Man Love Grows in the Oddest of Places.



I had some sort of perception of North Dakota in my mind. I’d seen ‘Fargo’ numerous times, and I have many friends that grew up playing hockey, so I had some sort of idea of what hockey meant to these people. After attending the MSU Men’s Hockey season opener, my mind has been blown and my man love grows for college hockey.

The first fans showed up at Ralph Engelstad Arena before I did. Who knows how long they’d been waiting there. I had just completed one half of my journey through America’s Heart Land and now we were pulling up to the Arena to investigate which parking lot we were designated to outside the enormous arena.

Unable to grasp the concept myself, my savvy colleague informed me that the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux Football Team was not as highly revered and therefore perhaps not as invested as the hockey team. That was evident by the looks of the stadium. In one of our many ongoing attempts to retrieve our press credentials, we stopped to browse the gift shop located inside the main entrance…That’s right. They had a gift shop.

 I couldn’t decide between the Fighting Sioux Nike pull-over or the personalized keychain so I didn’t buy anything. I was too busy ogling the stadium. The entrance way looked like something from Ancient Greece with imported marble floors from Italy (this is true, we got a personal tour). Complete with NHL and Olympic sized ice rinks, a full basketball court that seated thousands, about 18 locker rooms, leather seats, and a full kitchen complete with staff, this place made Joe Louis Arena look like the rink I built in my backyard last winter. Glamorous treasures were strewn about; trophies upon trophies, shrines and statues of immortalized heroes. With the Hockey Hall of Fame actually only a few miles down the road, this truly was the Hockey Mecca.

The countdown to the opening face-off resembled Saturday afternoon at Spartan Stadium. The fans, drunken with spirit and rum most likely purchased at either one of the two fabulous watering holes nestled in the suite level above the goals (remember, the university doesn’t own the stadium!) cheered and carried on with the band, complete with the tuba shuffle. The rainbow afros and The Guy in the banana suit made several appearances on the Jumbo Screen. I grew irritated as this went on, casually dreaming of simple Munn Ice. ‘Enough of this eye candy!’ I thought. ‘…Can they play!?’

This question would be answered quite early on. Whatever it is they feed the children of Grand Forks, North Dakota its working.  Apart from some weird looking goals, one being knocked out of the air, the Sioux looked and played like the better team. Reading through their program, I noticed most of the current roster has committed to the NHL. The hundreds of flags, photos, jerseys, numbers, and trophies of NHL teams throughout the stadium were an attest to that. The Fighting Sioux beat The Spartans by a score of 6-0. The success was staggering, the numbers impressive, and the hospitality Southern. Err, Northern.Â