Sunday, April 10, 2016

UND"s 8th National Championship

After watching UND win their 8th NCAA National Championship last night in Tampa, I thought about another UND National Championship.

On March 29th, 1980 I drove from Boston to Providence, Rhode Island to see a hockey game, a NCAA National Championship game between the UND Fighting Sioux and the Northern Michigan University Wildcats. 

Without a Boston school in the tournament interest in the final four, (they didn't call it the Frozen Four in those days) was low. The Boston teams, BU, BC, Harvard, Northeastern were eliminated in the earlier rounds. Dan Davis, our sports director at WHDH, gave me his press credentials and off I went to Providence. I was pumped to see the game!

When I was a kid in Grand Forks, UND won the national championship twice, in 1959 and in 1963. In the game in Providence against Northern Michigan they would be going for their third title, their first in 17 years.

I grew up with UND hockey, skated and played in the 'Old Barn" on the campus from the time I was a little kid through club hockey at UND.

Gary Como and I were members of Al Purpur's ice crew at the Old Barn, we shoveled the ice before Al pulled his pre-Zamboni contraption around the rink to resurface the ice. For our efforts we got game tickets and could stand at rink side during the games. We saw some great WCHA battles at the barn. We saw the incredible World Champion Russian Red Army team play on their first tour of the US. We saw Harvard and the Cleary brothers play UND during Harvard's first ever western trip. We even saw NHL legend Gump Worsley play in goal for the Winnipeg Maroons during one of his punishment tours in the minor leagues.

After leaving home to make my way in broadcasting I hadn't seen the Sioux play for many years. Living in Boston I was a Bruins fan, I went to Harvard and BU games a few times a year, I never missed a Bean Pot tournament, this night was different, because the Sioux were such a big part of my life.

I parked across the street from the Providence Civic center in the press parking section, I went to the press entrance and got my passes updated.

A guy poked me in the back and said, "What the hell are you doing here?" It was Bob Bustin from KNOX radio in in Grand Forks. I worked at KNOX for a short period of time and knew the staff. Bob took me up to the broadcast booth to say hello to Doug Teigmeyer. I knew better than to hang around when Doug was getting ready for a game. So I was in and out of the booth and left Doug and Bob to prepare for the pre-game reports and the play by play. Because of my press pass I had all arena access. I made my way down to the lower section and found a seat about 8 rows up and to the left of the goal. Perfect site lines for watching a hockey game. Here's what I saw from my seat.

The Sioux won by a score of 5-1

The 16-year drought without a NCAA Championship ended in 1980. 

In 1980 head coach Gino Gasparini led the Sioux to the 1st of three championships they would win under his leadership.

North Dakota had lost twice earlier in the season to Northern Michigan.

Mark Taylor and Howard Walker were named 1st team All-Americans.

Captain Mark Taylor, who led the Sioux with 92 points would only play part of the 1st period of the championship game before breaking his collarbone and forced to leave the game.

Doug Smail was named the NCAA Tournament's Most Outstanding Player.

Smail, Marc Chorney, and Phil Sykes were named to the NCAA All-Tournament Team.

Smail was the first UND player to score four goals in an NCAA Championship game.

UND first-year goaltender Darren Jensen made 20 saves in the win, ending his season with a 13-0-1 record.

UND had only won one (Dec. 28, 1977, 8-4) of the four games in UND history against the Wildcats prior to playing for the 1980 Championship.

There was a large group of UND fans at the game, they were noisy and the pep band was there.

I found out later the "real" UND pep band wasn't at the game at all because the school wouldn't foot their travel bill. The UND pep band director knew one of the band directors in at Brown University and sent the UND music and a box of jerseys east, so kids from Brown could impersonate kids from UND.

After the game, I went across the street to the Marriott Hotel with Bob and Doug to the UND victory party. I got to see people from my home town, people I went to school with and one or two I played hockey with and against. It was a great night for a Gran Forks kid in Providence. It was a great night for Bob and Doug too, because I took them to Camille's Roman Gardens on Federal Hill for late night Italian food and several bottles of wine.

This is the Old Barn where UND hockey was played when I was a kid.

This the arena where UND plays now...

Interesting anecdote, Ralph Englestad taught me how to swim.


  1. Those were the days my friend we thought they'd never end.

  2. I ice-skated on an outdoor rink across from my house in the park. And sometimes down on the Knife River. But never in a barn.

    1. I understand the old barn, was a potato storage building for the Great Northern Railroad, before it was a rink. Lousy building, great ice.

    2. What a wonderful post! Bob, you are a great writer!
      You have such talent.

    3. What a wonderful post! Bob, you are a great writer!
      You have such talent.