Wednesday, October 18, 2017

UND/Minnesota -- What's a Rivalry?

Former UND captain Chris Porter's game-winning goal in the 2007 West Regional Final. (Photo: UND Sports)
Pardon DDC for being a little bit disconnected the past two weeks. 

With Baby DDC No. 2 growing and battling sleep regression and his favorite baseball team playing currently playing in the ALCS (thumbs down... if you don't know what this means, Google it) DDC has been a wee bit predisposed. 

In the midst of all of this, in case you didn't know, my guess is you did, but in case you don't, the Minnesota Gophers travel to Grand Forks to take on the University of North Dakota men's hockey team this Friday and Saturday for a renewal of pleasantries in what has apparently become a debatable topic -- Is UND vs. Minnesota still a rivalry? 

So, let's take a look, shall we? First, let's start with a simple definition

What's in a Sports Rivalry?

According to the Wikipedia entry on "List of sports rivalries", a sports rivalry is defined as an "intense competition between athletic teams or athletes, but not directly related to the formal sport and the practice thereof. This pressure of competition is felt by players, coaches, and management, but is perhaps felt strongest by the fans."

So, in summation in DDC's words, a sports rivalry isn't necessarily about the ins and outs of the history between two teams (of course this is a massive part of it), but more about the experience and how players, coaches, teams respond to how the FANS feel about the competition. 

With this considered, there are two obvious sides -- Side 1 says "since UND and Minnesota have stopped playing yearly, the game is big, but doesn't feel the same." Side 2 rebuts with "the rivalry is as strong as ever regardless of how often they play."

Most Recent Examples

DDC is strong on side 2 with the two previous match ups (2014 Frozen Four semifinals and last year's series in Minneapolis) between UND and Minnesota showing an incredible intensity on the ice and a tremendous community response. 

Two examples of this.... one important thing to note. Listen to the crowd. DDC understands the importance of the 2014 goal, but the ovations are incredible.

This makes DDC a bit sick to his stomach to show this, but it helps prove his point. Just a note, DDC didn't watch it, he just listened.

Insanity. Listen! 

So, if we're using the most recent example, this sounds like tremendous community support, correct? Well, let's take a look at how the teams feel about this "rivalry".

What do the Players and Coaches Think?

DDC's single-favorite picture ever taken in regards
to this rivalry. (Photo: John Stennes, GF Herald.)
Head coach Brad Berry before UND traveled to take on Minnesota last season -- "It's on our walls in our rink here. (The players) get it from there. To hit on that point, we had T.J. Oshie and Taylor Chorney come in and give their point of view on how special the weekend is. Not only for the players, but for alumni watching. Obviously we haven't played them in a few years, but the history and tradition resonates through this building and through our program." 

By the way, what does that say about this set of games that NHL players TRAVEL TO GRAND FORKS to talk about it on their day off?

UND forward Shane Gersich about the games against Minnesota -- "Everyone knows what this rivalry is about. We know what's at stake without even talking about."

Former Minnesota forward Jake Bischoff before last year's series -- "My dad used to love playing North Dakota. Watching as a kid, I remember it being super intense; all the players would be getting into it with each other, and all the games were really competitive. It was always fun as a fan. Now, getting to play it should be unbelievable."

Former Minnesota forward Justin Kloos before last year's series -- "These are the ones you highlight. These are the ones you dream about."

So, so far... fans? Check. Players, coaches and alumni? Check.  

DDC's Final Take

In short, when considering the parameters of how the FANS feel and how the teams respond, DDC thinks it's clear as day that UND vs. Minnesota is still as big as it comes when talking about a sports rivalry, particularly in college hockey. 

Outside of these stated parameters, consider the tickets to the actual games. The UND athletic department announced ticket prices for this weekend's series at the Ralph Engelstad Arena back in August at $99, this highest single-game price in REA history. Did this cause fans pause to buy these tickets? Absolutely not. In fact, the tickets sold out instantly back in September.

Even the NCAA has recognized this rivalry, recently naming UND vs. Minnesota its No. 2 best in college hockey in a Facebook video. While DDC disagrees with this being No. 2, it still helps cement the point. 

The rivalry, yes, it is a rivalry, is back and we're all ready to go. So, how about a few pump up memories? Let's go. 

Check back tomorrow for a series preview. Thanks for reading!


No comments:

Post a Comment