The prodigal Yon


Russ Hons

Fighting Hawks sophomore forward Zach Yon

Quinn Robinson-Duff, Staff Writer

Let the skates glide and the pucks fly. The University of North Dakota and the Golden Gophers of Minnesota are at it once again bringing, their rivalry back to the Ralph Engelstad Arena for the first time in six seasons.

For one player on the UND hockey team, this rivalry means something completely different than what the others will experience. Zach Yon, a forward for the University of North Dakota, has a family history in this storied rivalry, however, from the other side. Bill Yon, Zach’s father, was a part of the Golden Gophers hockey program from 1982-85.

Stories from the gruesome events of the rivalry during Bill’s time as a Gopher, where player safety and rules were an afterthought, were passed down from father to son starting from Bill’s first game at the ‘Old Barn.’

Bill recalled making his way to the ice to begin his shooting routine, one of the Sioux players punched one of Bill’s teammates in front of him and chaos soon erupted as both teams began whaling on each other. Troy Murray, a UND player, grabbed freshman Bill Yon during the brawl.

“I just tried to survive. I was 18,” Bill said.

This was Bill’s first game in college hockey, and he quickly realized how big of a deal this rivalry was. Not only was the rivalry a shock to Bill, but the environment that surrounded him.

“The old rink in itself had a sort of charismatic atmosphere to it,” Bill said. “I loved the rink, fans were right on top of us and every game was heated.”

Knowing well from his father’s stories of the frequent fights and fierce competition of the historic rivalry between the two programs, Zach still decided to commit and play for Bill’s former rival: UND.

Both raised in Roseau, Minnesota, Zach and Bill played for the storied Roseau high school hockey program. Roseau has appeared in the notorious MSHSL hockey tournament 34 times and are seven time Minnesota State High School hockey champions. Hockey is life for all kids from Roseau, and Zach was definitely no exception.  

“Zach lived at the rink,” Bill said. “I just wanted whatever was the best for him, rivalries aside.”

He stayed true to that statement even when Bill was approached by recruiters for UND that were interested in Zach becoming part of the North Dakota tradition.

“I really liked the facilities and the coaches at UND,” Zach said. “It was something my dad and I were excited about.”

The father and son toured UND’s campus and facilities together and were incredibly impressed. With the beautiful $104 million Ralph Engelstad Arena, they both quickly fell in love with the program. Bill still remained actively supportive and excited for his son, regardless of what he had experienced with the rivalry.

“The school was a natural fit,” Bill said. “We loved the coaching staff and all of the facilities UND had to offer.”

Fast forward to this season, the Yons will continue to cheer on Zach as he suits up for his second battle against the Golden Gopher.

“I’ve been treating the game like any other even with all the hype on campus,” Zach said.

As for Bill, he will be cheering on his son; whether it’s in maroon and gold or green and white is still to be determined.

Quinn Robinson-Duff is a staff writer for Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected]