe the powers that be wanted to move in a different direction, like Denver was last year with George Gwozdecky. The Tigers haven’t made the NCAA tournament in three years and just went through their worst season in 20 years. Whatever the reason, it’s a sad day because Owens is a talented coach who kept a small school competitive on a national stage. I’m sure he’ll be missed by the Tiger faithful.
The other is that NCAA seems willing to reconsider its idea to stage the Regionals at neutral sites. On paper it seemed like a sound plan; it isn’t fair for one team to have a distinct home-ice advantage over the other teams in the region. The plan backfired because attendance at the Regionals has been terrible. Attendance turned around a little this year, but it’s still bad. A total of 8,893 fans for a regional championship between Minnesota and St. Cloud State sounds fine — except that the game was in St. Paul at the Xcel Energy Center, which holds more than twice that number (18,568).
If the NCAA is smart, they will return the games to campus sites. Yes, it gives one team an advantage, but a good team overcomes that. I’ve seen it happen. Miami beat Minnesota-Duluth in 2009 in front of a loud, very partisan crowd at Mariucci Arena. (How partisan was the crowd? I was cheering for both teams and when the Redhawks scored first, I cheered and pumped my fist. I was the only one in the arena to do so outside of the Miami pep band. It was weird).
Both of those stories pale in comparison to the Frozen Four, which starts Thursday. This year features three powerhouse progams and one on the rise. I got three out of the four teams correct with my predictions two weeks ago, which was my best performance in the Regionals so far. Let’s see if I can keep my luck going.
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Minnesota has always loved ice hockey and probably always will. The Wild sell out almost every game and season tickets are gone in the blink of an eye at the start of every season.
This season, they might even go faster than that with native Minnesotan Zach Parise suiting up for the Wild.
Growing up in the Minneapolis area, I wasn’t always a hockey fan. I was raised on the other three major sports, mostly because all the male authority figures in my life had never played the game before. I moved from Dallas to Minnesota in 1991, the year the North Stars shocked everyone and made the Stanley Cup Finals. Everybody was swept up in Cup fever, and even though I had no idea what I was talking about, I bet my first grade classmates that Pittsburgh would beat the North Stars in the Finals.
Why? I thought the Penguins had the coolest jerseys and I liked their mascot.
There’s nothing like a good rivalry. Two talented teams that don’t like each other and two fan bases that despise each other make for exciting games and great atmospheres. It also makes for great storylines for sports writers.
Unfortunately, the NHL is suffering from an extreme lack of rivalries right now. There hasn’t been a decent rivalry since the Red Wings and the Avalanche duked it out in the playoffs over and over again in the late 1990s.
Sure, Bruins and Canadiens fans like to say they have an intense rivalry. Penguins and Capitals fans claim their rivalry is growing. But let’s be honest. Nobody cares about the Boston-Montreal rivalry outside of New England and Quebec, and even though HBO did a great job profiling Pittsburgh and Washington last year in its 24/7 feature, the rivalry wasn’t all that exciting.
This isn’t just a hockey problem either.