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Phoebe Hanson, 9, sleeps during the West Fargo and Bismarck High School hockey game as her mother, Patty, looks at the roster Thursday afternoon during the North Dakota State High School hockey tournament. Phoebe and her family traveled from Seattle this morning to watch her cousin, Alex Hanson, play for Williston. "She's probably going to sleep through it," her grandmother, Pat Hanson, joked. Herald photo by Sarah Kolberg.

SHIFTING ICE: North Dakota state high school hockey tournament

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SHIFTING ICE: North Dakota state high school hockey tournament
Grand Forks North Dakota 375 2nd Ave. N. 58203

Grand Forks has been home to the North Dakota state high school hockey tournament for 49 of its 50 years.

But in 2014, the tournament likely will be held in Fargo. It's also likely that it won't be a once-in-a-half-century occurrence in the future.

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The reason is that the North Dakota High School Activities Association is sharing the wealth for hosting state tournaments. There's no better example of that than Grand Forks, which went almost 30 years without holding a state basketball tournament. But it's been home to two state hoops events in recent years and has landed the 2012 Class B boys tournament, considered the plum of them all.

"If the venue is capable and the people want it, the recent history has been to spread the tournaments around more," said Todd Olson, Grand Forks athletic director.

A possible move to Fargo

Olson also is a member of the North Dakota High School Activities Association's tournament committee. The committee has recommended Fargo's Urban Plains Center for 2014, but it isn't official yet. The reason is that it has only one ice sheet. At least two rinks are needed because the girls and boys tournaments are played simultaneously.

Earlier this week, UPC officials said they are close to selling the facility's naming rights. The naming rights money will allow them to add another ice sheet.

Olson doesn't dispute the move to Fargo because of the NDHSAA's recent shift in approach. For instance, the Class B boys basketball tournament was held in either Bismarck or Minot for decades.

"I think we have the best facility and the best (fan) following, but it goes along with what has been done recently," he said.

Last year's tournament included a lot of grumbling because the UND men's team was playing at home the same weekend, meaning some games were shifted to Purpur Arena and/or to 10 a.m. starting times.

Olson said the spring meeting of the tournament committee will address what will be done in years when the men's hockey team is again at home during the state meet. Starting the high school season a week earlier or a week later is one option, he said. But there's the possibility of even greater complications in the future.

"What happens if state hockey is the same weekend that the UND men are home and the UND women are hosting the WCHA playoffs?" Olson asked rhetorically. "With the Lamoureux girls coming to UND, that's a lot more likely to happen."

Ron Seeley, the radio play-by-play announcer for Williston High School, said the tournament should be moved elsewhere if the Sioux are also in action.

"It was a mess last year when they were bused to the Purpur and they were playing in the morning," he said. "I know the (hockey players) will be a little disappointed if they can't play here because they love the arena, but on the other hand, the atmosphere will be better in a 5,000-seat arena.

"On championship night, you'll have to fight for a ticket. That's good."

Probably won't move west

West Region teams don't have the facility to hold a state hockey tournament, he said. The Bismarck Civic Center has the seating, "but its ice is not good," Seeley said.

Dave Carlsrud, assistant to the executive secretary of the NDHSAA, said North Dakota is the envy of other high school groups nationwide.

"They can't believe how facility-rich we are," he said. "They're happy to have one facility able to handle a state tournament. We have four cities that can handle any tournament and a bunch of smaller cities that can handle smaller tournaments."

Reach Bakken at (701) 780-1125; (800) 477-6572, ext. 125; or send e-mail to rbakken@gfherald.com.

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