So, over the weekend Union College of New York won their first men’s hockey championship and I presume their first championship in any sport since their colonial founding in 1795. Moreover, the Dutchmen did so by manhandling #1 overall seed and America’s hockey homeland Minnesota [much to my chagrin]. Minnesota looked sluggish and almost uninvested (save for a few moments of adrenaline fueled desperation where they showcased their superior skating and physicality) as Union punched them in the mouth time and time again. However, as is always the case for me personally at the Frozen Four, the real storyline was NDSU’s little brother, the UND [redacted]’s, and the national holiday that is their annual exit from the tournament.
This isn’t necessarily interesting. Rivals should hate each other. NDSU fans SHOULD be happy to see UND lose. However, the NDSU / UND relationship is a bit more unique than, say, the Kentucky – Louisville or UNC – Duke rivalries. NDSU is undeniably the Alpha to UND’s Beta in this relationship. Football, Basketball, Volleyball, Wrestling, Curling, Cup Stacking… you name it and NDSU has been and is better at it than UND. However, until the dawn of this Bison Sports renaissance that we’ve been living in since the Bison made the leap from D2 to D1, UND had the larger national profile in the region’s second biggest (behind football who is America’s sporting leviathan) sport. UND dominates on a national level in hockey. They have won 7 national titles since the 50s and are by all means a blue-blood of college hockey. They contend for titles every year and the NHL is littered with their former stars. This, in turn, inflates UND fans’ egos to Wonkan-blueberry esque levels.
Moreover, while I think UND fans can be incredibly insufferable, hating them isn’t as easy as it should be. Because North Dakota is such a small state and is generally off the national radar (unless the Cohen Brothers are churning out a new screenplay or someone is hoping to make a nobody lives here joke) I really want to band together and carry the State banner whenever possible. UND has made this impossible though. And I’m not just talking about the fans, but the administartion. When NDSU went D1 they naturally needed a partner to make the move up with them. No conference would agree to travel to Fargo, North Dakota as a one of trip. NDSU needed a nearby partner to make in conference foes’ road trips more economically viable. Naturally, NDSU used logic and set aside animosity to ask UND to move up with them. UND refused, simply because they couldn’t stomach the idea of helping big brother NDSU do anything. They hoped to submarine NDSU’s efforts to help themselves, actively hurting their own school in process (we know it was a mistake to not go up with NDSU because UND DID go up to D1 a few years later on their own…) In any event NDSU ultimately paired with SDSU and USD, meaning UND’s attempt to cut off their nose to spite their face blew up in their now maimed face anyway. Well done guys…
But in any event the hatred goes really deep, and really prevents the state from banding together. Moreover, UND has always loved to cling to their hockey success, not just out of school pride, but as a way to anger NDSU fans. (Important to note here that NDSU hasn’t even had a hockey team for decades, presumably because they can’t compete with UND on this front… which ought to make UND fan’s giddy. However, that doesn’t stop NDSU from dominating them in every other sport of any consequence… I’m not bitter or anything though… wait a minute I need to cheer myself up quick)
Alrighty. So to wrap it up, UND has a much higher profile at the pinnacle of a major sport and has an immense presence in that sport. However, as much as I love it, hockey really isn’t a national sport in the United States. Its huge in New England and the Upper Midwest, as well as many other pockets throughout the country, and despite Gary Bettman and the NHL’s best efforts its growing in popularity. But in large parts of the country its a running joke (Kentucky, for instance, where watching hockey is grounds for ridicule). And even though North Dakota is one of the states where hockey is loved, football is still bigger and NDSU’s recent three-peat puts UND’s embarrassment of a football team to shame. And heres where we come to the real heart of the matter. NDSU, the true big brother in this relationship, has finally established itself as such in my opinion. In the same year where NDSU capped off its Football 3-peat, hosted ESPN’s College gameday, and pulled off its first NCAA men’s basketball tournament run, UND got punched in the gut by their biggest (hockey) rival, losing on a miracle goal with 0.6 seconds on the clock (WHILE UND WAS ON THE POWERPLAY) which I will revel in for at least a decade… probably longer
NDSU’s renaissance continued with a flourish while UND’s counterpunch fell hilariously flat. Its good to have you back little brother. I hope you’re comfy where you are, because with a little luck you’ll stay there forever. But no matter what, we’ll always have this beautiful moment.