We’ve made it through the week and we’re finally about to witness one of the greatest rivalries in all of college sports. North Dakota vs. Denver means a lot of things to many people. For some, it’s just another hockey game, but for many, this series is akin to the Super Bowl.
North Dakota fans will (this is a fact, not a prediction) fill much of Magness Arena tonight. They travel as well as if not better than Notre Dame football fans. They’re passionate about their Fighting Hawks (well not so much about the name, I suppose). They love their green and black. They’re loud. They’re sometimes obnoxious (sorry North Dakota fans, but you know just as well as I do that it’s true). Many of them like to get under the skin of Denver fans.
The same goes for many Pioneer hockey fans. Many fans of the Crimson and Gold can’t stand the green and black. The mere sight of it makes them sick. They’ll try to return the favor and get under the skin of Fighting Hawks fans. That’s the nature of this rivalry. The fans love to get just as into the game as the players do.
All too often, though, it goes too far. I mentioned in the weekly mailbag that I will be attending my 9th and 10th DU-UND games at Magness Arena this weekend. In every single one of the first 8, I have seen the trash talk escalate into fights. I was even challenged to a fight my freshman year by a Fighting Sioux fan. I respectfully declined (I’d have gotten my ass kicked) and continued onto whatever freshman post-game shenanigans were scheduled that evening.
It embarrasses me as a member of the Denver and NCHC communities when I see fans from both sides start fights with each other. It’s weak, childish, and uncomfortable for everyone involved. When fan fights happen, the excitement of what’s actually happening on the ice (you know, the reason you’re there) doesn’t matter anymore.
99% of the time, DU-UND games represent everything that is great about college hockey: High-level competition, championship atmosphere in the middle of the regular season, and on-ice sportsmanship. But that 1% can ruin the other 99%. Fan fights simply ruin the experience for everyone else.
Dish out the trash talk. In fact, I encourage that. After all, what would a great rivalry game be without good, well-crafted jabs at each other? But don’t let it go too far. Know when to stop. Understand that everyone is there for the same reason. Don’t take away from someone else’s experience.
In short, don’t be “that guy.”
Have fun this weekend. Enjoy the company of your family and friends. Relish in the glory if/when your team wins. Rub it in the opposing team’s face, but respect the spirit of the game.
This is the best rivalry in the NCHC (apologies to CC, but you’re just…not good) and it brings out the best and the worst in a lot of people. Don’t let this weekend bring out the worst in you.