Friday, January 18, 2013

The Minnesota Golden Gophers vs. North Dakota Fighting Sioux Rivalry

Yesterday we detailed how the elevation of the Penn State hockey program to Division I status led to the creation of the Big 10 Hockey Conference and set off a massive chain reaction of conference movement in the west, which resulted in North Dakota, Minnesota-Duluth, Nebraska-Omaha, St. Cloud State, Denver, Colorado College leaving the WCHA and forming the new for 2013-14 National Collegiate Hockey Conference, where they will be joined by Miami University and Western Michigan, formerly of the CCHA.

This development led to Notre Dame leaving the CCHA to join Hockey East, while the remaining members of the CCHA, Northern Michigan, Alaska-Fairbanks, Ferris State, Lake Superior State and Bowling Green, joined with the remnants of the WCHA, comprised of Alaska-Anchorage, Bemidji State, Michigan Tech and Minnesota State, in what is seen by many as a case of the rich getting richer, while leaving the smallest schools in their wake to fend for themselves while the CCHA ceases to exist entirely.

One of the ramifications of this great upheaval is the breaking up of some notable rivalries. In particular, one can legitimately say that Minnesota is the main rival and top draw for Wisconsin, Minnesota State, St. Cloud State, Minnesota-Duluth, Bemidji State but none more intense than Minnesota vs. North Dakota, which will take place for the last time as we know it this weekend.

The two schools have been playing against each other as far back as 1948, and by 1951 both schools were members of the Midwest Collegiate Hockey League, which evolved into the Western Intercollegiate Hockey League (WIHL) and finally became the WCHA in 1959.

1952 Gophers vs Sioux, 1952 Gophers vs Sioux
Action from Minnesota vs. North Dakota in 1952
photo courtesy of VintageMinnesotaHockey.com

North Dakota has since won 15 regular season titles, 11 conference tournaments, made 27 NCAA tournament appearances and won the national championship seven times, while Minnesota has 13 regular season titles, 14 conference tournaments, made 35 NCAA tournament appearances and won the national championship five times, with many, many of those accomplishments at the expense of the other, including Minnesota's 1979 national title under head coach Herb Brooks, a 4-3 win over North Dakota.

Minnesota holds the all-time record heading into this weekend against the Fighting Sioux 144-130-14. Typical of the drama that involves these two rivals, their most recent meetings in last year's playoffs saw North Dakota stun Minnesota by scoring 6 consecutive goals after trailing 3-0 halfway through their game in the WCHA Final Five, while the Gophers turned the tables on the Fighting Sioux by ending their season in the NCAA West Regional with a 5-2 win over North Dakota.

Minnesota vs North Dakota, Minnesota vs North Dakota

We recommend you check the listings in your area to see if any of the channels on your sports networks will be carrying the games this weekend. How much interest does this rivalry generate? The normal ticket price for a game at Minnesota's Mariucci Arena is $35, but for this final WCHA meeting between these two schools, Minnesota has jacked the price up to $55, a 64% increase. Tickets for the game on StubHub are going for as much as $374 for Friday's game a the time of this writing, while Saturday sees prices soaring up to $424 with nothing under $95 for a seat and $75 for standing room for either night, more than twice the normal price of admission for the best seat in the house.

If you are at all able, we also recommend you make your way to St. Paul Minnesota on March 21, 22 and 23 for the last WCHA Final Five conference tournament as we know it, an event which dates back to 1988 at the old St. Paul Civic Center on what is now the site of the Xcel Energy Center, home to the Final Five since it's construction in 2001. The event will feature five games over the course of three days and will be part tournament, part celebration and part wake for the late, great WCHA.

Today's featured jerseys are, first, a 1986-87 University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux Tony Hrkac jersey. This classic Fighting Sioux jersey is clearly derived from the traditional Chicago Blackhawks jersey, only with the Blackhawks red replaced by the Fighting Sioux green and with the "C" in the secondary logo replaced by an "S".

A much beloved style among Fighting Sioux fans, this style was first used in 1978 and lasted through 1993 when political correctness resulted in a "North Dakota word mark" style for a couple of seasons until stylized "geometric" Indian head was employed. While today's featured style came into being in 1984, the use of the "Blackhawks" crest dates back to 1971.

Hrkac was the leading scorer in the NCAA during the 1986-87 season and helped North Dakota win the national championship that same season while wearing today's featured jersey. His outstanding season was recognized with the 1987 Hobey Baker Award as the top player in American college hockey annually.

For the most complete history of North Dakota jerseys online, we highly recommend Sioux-Jersey.com.

North Dakota Sioux 1986-87 jersey, North Dakota Sioux 1986-87 jersey
North Dakota Sioux 1986-87 jersey, North Dakota Sioux 1986-87 jersey

Today's other featured jersey is a 1980-81 University of Minnesota Golden Gophers Neal Broten jersey. This style jersey, in the pattern of the Philadelphia Flyers of the day, was worn by the Gophers from 1972-73 through the 1984-85 season, which included national championships in 1974, 1976 and 1979 under the guidance of coach Herb Brooks.

Broten played for the Gophers in the 1978-79 season before following Brooks to the United States Olympic Team program for 1979-80, where he was a member of the "Miracle on Ice" gold medal winning team at the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid. He returned to the University of Minnesota for the 1980-81 season and was named the winner of the inaugural Hobey Baker Award in 1981 despite being the fourth leading scorer on the Gophers, 35 points back of his younger brother and future NHLer Aaron Broten, whose presence on the roster led to the brothers having, despite the differences in their first initials, their full names on the back of their jerseys.

For a look at the history of Golden Gopher jerseys, we suggest both GopherHockeyHistory.com and VintageMinnesotaHockey.com.

Minnesota Gophers 1980-81 jersey, Minnesota Gophers 1980-81 jersey
Minnesota Gophers 1980-81 jersey, Minnesota Gophers 1980-81 jersey

Today's video section is a collection of Minnesota and North Dakota "pleasantries" from their intense rivalry. Feel the love. See the bodies hit the floor. See the penalty boxes filled to capacity. See the handshake lines crumble into a scrum. Experience the Old Time Hockey!







Here are some of the more memorable moments from the Gopher/Fightng Sioux rivalry. First, Neal Broten's amazing goal in the 1979 Championship final against North Dakota.


Next, Blake Wheeler scores a similar goal for Minnesota at the 2007 WCHA Final Five, another in a series of memorable games between the two teams, whose rivalry as we know it is sadly winding down.


And in the interest of equal time, here are the two teams two weeks later in the 2007 West Regional, when North Dakota ends Minnesota's season in overtime to advance to the Frozen Four.



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