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VIRG FOSS: UND at the Olympics

When Cal Marvin and Dan McKinnon drove from their home in Warroad, Minn., to Grand Forks to talk UND athletic director Glenn “Red” Jarrett into adding a hockey program at UND, they had high hopes, big dreams.

Jarrett did indeed agree to begin a team in 1947-48, one that upset mighty Michigan that season in Ann Arbor to mark UND’s signature entry into big-time college hockey.

As I watch the Winter Olympics wind down, I think we can’t thank enough people like Marvin, McKinnon, Ginny Christian, John Noah and others of that era for this great gift they brought to us in the late 40s, one that that keeps on giving.

Noah, Christian and McKinnon later became silver medalists in Olympic hockey, the first hockey players from UND to become Olympic medalists.

This year, there are an amazing eight current or former UND players taking part on Olympic hockey teams for the United States, Canada, Finland and Germany.

And as much as two guys from Warroad, Marvin and McKinnon, left their lasting marks 67 years ago in bringing hockey to UND, a young man named T.J. Oshie, also from Warroad and also a former UND player, stole the Olympic spotlight this year.

In this day and age where professional athletes shout and act out their personal greatness over team or country, Oshie showed us the exact opposite.

He scored four times in six tries in a shootout to beat Russia on its home turf. It was one of the most remarkable and dramatic scenes I have ever witnessed in sports.

The entire hockey world was focused on Oshie’s heroics. The world was his oyster. He could shout out his personal greatness from the highest peak.

He did the opposite, in an act of humbleness that should be remembered as much as his unbelievable achievement.

When he scored on his final chance to win the game for Team USA, Oshie didn’t puff out his jersey or scream his greatness. He did the opposite.

He turned and pointed at the other end of the rink to shift attention to USA goalie Jonathan Quick, who had made a remarkable save moments earlier to give Oshie another chance to win it.

And he took a step beyond that later on. When asked at the post-game press conference what it felt like to be a newly minted American hero, Oshie replied with the quote of the Games:

“American heroes wear camo. That’s not me.”

Grace under greatness.

The vision of Marvin and McKinnon and the boys of 1947-48 to bring hockey to UND means that 67 years later, we have now seen 27 Olympic hockey players come through our university in Grand Forks.

We’re drawn deep into the Winter Olympics because these people we see competing from Olympic sites around the world were part of us for a bit in this section of the world.

We know them. We cheer for them. We celebrate their success. We cry with them in defeat.

It makes us truly appreciate the greatness of the UND hockey program and the respect it has carved on a national and world basis. It’s quite unique to us.

So let’s never forget the boys who brought the sport here 67 years ago.

And let’s remember the gift from Ralph Engelstad for this spectacular rink bearing his name that ensures the program remains in a place of prominence.

Virg Foss reported on sports for the Grand Forks Herald for 36 years until his retirement. He writes a column exclusively for the Herald from October through April. Contact him at or (701) 772-9272.