There'll be plenty of new in the new year
As we look back at the biggest local sports stories of 2010, the results read like the Witness Protection Program. It's all about a new home and a name change. A new conference home (Big Sky Conference) now awaits the majority of the UND athletic...
As we look back at the biggest local sports stories of 2010, the results read like the Witness Protection Program.
It's all about a new home and a name change.
A new conference home (Big Sky Conference) now awaits the majority of the UND athletic programs, while a new nickname is off in UND's horizon after the school began its retirement of the Fighting Sioux nickname in April.
There was a lot of change coming out of Hyslop Sports Center in 2010, albeit of varying swiftness. The Big Sky's swooning of UND was a rushed, last-second swoop before the lagging Summit League could take action. Meanwhile, movement along the Sioux nickname front was as slow and painful to watch as Brett Favre the past four months.
The past year brought us reunions, like the Sioux and Bison rekindling a men's basketball rivalry dormant for seven years. It also brought us bitter breakups, like the disbandment of the long-standing Dakota Athletic Conference.
While the national media and NBA followers anticipated LeBron James' choice for free agency this year, Grand Forks sweated out Chay Genoway's version of Decision 2010. Eventually, Genoway recovered from a season-ending injury, received a medical redshirt and announced (without the assistance of Jim Gray) that he would be bringing his talents to South Forks for a fifth and final season.
The year in UND hockey was highlighted by two respectable returns: the resilience of Genoway after shaking off lingering headaches and the humbling suspension and reinstatement of Matt Frattin after shaking off a partying lifestyle.
The pair's return means 2010 will close with UND hockey fans hoping the team has written the first few chapters -- penned behind UND's best pre-Christmas start in the Dave Hakstol Era and Frattin's rise to Hobey Baker consideration -- to the storybook ending of the Fighting Sioux nickname, punctuated with an eighth national championship in front of a partisan crowd at the Frozen Four in St. Paul.
An anticipated return of another UND star, running back Josh Murray, suspended one season for academic reasons, couldn't prevent the Sioux football team from finishing with its first losing season in eight years in 2010. Meanwhile, 75 miles south, North Dakota State shook off two dismal losing seasons to host its first playoff game in the Fargodome -- before a questionable call put the brakes on a surprising run to the FCS quarterfinals.
The Sioux hockey team might not have been able to add to their rich championship history when a promising 2009-10 season abruptly ended in March in an NCAA tournament loss to Yale. But a number of local teams continued their dominance, notably Grand Forks Central which won its 25th state hockey championship, Grand Forks Red River boys and girls tennis teams which won their 13th and ninth straight state championships and the Warroad girls hockey team which added to the hockey history of Hockeytown USA with a state championship.
New faces on the local coaching scene hit the ground running. Scott Oliver at East Grand Forks Senior High pulled off a surprising section football championship, while Ashley Hardee led the Sioux volleyball team to back-to-back Great West Conference titles. And an old face, Dean Blais, went to Nebraska-Omaha, where he's already making the new-to-the-WCHA Mavericks a contender.
At the national level, UND's Jonathan Toews and Roseau's Dustin Byfuglien of the Blackhawks chased down a Stanley Cup for Chicago for the first time since 1961. Former Sioux teammates Zach Parise and Travis Zajac became a formidable combination for the New Jersey Devils and a total of more than 10 former Sioux players saw time in the NHL during 2010.
Jim Kleinsasser carried on as the longest-tenured Minnesota Viking, Chris Kuper solidified his role on the Denver Broncos offensive line, Weston Dressler turned in another dazzling season with the CFL's Saskatchewan Roughriders and Brooks Bollinger wrapped up a second UFL campaign, defending last season's league MVP award with the Florida Tuskers.
Grand Forks made waves at the international level, as well, establishing a strong presence at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. UND hockey players and Grand Forks natives, Monique and Jocelyne Lamoureux, helped the United States to a second-place finish in women's hockey, contributing to America's top finish in total medals at the Games. In men's hockey, Toews (Canada) and Parise (U.S.) were stars for their respective countries in the men's hockey gold-medal game, which became the most-watched broadcast in Canadian history.
The year 2010 started with Grand Forks superfan Mark Kauk gracing the cover of the Herald sports pages as the sportsman of the year. It closes with the Lamoureux twins splashed across the sports front as recipients of the same honor.
As Kauk might accurately declare, "Yup," a lot's changed in a year.
Miller reports on sports. Reach him at (701) 780-1121; (800) 477-6572, ext. 121; or send e-mail to email@example.com .