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We will spare you the lament (this time) about how all this is coming to an end when the Gophers join the Big Ten hockey league starting in the 2013-14 season. Instead, we will simply say this:
When it comes to rivalries involving major Minnesota sports teams, nothing tops Vikings-Packers. We can't imagine anything ever will, considering how widespread and vitriolic it is. The contenders for the No. 2 spot have to be Gophers/Badgers football, Gophers/Badgers men's basketball, Twins/White Sox and Gophers/UND hockey. As noted before, the Wolves and Wild lack any real rivals who would vault into that mix. Iowa? They've always been a "meh" to us.
And maybe this is just because things are so fresh after witnessing the clashing of these two teams and fan bases for back to back weekends in high-stakes games, but we would argue that Gophers/UND hockey could very well be the second-biggest rivalry in all of major Minnesota sports -- yes, bigger than Gophers-Wisconsin anything and better than Twins/White Sox. At the very least, we would say the hockey rivalry is right there on par with the rest. If you need any convincing, there were 160 comments as of 9 a.m. on the Gophers/UND game story on Startribune.com. Very few of them were polite.
Agree, disagree, thoughts in the comments.
5:44 PM – Earlier in the day there had been some talk about possibly staying in the St. Paul area between games, but that idea quickly drowned in a sea of drunken humanity. So, after the game we headed back to the RandBall abode and settled into a meal consisting solely of steak, cod, tortilla chips, and vitamin water. As we began to eat we heard a bunch of strange sounds outside. We looked out of the window and counted no less than seven hipster vegetarians within a hundred yards of the food who fainted.
Question: What happens when you add a trip from the Carolinas back to the motherland, two hockey games, St. Patrick’s Day, downtown St. Paul, an unseasonably warm Saturday in March, and two idiots who met in junior high and haven’t grown up much in the quarter of a century since then?
Esteemed RandBall contributor Jon Marthaler covered the 2008 Ms. Hockey Award for the Star Tribune, and he alerted us to the final two paragraphs from that coverage when the award was won by Bemidji High's Sarah Erickson:
In the fall, Erickson will enroll at the University of Minnesota, where she'll be joined by fellow Ms. Hockey finalists Anne Schleper of St. Cloud Cathedral and Kelly Seeler of Eden Prairie. ... The players already know their Gophers goals.
"We talk on the phone all the time," said Erickson, "and we always end with, `Let's win a national championship.' "
That, of course, is not an uncommon goal for a bunch of ambitious teenagers. But when all three become seniors with the Gophers -- and play key roles in leading the team to its first national title since 2005 -- it's a nice little moment upon which to reflect. Erickson scored two goals in Sunday's 4-2 NCAA title game victory over Wisconsin, while Seeler and Schleper were major contributors along the blue line.
It capped a pretty nice weekend for those who wear maroon and gold. The Gophers wrestlers finished second at the NCAA meet, with heavyweight Tony Nelson taking home an individual championship. And the Gophers men's hockey team, despite losing Friday to North Dakota, has the No. 2 seed in own regional next week and could get a chance for revenge against UND if both teams advance to the region final next Sunday at the X.
It was a reminder -- Patrick Reusse's accurate and well-crafted Sunday column about the men's hoops and football programs notwithstanding -- that not everything is broken over in Gopherland.
We grew up, as many of you know, in Grand Forks -- spending close to the first 18 years of our life there. We have spent nearly an equal amount of time now in the Twin Cities, both at school and work.
That gives us, perhaps, a unique dual perspective on what we consider one of the best rivalries in college hockey -- and, yes, one of the best rivalries in all of sports.
We still vividly remember going to games at the Old Ralph on the UND campus -- where, as a young child, we were once handed a picture of a dead, bloody gopher impaled on a hockey stick. This was only natural. The Gophers were the sworn enemy.
Upon arriving at the U of M campus, allegiances gradually shifted. It was clear the Gophers had more rivals than just UND (so, too, did North Dakota but not to such an extreme), and that Minnesota was the real focal point of the WCHA when it came to the angst of smaller but still very hockey-devout schools.
Always, though, the Gophers/UND rivalry remained cherished. It is the perfect mix of small vs. big. It has just the right amount of irrational hatred. Both schools have typically been competitive (yeah, we know the Gophers have stumbled the past few years, but still).
So now that the stars have aligned to pit the Gophers vs. UND in tonight's WCHA Final Five semifinals, we want to make sure you cherish it -- regardless of which side you are on. With the Big Ten hockey conference looming on the horizon (play begins in the fall of 2013), these types of meetings will soon no longer be guaranteed. Games with such meaning -- the Gophers are 8th in the pairwise, UND 9th, meaning NCAA seeding is very much in play -- are now fleeting.
It's a little sad to think about the future. But in the present -- a 70-plus degree day on St. Patrick's Eve, with time for fans to build up a mighty thirst before and after the game -- we sure do hope everyone enjoys this.
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