Michael Rand started RandBall with hopes that he could convince the world to love jumpsuits as much as he does. So far, he's only succeeded in using the word "redacted" a lot. He welcomes suggestions, news tips, links of pure genius, and pictures of pets in Halloween costumes here, though he already knows he will regret that last part.

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Posts about College hockey

Monday (Ranking the Gophers/UND hockey rivalry) edition: Wha' Happened?

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated: March 26, 2012 - 9:16 AM

We were on hand along with a shade under 11,000 fans Sunday -- well under capacity at Xcel Energy Center, but that's a ticket price story for another day ($94 for three-game package, $57 for single-session) -- for the West Region final hockey game between the Gophers and UND. As we have noted many times, we have seen equal parts of this rivalry from both sides, having spent almost the exact same number of years living in Grand Forks (growing up) and Minneapolis (college-present). Having these two hockey teams meet for a sixth time this season -- with the Gophers holding an overall 3-2 series lead going in, but with UND holding the mental edge after last week's Final Five comeback victory -- was a perfect way to settle the score. It was also yet another reminder of the emotional cauldron that erupts between these fan bases any time a game, especially one with implications like a Frozen Four berth, is played.

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.

Rocket's Red Glare: Two hockey games, one day. A running diary (Part II)

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated: March 23, 2012 - 3:42 PM

Here is Part II of Rocket's running diary of our St. Paul ice capades last weekend. This might be the first running diary of a day that takes you longer to read than it did to actually live the day itself. We kid! Also remember that some accounts of this day are utter fiction. Rocket?

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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.

6:47 PM – Back in St. Paul, after another stealthy parking job, we began engaging with our second scalper of the day. Between the two of us, RandBall and I have collected five college degrees. But apparently all of that brain power wasn’t enough to make sure we had plenty of cash. The guy was only asking face value for the tickets and we didn’t have quite enough. Luckily he was willing to get stiffed for a few bucks to get rid of the ducats.
 
7:03 PM – These are much nicer seats, only three rows away from the players’ benches. There is a much greater level of energy in the building than there was this afternoon. There is the occasional, random Denver fan here and there but there is no doubt that this is going to be a pro-UND crowd. We were seats one and two in the row so I decided to take seat one and let RandBall deal with whatever goofball we get stuck next to this time around.
 
 
7:55 PM – Denver has given a valiant effort, but having played in two overtime games in the past two days they don’t look like they have much left in the tank. UND gets two in the first, leaving the Pioneers with quite an uphill road in what is, in essence, a road game. Despite a relatively exciting first period RandBall looks out of sorts and keeps checking his phone. Something is at odds, but what? He hasn’t been very communicative all day.
 
8:33 PM – Truth be told, it was looking like we were having much better luck with our seatmates in game two than we did in game one, and in a perverse manner, we did have better luck. The female of the couple seemed genial and engaging and the male looked mostly interested in keeping quiet and watching the game. Little did I know that the man was a big bunch of rage wrapped up in a tiny package. About midway through the second period some dude proposed to his special lady friend on the jumbotron. She, of course, said yes, and it was a relatively sweet, if slightly cloying and drastically unoriginal, moment. It was in the quiet just after this expression of love that our seemingly mild-mannered male seatmate shot out of his chair and yelled, “You’re [redacted] number eleven,” at referee number 11. The female quickly grabbed at the man’s shirt, trying to pull him back into his chair as he unleashed a torrent of vile vulgarities at the official. Clearly embarrassed, the female was finally able to get the male back into his seat. I probably shouldn’t have laughed as openly as I did.
 
8:44 PM – After waiting a requisite amount of time to pretend not to be embarrassed, the female gathered up her stuff and made the male leave their seats. I probably shouldn’t still have been laughing openly.
 
8:50 PM – Despite the fact that I was almost sure I would never see them again, the male returned to the seats. He had returned to gather up a few possessions that she had left behind in her rush to flee the scene of her tremendous embarrassment. As he gathered up the stuff, the guy said something to us about women always leaving stuff behind in such a jovial manner that I couldn’t help but conclude that he had no idea why she had presumably made them leave. I probably shouldn’t have started laughing again right in his face.
 
8:59 PM – Sometimes I feel sorry for those poor saps that have to do the promotional stuff during stops in play and sometimes I feel like they only have themselves to blame. Nonetheless, it was still amusing when the promotional guy was trying to get some 3-year-old to yell into the microphone that his favorite team was Denver. The kid was much less interested in helping the guy hawk whatever product was the sponsor and much more interested in sticking the microphone in his mouth. After the first time the promotional guy tried to get the kid to yell “Denver” again, but the kid just tried to stick the microphone in his mouth again. Moral of the story: If a promotional guy ever tries to get you to do something embarrassing on camera just stick the microphone in your mouth.
 
9:13 PM – UND scores its fourth goal of the night about seven minutes into the third to make it 4-0. Everybody in the building knows that we’re all just killing time now. RandBall looks relieved that the day is almost over.
 
9:55 PM – The game finished 4-0 and we made it all the way back to the car. RandBall kept checking his phone and shaking his head. We were in the car and about to start driving when I noticed that his lips were trembling and that tears were beginning to form in the corners of his eyes. Finally, after a whole day of this, it occurred to me what was truly going on. “Don’t start driving yet,” I said to him. “You’re in no condition right now. We’ve been friends for a long time and I want you to tell me the truth. Are you still sad about Ricky Rubio hurting his knee?” RandBall immediately burst into tears. After a good ten or fifteen minute cry it was clear he felt much better and we left St. Paul for good for the day.

Rocket's Red Glare: Two hockey games, one day. A running diary (Part I)

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated: March 23, 2012 - 1:16 PM

Commenter Rocket writes about hockey because he mistakenly thinks we don't care about it. We proved him wrong by going to two hockey games in one day with him -- and then he demanded that he got to be the one to write about it, anyway, and that he was going to include utter fiction about our mood. Here is Part I of his running diary. We'll split it into two parts so we don't break Ramon's old record for longest guest post. Rocket?

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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?

Answer: A RandBall running diary.
 
Saturday, March 17, 6:15 AM – I am starting this day at the unseemly hour because I am about a five hour drive from the cities and if I have any hope of getting to game one on time I’m going to have to hit the road by at least 7:30. I am not a morning person and I am especially unenthusiastic about being awake before the sun rises. Nonetheless, I refuse to be denied the rare opportunity to see a hockey doubleheader. The Wild are clashing with my recently adopted team, the Carolina Hurricanes, at 1:00 with the championship game of the WCHA Final Five set for the puck drop at 7:00. Tickets for the Wild have not been hard to come by for a while now and the equally baffling, if otherwise completely different, losses by the Gophers and the Bulldogs strongly suggest that tickets for the WCHA championship won’t be impossible either. Luckily, I set out my clothes for the day the night before, including my sweet UNC hockey jersey, and it looks like I will be getting out of the door on time.
 
10:00 AM – I can’t wait for Beyond the Pond. Not only will it help me kill the last two hours of the car trip, but it’s going to be a lot of fun after Minnesota’s epic collapse to UND. Like RandBall, I have seen both sides of the UND/Minnesota rivalry and I am having a hard time imagining life without it. I will forever hold much loyalty to Minnesota for my time spent at the institution, but I just can’t help but feel that the school and the Big Ten as a whole have ruined college hockey with this stupid new conference. Maybe I’ll learn to hate Penn State someday, but I really just can’t envision there ever being the same level of intensity of that tremendous 2008 Gophers/Mavericks first round series or the venom for St. Cloud State or the same level of big brother swagger the Gophers hold over the four other D-1 hockey programs in the state. Yeah, yeah, we can still hate Wisconsin and blah, blah, blah. One real rival isn’t going to replace the almost weekly hate-fest the WCHA is able to produce.
 
10:30 AM – Beyond the Pond never disappoints. One host is really good, thinks through what he has to say, and is very slick. Another is still a little rough around the edges, but often makes salient points. The third ways whatever pops into his head. I’ll let you guess who is who.
 
12:03 PM – I arrive at RandBall’s house and he informs me that not only is there a hockey game at the X, and not only is it St. Patrick’s Day, but that there is some sort of parade taking place and it is unseasonably warm. It is becoming more and more clear that the nearest parking spot might be in St. Cloud. Also, I can’t help but notice that RandBall seems quieter than usual. Is something wrong?
 
 
12:50 PM – Having parked away from the crowds but still within walking distance, we were able to make our way to the epicenter of the ridiculousness reasonably quickly. The haggling for the tickets with the scalpers was short and sweet. We shaved maybe a little more than 40 percent off of the face value, leaving us with almost moderately priced tickets for where we are going to sit. The guy selling the tickets practically shook our hands with tears in his eyes after our first counteroffer. Just how long can the Wild continue to charge those prices with the product it is putting on the ice? I’ll say…until January 14, 2013.
 
12:52 PM – As we make our way through the horde of humanity to the arena I don’t think I can say that I fear for my life exactly, but I can’t say that I don’t either. There is a certain kind of rowdiness hanging in the air; the kind that has a way of dropping on peoples’ heads like the anvil on the coyote in the old cartoons. I start hustling to the arena because it feels like the fuse has been lit and I would prefer to be inside the building when whatever is at the end of that fuse goes off.
 
1:07 PM – Dave Hakstol and George Gwozdecky, the coaches for the Final Five championship game, give the ceremonial “Let’s Play Hockey” invocation. Hakstol is lustily booed. Somewhere (likely no more than five hundred yards from us) Clarence Swamptown punches someone or something dressed like a leprechaun. RandBall remains distant and seemingly distracted.
 
1:18 PM – The first seven minutes of the Wild/Hurricanes game sees two weak goals and one weak fight. Everybody on the ice looks like they would rather be at the parade.
 
 
2:03 PM – If you are a long time sports fan (and of course you are, if you are reading this blog) then you know that one the greatest joys in going to a game is getting to occasionally watch some clown who knows next to nothing about the sport try to explain what’s happening in the game and/or around the league to the unfortunate woman sitting next to him who knows nothing about the sport. The things that come out of this blustery fool’s mouth are so often comedy gold and can turn even a relatively boring game – such as this one – into a dangerously thrilling roller coaster ride of idiocy with all kinds of leaps in logic, shaky proclamations, and twisting, looping streams of pointlessness. The blowhard sitting next to me has strapped us all in for the afternoon and is bound and determined to take us for quite a ride. I can’t help but really start to pay attention when he declares, “That’s why I quit watching the Wild two years ago. Because they stink.”
 
2:11 PM – Carolina stretches together a furious rush, the high point of which is Eric Staal hitting the pipe on a shot that had Matt Hackett beat. My newfound source of amusement, who apparently thinks that the world is dying to hear his public declaration about everything that happens at all times, once again voices his displeasure with the local squad. “You know what? I’m clapping if Carolina scores.” Time stops and the very earth shakes at this terrifying possibility and I swear I see Cal Clutterbuck look up at us, trying not to bawl and vowing that he’ll grow a second or even a third moustache it that is what it will take to keep this invaluable man-god from denying his love and/or life essence from the franchise.
 
2:24 PM – A couple of quick goals give the Wild their first lead in a game in approximately seven years. They are up 3-1 and looking like they finally realized how close they have been to losing the good graces of the man-god who was so furious only moments ago.
 
2:28 PM – Aaaaaaand Carolina gets one back. Both teams are almost equally awful in the standings, but they seem to be on different trajectories. The Wild, of course, was incredibly hot over the first two months of the season and has been unbelievably awful since, raising questions about the young coach and much of the roster. Carolina, on the other hand, buried itself early in the season but has been playing really well since Kirk Muller took over. I’ve watched plenty of both of these teams this year and, despite the present deficit for the Hurricanes, I’ve got a pretty good idea of how this one is going to end.
 
2:45 PM – Oh sweet sassy molassey, no. No, no, no. He is trying to engage me in conversation. He has noticed my sweet UNC hockey jersey and now he wants to tell me how he is a fan of Michael Jordan. Oh dear heavens, make it stop. I don’t want to have to explain anything to him. I don’t want to tell him how I got the jersey or who I am rooting for or how I came to be sitting in the X today or even the time of day. I know if this conversation starts its just going to be me desperately trying not to get frustrated while I search for a polite way to refute every stupid thing he says. The best defense in this situation is short, polite answers to questions while stealthily seeking out an opportunity to turn and begin a very important conversation with RandBall. After a brief engagement, I turn to a very unhelpful RandBall who refuses to throw me a life preserver. He still looks distant. I ask him if something is wrong and his voice meekly trails off as he says, “No, not really …”
 
3:05 PM – In the space of about two and a half game time minutes the Wild drew a penalty, threw the power play away by taking a bad penalty, gave up the tying goal, and then gave up the go-ahead goal. There was some half-hearted booing from the crowd after the penalty, but since everybody in the building knew what was coming there seemed to be no point in putting too much effort into it. The sense of dread was so great even the blowhard was incapable of doing anything other than gulping his beer after the go-ahead goal. The Wild is in a bad way, folks. [Proprietor note: The Wild is 2-0 since Rocket left town. Just sayin' ...]
 
3:21 PM – Please just make it stop. This time it was the blowhard’s female companion. She also noticed the sweet UNC jersey and said, “I’ll bet that guy from Carolina is happy.” Pretend you didn’t hear it. Just keep staring straight ahead. Where the [redacted] is RandBall when I could use him? Sure, he’s sitting right next to me, but it’s like he’s a million miles away.
 
3:28 PM – Chad LaRose first puts the puck and then himself into the empty net to make it 5-3 Hurricanes. The game is effectively over and so is my ability to hide from whatever is happening outside the X right now.
 
3:35 PM – Unusually quiet today or not, it’s nice to have RandBall around because he is still pretty familiar with the ins and outs of the Twin Cities. Happily, the bacchanal is relatively confined and after heading north for a block or two we were able to escape most of the tomfoolery. I have to believe that St. Patrick is easily the most embarrassed saint in all of heaven. I imagine that, as he looked down upon the woman in the gold pants, green tank top, and shamrock shaped green sunglasses holding a beer above her head in the middle of the street yelling, “Woooooooo, St. Patrick’s Day,” he shook his head, turned to the other saints, and said, “Seriously guys, you know this is not me. You know I'm not like this at all and I don’t know why they do this every year. I don’t even know that woman. This is so embarrassing. It’s the worst part of my annual review every time.”

Monday (Gophers are the champions) edition: Wha' Happened?

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated: March 19, 2012 - 10:20 AM

 

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.

Friday (Treasure Gophers vs. UND hockey tonight) edition: Wha' Happened?

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated: March 16, 2012 - 9:44 AM

 

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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