Ralph’s Rivalry Returns

The story behind the greatest rivalry of the upper Midwest

The 2016 NCAA championship banner is raised at the Ralph Engelstad Arena on September 30, 2016.

Nick Nelson

The 2016 NCAA championship banner is raised at the Ralph Engelstad Arena on September 30, 2016.

Jacob Notermann, Staff Writer

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When the University of North Dakota and the University of Minnesota first took the ice back in 1930, the players probably didn’t what they were about get their schools into.

Did they know Grand Forks and the Twin Cities would be linked forever? Did they know this one game would turn into an almost century-long war? Did they know one of the greatest rivalries of all time had just been conceived?

“There’s so much bad blood between everyone,” UND student Evan Damsgard said. “Everyone just plays up. Every player gives a 110 percent in these games. They know the tradition. They know the rivalry. They just play up to those expectations. I think that’s what makes it so much better of a game.””

— Evan Damsgard, UND student

Since that game in February of 1930, the two schools have been the Jordan vs. LeBron of collegiate hockey. Nearly 300 games later with only eight wins separating the two, this old-school athletics rivalry returns to the place where traditions never die. This will be the first time the Gophers enter Grand Forks since 2012, back when the two teams were conference foes.

“There’s so much bad blood between everyone,” UND student Evan Damsgard said. “Everyone just plays up. Every player gives a 110 percent in these games. They know the tradition. They know the rivalry. They just play up to those expectations. I think that’s what makes it so much better of a game.”

That’s the difference for a classic rivalry. A win or a loss doesn’t affect a national ranking; it affects the morale of a school. It’s not just saying one school is better than the other this season. It’s saying one school is, and always has been, better than the other.

What happens on the ice is just one aspect. The fans shaking the arena as well as those who join the action digitally all have something at stake.

“It’s almost like going to the NCAA playoffs,” Damsgard said. “I would say this big of a rivalry game, everyone’s going to be excited for it. You have to be in the moment for these kinds of games, because it can literally just happen in an instant.”

An instant. One second. Maybe even less. Perhaps, even 0.6 seconds can change the momentum of a rivalry.

UND has been waiting over three years to correct what happened in Philadelphia in 2014.

Seeing your team lose in the regular season gives you time to fix your season. When it’s a rival, the season doesn’t matter. A legacy has to be restored.

However, this rivalry’s tradition isn’t just established on the ice. Kristofor Paulson, a UND Economics Instructor, has been following North Dakota hockey since he was a young North Dakotan. He and his parents are all UND alumni. While Paulson attended UND, he recalled standing in line at 6 a.m. to ensure he got the tickets he wanted.

This year, there will again be no shortage of students waiting in line outside the Ralph early in the morning just to get tickets. Getting tickets for this game has become another rivalry in itself.

“Talking to some people, they bought season hockey tickets just so they could go to this Minnesota-UND game,” Paulson said.

Now, these two schools restart the fire. Two schools. Both ranked near the top. Both littered with championship trophies. Both well-represented in the NHL. A new era begins. The rivalry comes home.

Jacob Notermann is news writer for Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected]

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