NORTH DAKOTA GIRLS HOCKEY TOURNAMENT: In the big show
It's a long way from the days of pick-up hockey on the neighborhood ice rink. Maddie Hieb had only to cross the street from her Fargo home to lace up her skates and get it on. But that was then; this is now. Today, the freshman and the rest of he...
It's a long way from the days of pick-up hockey on the neighborhood ice rink.
Maddie Hieb had only to cross the street from her Fargo home to lace up her skates and get it on.
But that was then; this is now. Today, the freshman and the rest of her Fargo North Spartans hockey squad will take center stage in one of the most extravagant ice arenas in the world, to vie for a state title.
"The best part of it all is playing in a bigger arena," Hieb said. "It feels like you're playing at a higher level."
Fargo North faces off against West Fargo at 11:30 a.m. today in the girls title game in Ralph Engelstad Arena.
Chris and Margie Hieb, Maddie's proud parents, are having a ball, too, this weekend.
"It doesn't get any better than this - this place is a palace," Chris said, during a post-game respite after Fargo North dispatched the Bismarck Blizzard in the semifinals.
This is the first time girls high school hockey has been played in the $104 million arena, often called the shrine to college hockey. The boys tournament has been played there since 2002.
"It's always special whenever you get to come to this place, but when you actually know somebody out there playing, it makes it even more special," said Margie Hieb.
The only drawback about girls hockey in The Ralph, according to many, was the sparse number of fans. The sea of 11,400 Kelly green seats that surround the rink made the 100 or so fans who did show up look even smaller.
But even that wasn't a big complaint.
Marcia Lund, mother of Greta Lund of the Grand Forks KnightRiders, said she thinks the girls tournament has found a nice home.
"It's been a long, long time in coming," Lund said. "If we can showcase girls high school hockey here, I think it will grow."
Engelstad Arena and Fido Purpur Arena are co-hosts for this year's boys and girls tournaments.
For the past two years, the girls championships have been held in western North Dakota, far from the epicenter for hockey in the state.
Even the Dickinson (N.D.) Press, official newspaper of the city that held the first girls tournament, recently came out with an editorial saying the games belonged in The Ralph. Dickinson played host to the first tournament after no other city or venue bid for it.
Lund said the western hosts have been wonderful, but she tends to agree that it just feels right to have the games in Grand Forks. The state boys' tournament has been held in Grand Forks every year, except one, since 1961. Fargo had the tournament in 1971.
Maddie Hieb said the ice quality is incredible in The Ralph, and "very fast."
"It gives you a little extra adrenaline out there," she said.
She only had one minor complaint - the building was too warm.
Sheila Lagodinski, mother of McKenzie, a back-up goalie for Fargo North, said she's perfectly content with the warmth and comfort of The Ralph.
"This place is phenomenal - it's just an honor to be here," she said.
Reach Dodds at (701) 780-1110; (800) 477-6572, ext. 110; or firstname.lastname@example.org .