Destination games made new UND hockey fans in Hawaii and Newfoundland. They're coming to Vegas for more
Maui native Steve Morton's first hockey game was the 2018 UND-Minnesota game in Las Vegas. He's headed back for this one.
LAS VEGAS — Steve Morton had never watched a hockey game in his life.
"Not even on TV," he said.
He was born and raised on Maui, and there's not much hockey happening there.
But he heard all about it from his daughter, Haunani, who was introduced to UND hockey while playing college softball at Lake Region State in Devils Lake.
The Mortons made friends in North Dakota and those friends invited Steve and his wife, Roxanne, to join them in Las Vegas for the 2018 U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game between rivals UND and Minnesota. They did.
"It was very interesting how the people get into the game," Steve said. "It was surprising. The crowd really gets into it and it's very loud when they get roaring. It's kind of neat for us, because we don't have that caliber of games on my island. On Oahu, there's a bigger college, but on my island, everything is just high school."
UND won the game 3-1 and the Mortons were hooked.
They've since attended two games in Ralph Engelstad Arena, and Steve even watches games on TV back in Hawaii.
"I didn't understand the game at first, but now I do," he said. "I've been picking up things here and there. I'm starting to know the cheers and stuff, too, which is interesting."
Steve and Roxanne will be back in Vegas on Saturday night for another UND destination game. This time, the Fighting Hawks will take on Arizona State in T-Mobile Arena, home of the NHL's Vegas Golden Knights.
Fans are expected to come from at least 43 different states, six Canadian provinces and three European countries to attend the game and take part in the festivities surrounding it.
"I hope it's a good game like the first one I saw," Steve said. "That was a pretty good game."
Traveling from Newfoundland
Michael Pretty's first UND hockey game was in 2016.
Pretty's longtime friend, UND alum Bob Bredesen, suggested they meet up New York City to watch UND play Boston College in a destination game.
Pretty made the trip from his home in Portugal Cove, Newfoundland, to Manhattan.
"We went to the game and I said, 'This is awesome. When's the next one?'" Pretty said.
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He will be making the 4,000-mile trip to Las Vegas for this weekend's U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game, flying from St. John to Halifax to Winnipeg to Vegas.
While in Vegas, he also plans to attend the Golden Knights vs. Winnipeg Jets game on Sunday — a particularly notable matchup for him because Winnipeg's top minor-league affiliate, the IceCaps, used to be in Newfoundland and he cheers for the Jets.
But the highlight will be UND's game against Arizona State. Pretty said he hopes the experience is as good as the one in New York City.
"I loved it," he said. "There was lots of action. It was back-and-forth. And the best team won in the end, so that was cool."
U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game
Who: No. 6 UND vs. Arizona State.
When: 9:07 p.m. Saturday.
Where: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas.
TV: Midco Sports (GF Ch. 27/622 HD).
Radio: The Fox (96.1 FM).