Dakota Student

Altitude

How the UND hockey team hopes to elevate its game against Colorado College

The Fighting Hawks take on Colorado College in a hockey road series on Friday and Saturday in Colorado Springs.

Nick Nelson

The Fighting Hawks take on Colorado College in a hockey road series on Friday and Saturday in Colorado Springs.

Kyle Kinnamon, Staff Writer

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Colorado has always been a major talking point in sports, not only for their sports team’s ability to win championships, but because of the home field/ice advantage. The advantage comes from the altitude.

Throughout the history of sports teams in Colorado, the home team has always had the advantage of being accustomed to the altitude. Colorado’s major sports teams reside in Denver.

The city of Denver is 5,280 feet above sea-level and houses four major sports teams: the Denver Nuggets, Denver Broncos, Colorado Rockies and Colorado Avalanche. Almost all the teams have been able to use the altitude to their advantage.

The two main teams able to use the altitude to their advantage are the Colorado Rockies and the Denver Broncos. The Rockies’ ballpark, Coors Field, averaged the longest homeruns at 414.4 feet. The next closest ballpark’s homeruns averaged at least 10 feet shorter.

The Denver Broncos’ stadium, Sports Authority Field, holds the record for the longest field goal in the NFL at 64 yards. The long field goals and long homeruns are all due to the thin air and altitude at those stadiums, respectively.

Kicking long field goals and hitting long homeruns are not the only advantage to playing in the high altitude. The players on those teams are accustomed to the thin air and rarely deal with side effects of the altitude change.

As for opposing teams, the sudden change in altitude can cause altitude sickness and possibly sideline those players for the game.

The University of North Dakota men’s hockey team is no stranger to playing in Colorado and having to adjust to the altitude changes. UND faces both Denver and Colorado College every year, and UND faces Colorado College this weekend.

UND has the advantage in series against both teams, but they’re down in series when playing in Colorado. Against Denver, UND is 143-123-12 overall, but 53-72-3 in Denver. Against Colorado College, UND is 155-81-11, but a measly 53-58-4 in Colorado Springs.

UND is leaving a day early for Colorado Springs to adjust to the even higher altitude there. Colorado Springs is 6,035 feet above sea-level. The coaching staff and players are hoping this extra day will benefit the team when getting familiar with the thin air and altitude during games and practice.

This weekend marks the beginning of NCHC conference play for UND. NCHC games have always been historically tough on both teams, but UND is up for the challenge.

“We’re in the NCHC now,” sophomore defensemen Colton Poolman said. “These points are just as important as non-conference. Colorado College is off to a good start. We’ll be motivated.”

“(Minnesota) was an emotional series,” senior forward Trevor Olson said. “We need to use the same emotion. Colorado College plays us tough. These games mean everything.”

UND has not performed well historically in Colorado Springs, but UND looks to feed off the energy of last weekend against the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers and carry that into the Colorado College series.

Kyle Kinnamon is a staff writer for Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected]

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Altitude