U of M braces for hockey revelers: ‘There are no bystanders’
MINNEAPOLIS -- Hopes are high for the Minnesota Gophers men’s hockey team this weekend.
Hopes also are high that hometown fans celebrate “with class.”
University officials and Minneapolis police said Friday that they are prepared if revelers turn violent after Saturday night’s NCAA Frozen Four championship game in Philadelphia between the Gophers and Union College.
They are on high alert after a small melee after the Gophers’ semifinals win Thursday and previous game-day riots in the Dinkytown neighborhood adjacent to the university campus.
“This is a reminder to fans seeking to celebrate that they should do so appropriately,” Pamela Wheelock, vice president of university services, said Friday. “If things escalate, police make the distinction that there are no bystanders. If you are here, you are subject to arrest.”
Wheelock said university and Minneapolis police have been working together for two months to prepare for possible violence this weekend.
About 300 officers will patrol Dinkytown and surrounding neighborhoods Saturday, she said.
After Thursday’s last-second win over longtime rival North Dakota, hundreds of Gopher fans gathered in Dinkytown to celebrate — and the celebration got out of hand.
Unruly fans climbed on police cars, threw bottles and cans at officers, lit fires in trash cans and scaled lightposts. Dozens of police used tear gas and pepper spray to bring the crowd under control. Peace was restored by 1 a.m.
Ten people were arrested — nine for disorderly conduct and unlawful assembly, and one for minor consumption, university officials said.
“This was several hundred people gathered to celebrate, and a small few turned it into something negative,” said Wheelock, who commended police for acting quickly.
This wasn’t the first time Gophers hockey revelry has spiraled out of control.
In 2002, when the Gophers men’s hockey team won its first championship in 23 years, students rioted for more than six hours, set fires, smashed windows, jumped on cars and pelted police with rocks. Twenty-five people were arrested, and damages were estimated at more than $55,000.
In 2003, about 2,000 people gathered in Dinkytown to again celebrate the hockey team’s national title; things, again, turned violent. Cars were overturned and set ablaze; business windows were broken; signs were damaged; and emergency workers were pelted with bottles and rocks. About a dozen people were arrested.
The back-to-back championship riots led the university to change its student code of conduct, making it a punishable offense to engage in unlawful behavior off-campus if it stemmed from a university event.
This year, university officials are reminding students of the code and what it means for anyone who takes part in a melee — and even those who might watch one unfold.
“Bystanders … can be held accountable just for watching unlawful behavior,” Danita Brown Young, vice provost and dean of students, said Friday.
Sanctions range from “a warning all the way up to expulsion from this university.”
Student body president Mike Schmit called Thursday’s fracas “embarrassing.”
“Last night’s disturbance was not a good reflection of the university student body,” Schmit said, reminding students that “just being present means you are at risk of being arrested for unlawful assembly.”
Connor Johnson, 21, a student who lives about a block from Dinkytown and witnessed some of Thursday’s violence, said he plans to move his car from the area Saturday, out of concern it could be damaged, and will likely stay at his fraternity to celebrate.
“It’s definitely not worth getting arrested,” Johnson said. “After what happened last night, win or lose, I think it’s going to happen again.”
While university and city officials are also excited about Saturday’s potential title win, they said they hope students can keep their celebrations in check.
“You don’t score extra points by being an idiot after your team has already won the game,” Minneapolis City Council member Jacob Frey said. “We’re absolutely going to kick Union’s butt. And after, we might party all night. But we’re going to do so in a respectful and safe manner.”
He added, “We can win the game … and act with class.”
Joseph Lindberg contributed to this report. The Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service.