UND hockey team, fans stranded as I-29 is shut downA winter storm stranded the UND men’s hockey team and its throng of traveling fans in towns along Interstate 29 in South Dakota on Sunday after a weekend series at Nebraska Omaha.
By: Brad Elliott Schlossman, Grand Forks Herald
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — A winter storm stranded the UND men’s hockey team and its throng of traveling fans in towns along Interstate 29 in South Dakota on Sunday after a weekend series at Nebraska Omaha.
The team bus, which left Omaha late Saturday night after a 5-2 win in an outdoor game at T.D. Ameritrade Park, was stuck in Sisseton, S.D., after officials closed Interstate 29 from Watertown, S.D., to Fargo.
“Lots of things out of your control,” said UND coach Dave Hakstol, who was hopeful that his team could resume its trip home Monday morning or afternoon. “We’ve handled everything pretty well over the weekend.”
The team bus stopped in Summit, S.D., overnight and spent several hours at a gas station. In the morning, they tried to go again, but only made it 30 miles to Sisseton.
“The plan was to get as close to Fargo as we could,” UND junior defenseman Dillon Simpson said. “We went about 25 miles in two-and-a-half hours, then they closed the highway.”
Sunday was Simpson’s 20th birthday. He spent it at a Sisseton hotel with his teammates.
“This is one I’ll remember, that’s for sure,” he said. “Not necessarily in a good way.”
Hakstol said he only remembers one other incident like this in his 13 years at UND as an assistant coach or head coach. On the way home from Duluth, Minn., about five or six years ago, the team bus had a problem with ice and they spent the night on the side of the road.
A larger-than-normal number of UND fans traveled to Omaha for the series to watch UND’s first outdoor game in program history. They took over Omaha for three days, then populated towns and hotels throughout South Dakota, most of them in Sioux Falls, Brookings and Watertown.
“I guess the takeover isn’t over yet,” UND marketing director David Primus said.
The Nodak Nation student-fan bus, which left after the game Saturday night with 55 people, was stranded in Summit, a town of 288 people.
The fan bus arrived at about 3 a.m., and spent two hours at the same gas station as the team.
Gas station employees called workers to plow the road to the Community Center, where the students arrived at 5:30 a.m. and spent the night. The mayor of the town came to the Community Center on Sunday afternoon to make sloppy joes for lunch for the students.
The owner of the local bar and grill cooked a large pot of chili for dinner. Others caught naps on gymnastics mats in the gym during the day.
“We’re very lucky that everyone has been so great,” said Primus, who was on the student-fan bus. “We could easily have been sitting on a bus the whole time.”
Elsewhere in South Dakota, bars and restaurants were flooded with UND fans, who waited out the blizzard. And despite the travel difficulties, they said it didn’t ruin the trip, which featured two UND wins.
“Worth it,” said UND fan Wayne Jacobson, who made the trip on a bus from Hazen, N.D., and was stuck in Sioux Falls. “Wouldn’t have missed it for anything. We’ll be talking about this for a long time.
“We got Hakstol to smile. That was worth the whole trip.”
Simpson also said it was a memorable trip, in large part because of the fans, although he did admit it was getting a bit long on Sunday.
“Saturday, we woke up early for the game, went back to the hotel and there was the delay,” Simpson said. “It seemed like the day was never going to end. And basically, it didn’t.”
Call Schlossman at (701) 780-1129; (800) 477-6572, ext. 1129; or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.