Notre Dame Takes Crash Course in ‘Upper Midwest’ Culture

Fighting Irish

Photo: Irish Hockey moved out of their ‘comfort zone’ to learn about upper Midwestern culture

With the move from Hockey East to the Big Ten conference looming, the Notre Dame hockey team has been taking this week to learn about upper Midwest culture, especially with the Frozen Four next week in their new backyard – Chicago.

Despite Notre Dame’s upper Midwest location of South Bend, Indiana, many of the Fighting Irish students and hockey players are from either coast and lack the cultural sensitivity needed to be successful in their new conference.

A 3-day cultural immersion workshop opened Monday leading up to next week’s Frozen Four. The hockey team’s orientation began at a local South Bend Steak and Shake. In the afternoon, the team was fitted with bib overalls and taken to Bass Pro Shop for a course on Musky fishing.

When asked what he learned from the yesterday’s class entitled ‘Being Upper Midwestern’, team captain Cal Peterson said that he will “dial back on the Ole and Lena jokes” and say ‘dontcha know’ when positively affirming a statement to locals. The mid-morning session on Tuesday focused on deep fried Twinkies, ranch dressing and cheese curds – upper Midwest delicacies that need to be more fully appreciated by the Irish.

But, the afternoon workshop covered more than food and centered on interpersonal skills.

Joe Wegwerth, a left winger from Brewster, New York, said that “while there are some big girls in New York – we were taught that they are not nearly as big as the ones from Iowa. We were advised when traveling to Wisconsin, Iowa, and even parts of Michigan to use more culturally appropriate terms about them with our teammates like ‘buxom’ and ‘size-advantaged’.

The final day features three role play scenarios. In one, a Nebraska farmer has to figure out how to shut down his neighbor’s meth lab without hurting his feelings. In another, participants play both tornadoes and local citizens as twisters wreak havoc on a local Cenex gas station – the only one for miles. The final scenario has participants fishing for Walleye with best friends. Participants are advised to stare at the tip of a rod, not speak, and turn off their cell phones for four hours and then, share how they felt.

The team workshop concludes this evening with a fire department fish fry and a cornhole tournament behind the station.

Practices will resume Thursday.

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