Wednesday, September 30, 2009

And So It Begins!

Holy crap, it’s hard to believe that it’s almost October! The past three weeks have definitely flown by as the sports season is in full swing.

In Volleyball, the ladies are under direction of new head coach Ashley Hardee and are proving they are Division I worthy as they remain undefeated in the Great West Conference. They have had three matches at home so far this season, with two sweeps and latest going to four games. The ladies look strong, determined, and they sure are fun to watch!

There are still 7 home series left, so stop on down to the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center, pick up a $2.00 hot dog and $3.00 16 oz. “adult beverage” and cheer on the Sioux Volleyball team and they spike their way through the competition.

October brings hockey season, my favorite if you couldn’t tell already. I completed my first fantasy hockey draft of the year and was successful in getting the coveted UND alums; Parise, Toews, Oshie, Zajac, Stafford, Commodore, Green, Blake. It’s the only method to my madness when I’m matched up against a bunch of guys from Ontario and one hockey reporter from Germany. A girls got to do what a girls got to do! I did pick up some Minnesota boys as well; Keith Ballard and Jamie Langenbrunner, just to balance it out. My second fantasy draft is tonight - just in time for the NHL season to kick off tomorrow!  I may have to try for the same roster...mmm...we'll see.

Speaking of hockey, my hockey itch (no…not jock itch) was satisfied last weekend as the Sioux women’s team opened up their season facing Manitoba at home. They won 3-1 Friday night against the Bison, but fell short by one goal in Saturday’s match-up (3-2). The ladies look fast, strong and ready to compete with the rest of the WCHA. It’ll be fun to watch them evolve even more throughout the year.

Their biggest competitors will no longer be facing them this year, more-so they’ll be joining next year! Monique and Jocelyn Lamoureux have opted out of their time with Minnesota and signed with the Sioux this summer. They will take this year as their red-shirt year while they compete for spots on the US Olympic team. Keep an eye on those girls as they hope to compete against the best in the world this winter and bring that determination and skill to the Sioux next season.

Hockey, hockey, hockey! Sunday marks the Men’s first game, an exhibition game against Manitoba. As previously reported on, this will also be the public farewell to Denny Gunderson, notable Zamboni driver for the Fighting Sioux for the past 40+ years. I read over the script presenting his honor and got tears in my eyes. It may be a rough Sunday for me!

As promised though, this isn’t just a hockey blog. It’s Beyond the Ice in that it pertains to other things going on in the building. On Monday night, we had a banquet for 210 people from Universities around the United States. Not presidents, nor coaches, but facility managers. The 2009 CAPPA Convention was held in Grand Forks, ND. CAPPA – Central Association of Physical Plant Administrators – the people in charge of making sure you’re building is warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Note…they are not responsible for hot flashes.

The guests were guided through the facility and “introduced” to the world of ice. It’s amazing to see the reaction on people’s faces when they walk by the Zamboni…it’s like the white elephant in the room. However, given many of these people are from the southern states (Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana); there is a good chance that many of their schools don’t have hockey teams. There were numerous stops and stares; one lady even had to get in the driver’s seat and take a picture. I’m sure that will be the talk of her next family gathering!

It’s easy to say their tours through our building’s infrastructure was well-liked as well as their guided tours throughout the rest of the arena. I heard numerous comments about the NHL wall; the wall near the men’s locker room that represents UND’s draft history, Stanley Cup team members, as well as each team that UND players have been a part of. Welcome to the north folks where hockey is prominent; I hope you have great words of wisdom to bring back to your schools. It sure was a pleasure hosting you for the evening!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Boys are Back in Town

The college kids have moved back in their dorms and apartments thus creating a “rush hour” between the hours of 3 and 6. You have to look both ways multiple times before turning, because there could be a scholar crossing the street that meets your blind spot. Campus rules; pedestrians always have the right-a-way, whether they look or not!

There has been more traffic in the arena as well. Our employee gym hours are now graced by student athletes from time to time. And if you notice some distant thumping and back beat while walking on the north end of the building, you’ll realize that the team is beneath you in the gym doing their strength training, getting out of “summer mode” and preparing for the upcoming season.

Just off a successful weekend where the Ralph hosted Sioux Fan Fest; a chance for the general public to meet the members of the 2009-10 Men’s and Women’s hockey teams as well as Head Coaches Dave Hakstol and Brian Idalski. This event also showcased both teams’ new jerseys. The women’s team has three different jerseys including a retro-style green sweater with script “North Dakota” across the chest. The men’s team, also donning new jerseys, this year will include “Reebok” on the neckline as they are the new suppliers of jerseys and other equipment for the men’s team. While the main look of the jerseys is similar to those of the past Nike ones, the noticeable change is the horizontal stripe across the bottom in lieu of the diagonal ones from years past.

In its introductory year, Sioux Fan Fest was a fun event for the fans and student athletes alike. Autograph, photo, and Q&A stations were set-up to give the fans, both young and old, a treat to whet their appetite in anticipation of the upcoming season. Following a successful ’08-’09 year, the WCHA McNaughton Cup was also on display to give fans another photo opportunity. Sioux Hockey radio play-by-play announcer Tim Hennessey served as MC to the Q&A sessions where the most entertaining sessions were targeted toward the children. Imagine a 5-year old with a hockey grin trying to say the word “thistle”.

The next preparatory step for the upcoming season is getting the ice ready for the team. With the first game just over two weeks away (exhibition vs. Manitoba, October 4th), the REA Maintenance crew will take two days to lay the initial layers of ice, paint lines and the logo and then top off the artwork with an inch of ice. What seems so thin, especially when it only takes an hour in Mid-January to produce this on the doors of your car, this can be one of the most important factors in maintaining good skating conditions.
As the weather finally starts to cooperate, I can’t be more excited about the mid-grade temps in my office. I have the ice out my door and the sun out my window. Fellow hockey fans please join in saying HOCKEY SEASON IS UPON US!