Christian Wolanin turned pro last spring, signing a three-year contract with the Ottawa Senators.
But his family’s college allegiances haven’t gone anywhere.
Wolanin’s father, Craig, drove from his home in suburban Detroit across the state of Michigan to Kalamazoo to watch UND’s game against Western Michigan on Saturday night.
Craig, who played 13 seasons in the NHL for the New Jersey Devils, Quebec Nordiques, Colorado Avalanche, Tampa Bay Lightning and Toronto Maple Leafs, wore a UND hat, watched the game from the stands and greeted the coaching staff by the locker room afterward.
Craig has long expressed how much he enjoyed Christian being at UND for three seasons. Despite the fact that Craig won a Stanley Cup as an alternate captain with the Colorado Avalanche in 1996, he told the Herald last season that watching Christian win the 2016 NCAA national championship was his favorite hockey experience.
"From my perspective, it was probably the best hockey experience I'd ever been a part of,” Craig said. “There was real joy and an innocence, if you will, in them winning it. We had so much fun. It was a terrific experience from the parents to the team to the upperclassmen welcoming in the underclassmen.
"I thought that was the epitome of a hockey team where literally every person on that team contributed in some form or way. If you go back to when Cameron (Johnson) got hurt and Matt Hrynkiw stepped in to Christian being inserted in the final game to Luke Johnson going out and someone having to fill in. They needed everyone. And everyone contributed. It was absolutely terrific.
"And that doesn't even start to make a person fully understand what UND hockey is all about. When we went there, the fans and students and alumni just covered downtown Tampa. It was absolutely amazing."
Craig’s trip to watch UND play is not uncommon among parents of former players -- including those from Michigan.
Jim and Darcy Greene, the parents of former UND captain Matt Greene, frequently drove from their home in Grand Ledge, Mich., to the Upper Peninsula to watch UND play Michigan Tech long after Matt had turned pro.
The Greenes even hosted UND at their home when the Fighting Hawks played at Michigan State during Christian’s freshman season of 2015-16 -- 11 years after Matt’s last game at UND.
Christian also has crossed paths with UND this season.
His Ottawa Senators were in Las Vegas to take on the Golden Knights when UND played Minnesota in the Hall of Fame Game in October. Christian stopped by the locker room after UND's 3-1 win.
For the season, Wolanin has played 12 games for Ottawa, tallying three goals and five points. He also has played 34 games for Ottawa’s top minor-league club, the Belleville Senators, tallying six goals and 23 points.
Wolanin played in the AHL All-Star Game and was on the winning three-on-three team.