Road never too long for UND fans

It was the same routine for 10 years.

Brian Milne would leave work at 10:30 a.m. mountain time and arrive in Grand Forks at about 7 p.m. central time on Friday night.

A UND men’s hockey season ticket holder and 1978 alumnus, Milne didn’t think twice about the long hours on the road from his home in Montana to Ralph Engelstad Arena.

From 2002 to 2012, Milne was at every UND home game — except one when a blizzard cut his trip short and left him stranded in Stanley, N.D.

Milne was a student in the stands in the early Gino Gasparini years and never wavered in his support of the team he’s been cheering for diligently ever since then.

His Frozen Four record can’t be traced nearly that far back, but the Fargo native flew to Boston last weekend and made his fifth appearance to the tournament.

The other games he attended followed a very similar trend.

“All the ones they’ve lost,” Milne said

He still can’t say he’s seen North Dakota win it all.

Mark Schneider can’t either.

A North Dakota native with a similar story, Schneider also traveled to Boston to see the UND team he’s so passionate about play in the Frozen Four for the fifth time.

Usually, he would drive if the site was within 1,000 miles, but the retired physician who hadn’t taken a day off for 15 years booked a plane ticket to Boston and planned to meet up with his son when he got there and find tickets.

He’ll tell you all about the small town where he grew up, and the deep roots his family has in hockey.

His young grandson already knows what a roughing penalty is, and he’ll let you know how that penalty will be spent.

“’Two minutes in da box!’ — that’s what he’ll say,” Schneider said with a laugh.

His dark grey sweatshirt features a small, definitive Fighting Sioux logo Schneider has been loyal to since his days as a student at the school.

Originally an accoupational therapy student, Schneider got to know Susan McIntyre, former chairwoman of the Department of Occupational Therapy and junior goaltender Zane McIntyre’s late grandmother.

As Zane McIntyre has mentioned in the past, his grandmother was one of a kind with a distinct, caring personality.

She encouraged Schneider in his studies, and he eventually was accepted into the UND Medical School.

Though it wasn’t always his dream to become a doctor, the path he followed provided him with a rewarding career that’s always accompanied by a dedicated passion to his alma mater and its hockey program.

He remembers his first game.

He said he saw a skater charge all the way down the ice and take down another player. A two-minute penalty was dealt, and Schneider couldn’t believe the player wasn’t taken out of the game.

That was hockey. And Schneider was hooked.

Vala Kasbohm still remembers her first game, too.

“It was in the quonset without the heat,” she said. “It was cold.”

That was in the early 1970s, and Kasbohm still wears her old jersey from that era with a unique, 43-year-old green UND hat fashioned upon her head.

She was in Boston last weekend for Frozen Four No. 15 — her 14th in a row.

She’s a North Dakota fan at heart, though she and her husband Ken will still make the trip to the tournament whether UND makes it or not.

The two stood near a table on the concourse at TD Garden last Thursday before the UND-Boston University game. They’ve been coming to games for many years, but they said they know they’re not the only ones.

In fact, the former North Dakota residents said they recognized three Lake Superior State fans behind them and know the trio has been to many more Frozen Four games than they have.

But who’s counting.

They’re not vying for any record or trying to hype up their fan persona — they’re just up for taking a trip every year in mid-March to cities they might not have otherwise chosen for a vacation.

The two met in North Dakota when Vala was attending UND for medical technology and Ken was in the Air Force. Forty years after their marriage, they’re still unwavering in their support for UND hockey.

They live in Irvine, Calif., now, and began their Frozen Four streak in 1999 when Ken saw the tournament would be held in Anaheim and decided to get tickets since it was close to home.

The rest is history.

They’ll name off some of the their favorite parts. There were certain cities and certain restaurants — specific details about the game or the team they still remember.

“There’s memorable parts to probably all the cities we’ve been to,” Vala said.

There is one part they enjoy the most about their many adventures.

“The people,” she said.

Elizabeth Erickson is the sports editor of The Dakota Student. She can be reached at [email protected].