With playoff hockey upon us, and coming on the heels of my first-ever trip to Ralph Engelstad Arena, I’ve been thinking recently what a shame it is that the Minnesota-North Dakota rivalry will be, at least temporarily, kaput.
Yes, this is a topic that has been beat to death in recent months (and years), but my trip to Grand Forks reinforced why it’s such a disappointing deal. As everyone knows, the Gophers are moving to the new creation known as the Big Ten hockey conference while the TFKS (Team Formerly Known as the Sioux) will move to the National Collegiate Hockey Conference.
As we’ve all seen the past couple years in football, money rules the day in major college revenue sports and the breakup of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association is no different. Hockey wonks and fans know this story, too: The Big Ten has a successful TV network and it wants to continue to capitalize on that with the sport of men’s hockey. After the Big Ten made it’s move, the other dominoes began to fall as well.
Now to the full disclosure part of this blog post: I’m a Minnesota fan. Always have been. Moving to the Peace Garden State, of course, doesn’t change that fact even though I’m in enemy territory when it comes to collegiate hockey. Although I’m a natural sworn enemy of North Dakota hockey, I was really impressed with The Ralph after attending a game there in early March. Great arena — yes, it’s much better than Mariucci — with a great atmosphere. It’s just a shame the Gophers and TFKS won’t be playing there next season.
When you get right down to it, there’s something about it that makes me sick to my stomach. College sports are about tradition, at least that’s what they’re supposed to be about. Michigan is supposed to play Ohio State every year in football. Duke and North Carolina are supposed to play every year in men’s basketball, Red Sox and Yankees, Packers and Vikings, Coke and Pepsi (ok, so those last few aren’t college hockey). The point is: Minnesota and North Dakota should be playing two series every year. Every single year. The fact that they won’t be…..it’s just simply not right.
I don’t like how traditional rivalries have been discarded like peanut shells in college sports in recent years. As a traditionalist (and what some would describe as a curmudgeon-in-the-making), I think rivalries — especially in collegiate sports — need to be cherished. Preserved. Celebrated. But, alas, like I mentioned, money rules the day. The Gophers and TFKS will play again, just not for a few years and it will be out of conference. Actually, in all reality, all it would take is a feud of some kind for one of the schools to pull out of playing nonconference games — being in different leagues, nothing is set in stone.
I don’t care what anybody says — I don’t like it. Not one bit. Minnesota and North Dakota are huge rivals and they should play every year. Period. It’s only right. I just hope that the NCAA doesn’t one look back one day and wonder why its product is on the decline (which it isn’t yet) because tradition has been bucked for the almighty dollar. Fact is, nobody really cares about Minnesota vs. Penn State in hockey, Rutgers vs. Iowa in football or Utah vs. UCLA in basketball.
I just hope the Gophers and TFKS meet again this season in the NCAA playoffs. Now that would be something special.