Since my retirement from full-time work in the newspaper business in 2005, April always signals the arrival of a bittersweet time of the year for me.
I ran into Todd Hoffner around a year ago at a Grand Forks establishment where we were both at the same blackjack table. I didn’t know who he was at first. But I soon learned he was the Minnesota State Mankato football coach who lost his job because of a charge that he had child pornography on his school-issued cell phone he had turned in for repairs.
Let me begin by saying this up front — I’ve never been prouder of a UND hockey team that lost in the NCAA Frozen Four than this year’s team. Underdogs, yes. Overachievers, yes. Scoffed at by the Las Vegas oddsmakers, yes. Losers? Not this team. This team won the admiration and appreciation of hockey fans everywhere, the Little Engine that Could of the college hockey world all season.
I talked to my sister Carol two days ago. She told me she was excited to watch the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) championship basketball game that night involving the Minnesota Gophers. “Why?” I asked her. “Who cares about the NIT?” “It’s called loyalty,” she said.
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. I had lived in Grand Forks for a couple of years in junior high days.
I took my dog, Lena, out for a walk Thursday afternoon. With her at my side, I didn’t need the start of the March Madness basketball tournament dominating the TV...
Pressure is the East Grand Forks Senior High boys having to beat Hermantown to win the school’s first state hockey championship. Pressure is Travis Brewster’s UND women’s basketball team needing to win the Big Sky Conference tournament on its home court. And by doing so, becoming the first non-hockey team from UND to make it to an NCAA Division I tournament.
I’ll admit it, I’m a low-tech guy traveling through a high-tech world. My cell phone is an older TracFone. It’s very inexpensive to own and operate. It looks the part. Its appearance is of the relic it is. It doesn’t take pictures, allow text messaging or connect me to the Internet. It enables me to make calls away from home, that’s about it. I rarely carry it with me, but do take it along on trips in case of an emergency. Even needed it for that — once.
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.
Did Dean Blais intentionally get himself ejected from last Saturday’s hockey game against UND in order to inspire his Nebraska-Omaha team to victory? We’ll never know, since Blais sent word after the game that he would not be coming out to talk to the media. That’s a shame, since he’s one of the most colorful and quotable coaches to come down the turnpike in college hockey.