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VIRG FOSS: Take time to enjoy the journey

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sports Grand Forks, 58203

Grand Forks North Dakota 375 2nd Ave. N. 58203

When I accepted an offer to join the Grand Forks Herald sports staff in 1969, the lure of covering UND Fighting Sioux hockey was the attraction that brought me to town.

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I had lived in Grand Forks for a couple of years in junior high days. My dad took me to some Fighting Sioux games in the old unheated Barn.

That's all it took to ignite my passion for college hockey in general and eventually for UND hockey.

It was a dream job, covering an elite level of talent coming into the program and reporting on 14 NCAA tournament trips for UND _ and five national championships.

We've come to expect success involving UND hockey. It wasn't always like that.

When I arrived in 1969, it took nine seasons before UND won a league title and made it to the NCAA finals in the 1978-79 season in Gino Gasparini's first year as head coach.

National titles followed in 1980, 1982 and 1987 under Gasparini and later on under Dean Blais, in 1997 and 2000.

But now we're winding down the 14th season since the last NCAA title. It proves once again it's good to enjoy the journey as well because the pot at the end of the rainbow is not always filled with gold, at least not for your favorite team.

I couldn't help but think of that this week as I listened to Herald sports guys Wayne Nelson and Tom Miller talk about the great excitement surrounding the first-ever appearance of the women's basketball team in the NCAA tournament.

It was a one-and-done trip to the home court of former national champion Texas A&M, yes, but UND showed very well and came back with a hunger for more to build on.

I remember vividly the hoopla surrounding the 1978-79 team arriving on the national scene after a stretch of bleak years of Sioux hockey.

The excitement level among the players, coaches, fans, and yes, media, was off the chart. UND did lose to Minnesota in the championship game in Detroit that season. But I'll always think of it as the year that UND finally stepped forward as a national power, with very few steps back since then.

One thing that always struck me while covering UND hockey was the stark contrast of the euphoria of watching a team you covered all season win a national title _ or watching your team lose along the way.

It was always such an empty feeling for me when UND lost in the regionals or Frozen Four. After seeing the grind players go through over seven months of games and practices, to have it all end in one loss brought pain and sorrow to players that could never be captured in words. I hated that.

In time, I learned to enjoy the journey each season. Not all teams I covered were of national championship caliber and I knew that. But there were always milestones and memorable moments along the way to appreciate. I learned to do that.

It was not hard for me to appreciate this year's UND team, certainly not the most talented I've seen, but one that scratched for everything it got.

It took a win in the consolation game of the conference tourney and some late-night help from Wisconsin and Mass.-Lowell for this team to eke into the national tournament.

Once there, anything can happen. Yale, the last team to make the 16-team tournament field last season, won the NCAA title.

Who'll wear the glass slipper this time?

Virg Foss reported on sports for the Grafnd Forks Herald for 36 seasons before retiring. He writes an exclusive weekly column for the Herald from October through April. Contact him at virgfoss@yahoo.com or at (701) 772-9272.

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