TOM MILLER COLUMN: UND hockey team on a mission
ST. PAUL -- Dave Hakstol and Mario Lamoureux were on a mission to keep focus. The UND coach and his captain stressed all week at every press obligation that they wouldn't be distracted by the historical significance of the weekend. Anything takin...
ST. PAUL -- Dave Hakstol and Mario Lamoureux were on a mission to keep focus.
The UND coach and his captain stressed all week at every press obligation that they wouldn't be distracted by the historical significance of the weekend. Anything taking place off the ice wasn't given any thought, they said.
They wouldn't let the team get caught up in the Fighting Sioux nickname hoopla, a saga that's latest turn meant UND's spotlight sport hit the playoff ice Saturday without being known as the Fighting Sioux for the first time since 1929.
The noteworthy moment in the timeline of events also meant the two fielded questions on the subject from local, regional and national media time and time again.
"Mario said it best," Hakstol said of the senior from Grand Forks. "We came here to win a hockey game -- that's our main focus. He wasn't just saying that; that's truly been our main focus. It hasn't been an issue for our hockey team."
UND's ability to block out the distractions played a key part in the team's 3-1 win over Western Michigan in the first round of the NCAA West Regional at the Xcel Energy Center.
That's no small feat considering the uniqueness of the day.
During the pregame skate, Sioux fans got their first live look at UND's new jerseys, which had been oddly kept hidden from the public eye, save for a few cellphone pictures that circulated online in the wee hours Friday morning.
The new jerseys were a highly anticipated view, as they don't feature the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo for the first time in years. For a short time in the mid 1990's UND's jerseys also just said North Dakota on the front.
When the game started Saturday, the university couldn't refer to itself as the Fighting Sioux due to sanctions on NCAA-sponsored events, but that meant little to many of the more than 9,000 in attendance.
UND jerseys with the Sioux logo, which ironically could be purchased at the Minnesota Wild gift shop within the arena, were the dominant attire, while one fan even had a sign that read "Fighting Sioux Forever." Before the game, Sioux fans loudly booed a video on the center-ice jumbotron featuring NCAA president Mark Emmert, whose organization had deemed the school's Fighting Sioux nickname and logo "hostile and abusive."
That "hostile and abusive" distinction set in motion the twists and turns that led to Saturday's omission of the Sioux nickname and logo.
Then, as school tradition goes, UND fans capped the national anthem with "the home of the Sioux," a loud cheer with extra emphasis considering the scenario.
After the game, Hakstol said his team has been getting accustomed to taking the nickname drama in stride.
"We've been dealing with this for two years," he said.
It was then brought to Hakstol's attention that UND is 1-0 in the new jerseys. The stern coach, however, was in no mood for joking around.
"I'm not making light of this in any way, shape or form," Hakstol said.
Miller reports on sports. Reach him at (701) 780-1121; (800) 477-6572, ext. 121; or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org .