Thursday, October 7, 2010

Scouting North Dakota

Before I start this off, I'll weigh in on the controversy that is the offensive-moniker-for-a-mascot UND calls themselves. Not to tout our team any more than I already do, but if you really want to embrace the native heritage of your culture, look at the 'Nooks. For those that don't know, Nanook is based off of the Inuktitut word, nanuq, which as you guessed, means polar bear. In my travels, everyone asks what the hell a Nanook is, and after I tell them "polar bear", it always turns into a debate of senseless "Well why the hell didn't they just call themselves the 'Polar Bears'??!?" After I explain that it pays homage to native Alaskan culture, honoring those who were here before us, I make it a point that doing so is important to the local culture. Now, granted I'm relatively new to the college hockey blog world, but I've got no qualms saying North Dakota screwed the pooch here. I suppose the architects of UAF athletics could have gone with "Fighting Eskimos", but it doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure out that would be offensive, and culturally damaging. In 2000, twenty-one separate Native American-related programs, departments, and organizations at UND signed a statement opposing the continued use of the nickname and logo, saying that it did not honor them or their culture. Fortunately, they finally disbanded the name after this season. Which puts them into an interesting situation with Ralph Englestad, whose name is on UND's arena due to a $100 million donation, on the condition that UND keep the offensive moniker. The powers that be have yet to announce a new name and logo, which makes it all that much more interesting. For the purposes of making my point, I refuse to state the name of their mascot for the duration of this post.

Anyway, this blog is about hockey, so lets get to it.

Headlines to start NoDak's season are filled with the return of their captain Chay Genoway, who sat out most of last season due to a major concussion as a result of a blow to the head at the hands of St. Cloud's Aaron Marvin. A hit that would be primarily responsible in reconstructing rules addressing contact to the head penalties effective this season. His last season with North Dakota, he put up 32 points, most of them being on assists. Reviewing some game tape, he's certainly a playmaker, the quarterback from the blue line. Disrupting his passing and shooting lanes will be a key focus point for the Nanooks. It will be interesting to see how Chay rebounds from his injury. I'm recording UND's exhibition game tonight, which I'll have to check out once I get to Anchorage tomorrow afternoon and take a look at how he's playing. I'll be in attendance for the UND-UAA game as well, seeing how that pans out.

Another player to watch out for is returning 20 goal scorer in junior Jason Gregoire. Who not only is a scorer, but plays clean. Last season, Jason committed just 5 penalties for 10 minutes on a team that amassed the most penalty minutes in D-I college hockey, second only to UAA. Clean play is always commendable in my book. Aside from that though, Gregoire is UND's main offensive threat. Don't get me wrong, North Dakota has plenty of them, but Gregoire is especially dangerous. His stocky, 5' 11" 196lb frame fits like a glove in front of the net. He stays home, picks up rebounds, deflects shots, and takes out the garbage. I'm sure coach Ferguson will have his guys keep tabs on him, too.

UND forward Brett Hextall is sure to run wild. He is has consistently racked up nearly 100 minutes in penalties in each of his first two seasons, and constantly getting his hands dirty with opposing players. I think its a redundant statement when I say: "the guy just hits people"... Don't let that fool you though, he can score too. I'd just look out for the hit more than the shot...

Their goaltending is also just as stingy as ours. Junior Brad Eidsness returns off of a great sophomore season, pulling a 2.11 goals against average, and a .914 save percentage and 3 shutouts. Not too bad for the future Buffalo Sabre. UND head coach Dave Hakstol went on TV today and said that his two netminders would be splitting duty this weekend. I think its safe to say Eidsness will get the Nanooks, while sophomore Aaron Dell will likely see time on Friday.

North Dakota is a school with a storied history, multiple national championships, bla bla bla. UND has 16 NHL draft picks on their roster this season, and picked as one of the top 2 teams in the nation in all of the major polls. Last season was a similar story when Michigan came to Anchorage. Coming in to the Kendall Hockey Classic with a #2 ranking in the polls, and dropping the first game to the Nanooks 2-0. Some say that started the Wolverines downward spiral, and the spark of our season. The same can happen this year. The guys have a chance to step out and dismantle this team in front of a national audience (several cable outlets in the central area will be picking up this game) and gain some credit. Right now, everyone is 0-0-0. Lets keep the numbers increasing on the left side of that line...

The Nanooks will have to play very tight, and skate for all 60 minutes and throw everything they've got at North Dakota. I think we've got the depth, the coaching, the chemistry, and most importantly, the will and desire to win this game. Coach Ferguson has a few tough decisions to make for the line up, who will play, and who won't. From the outside, it looks like a harder decision this year than any of the past years I've known the program. We've got a lot of depth with a lot of good talent that can push this team ahead of UND this weekend...

Nanooks win 2-1.


Anonymous said...

FYI Ralph Engelstad passed away years ago, so the situation is really not that interesting anymore.

Also the Spirit Lake Tribe which is one the two tribes which UND needed to gain approval from in order to continue use of the nickname voted unanimously to allow the university to use the nickname just last year. The problem came with the Standing Rock Tribe whose Tribal council did not allow a popular vote among the peiople as they were scared it would have passed and the nickname would have lived on. What you have here is a the masses being controlled by the few in power.

In my mind 21 people signing a document has less meaning than 2500voting 65% to 35% to keep the nickname.

Now you could argue that if one Native American finds the nickname offensive then it should be discontinued and I will give you credit on a valid point there. But I will let you know that I am of Irish descent and I find the nickname from Notre Dame very offensive and as a conference foe of UAF's I will be very disappointed if you use that Notre Dame nickname in your writeup when the UAF plays Notre Dame.

Lastly, I don't have a problem if you don't want to use the nickname, maybe you truly do find it offensive but I don't need your holier than thou routine, especially when you don't know a lot of the facts and circumstances surrounding the situation.

Britton said...

You're right, I don't know all of the facts. But I do know that this will be the last season its around. I know that Ralph himself passed away some time ago, but I'm sure his estate was passed down, in which case they may have something to say about it.

Funny you mention the Notre Dame thing. In years past, I've referred to Notre Dame as the "Raging Stereotypes". I would encourage you to raise your voice with ND if you really feel that strongly about their mascot.

And it wasn't 21 people that raised their voices at North Dakota. 21 separate native affiliated programs at North Dakota petitioned and sent a message to the University president in late 2000, saying they all felt that the nickname and logo was offensive. 21 people would be one thing, but 21 native organizations affiliated with North Dakota is really saying something...