VIRG FOSS: Changes are in the windI’m like many of you, there’s nothing I look forward to more all year than the arrival of the Sioux-Gopher hockey series. But this could well be the last time the Gophers and Fighting Sioux meet under the team's current nicknames if the Fighting Sioux nickname is retired. That would be a shame.
By: Virg Foss, Grand Forks Herald
I’m like many of you, there’s nothing I look forward to more all year than the arrival of the Sioux-Gopher hockey series.
It doesn’t matter where they’re ranked nationally, or which one is doing better in the league. Nothing else matters when this special weekend arrives. It’s our beloved Fighting Sioux against the hated Golden Gophers.
Yet there’s a different storyline running though this series. It could well be the last time the Gophers and Fighting Sioux meet under those names. Who knows what UND will be next year, if the nickname goes away?
I’ve said this before. The worst move UND could make would be to foist a new nickname upon its fans. The feelings will be raw a long time over losing the nickname. Fans will not readily accept a new name. Trust me on that.
You’ll hear the Fighting Sioux name in cheers at UND games for years to come. You’ll see Fighting Sioux jerseys worn proudly by UND fans, maybe forever.
So I go into this Sioux-Gopher series feeling the usual excitement over this keen rivalry, but with mixed emotions, too.
A former WCHA coach said this about the Fighting Sioux hockey program this week: “They treat the symbol with the ultimate respect. Always did. What a travesty of justice that we need to be so PC in a time we are searching for heroes.”
No matter what UND’s teams are called in the future, nothing will ever be as distinct as the Fighting Sioux name, Or the classic Sioux jersey, voted the best in all of hockey, worn with pride by fans and players.
Losing all that hurts. It stings far more than losing two games to the Gophers. Losing two to the Gophers can be changed next meeting, or next year. Losing the Sioux name is forever.
Times are changing, not all for the good, not all over the nickname, either.
The biggest fan UND has had since I started reporting on Sioux hockey in 1969 has been my mother, Maebel. My mom loves her son. Her son loves Sioux hockey. So naturally, my mom does, too. That’s what moms do. Go Sioux, she’s always said.
There’s great uncertainty over what UND’s teams will be called in the future. What would a new logo look like? At the same time, these are uncertain times for myself personally.
My mother will turn 103 in March. Her life changes daily, usually for the worse. There’s nothing I can do about it. She needs more care every week. My sister and I make the tough decisions on how to make it better for her, or failing that, less painful, less difficult.
My mom always used to check the league standings to see where the Sioux were in the WCHA race. She doesn’t do that anymore. She doesn’t talk about Sioux hockey unless I bring it up. So that mother/son sports bond so strong for years is loosening. It saddens me, depresses me.
It’s been a few years now that my mother quit coming up to my lake cabin. Travel was too difficult, too long, for her. Every summer, I feel that emptiness in my heart, knowing she won’t be back.
Nothing lasts forever, I understand that. Apparently not the team nickname, in the case of the UND Fighting Sioux. Not my mother, who finds life more difficult by the day.
Yes indeed changes are in the wind. And they frighten me, worry me, and disturb me, beyond words.
Foss is a Hall of Fame journalist who reported on sports for 36 years for the Herald until his retirement. He writes a weekly column from October through April. Contact him at email@example.com or at (701) 772-9272.