Bison-Sioux Documentary: Reviewed

Tonight at 7:00 on Prairie Public Television, the documentary, “When They Were Kings” will air.  The 90 minute show highlights the rivalry between the North Dakota State University Bison and the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux.

I was lucky enough to receive an advance DVD copy recently and thought I’d share a few notes on the show, which focused solely on the football and women’s basketball programs at the two schools.

Spoiler Alert:  If you watch this documentary tonight expecting to hear a lot of rhetoric about why the rivalry should resume or why it shouldn’t, you’re going to be disappointed.  In fact, of the 90 minutes, only the final two are dedicated to that specific question.

What this show really ends up being is a very well-done history of the programs from about 1980 to now.  The documentary is interview driven and the highlights are worth watching alone.  The vast majority of those coming from WDAZ and WDAY.  Prairie Public did a great job of tracking down a lot of the key characters, including, but not limited to:  Rocky Hager, Roger Thomas, Gene Roebuck, Amy Ruley, Chris Simdorn, Jeff Bentrim, Tony Satter, Kelby Klosterman, Jim Kleinsasser, Sheri Kleinsasser, Charlie Stock, Kasey Morlock, Pat Smykowski, Mike Mooney, and Durene Heisler.

I found there to be a very healthy amount of respect between coaches and players.  At one point, Roebuck says something to the effect of Coach Ruley being the best coach he ever coached against.  And Morlock is equal parts complimentary and humorous in her words towards UND.

One thing this show is certain to do is to remind people of how much passion there was in those contests.  Much of the footage shows an overflowing Memorial Stadium, or the Bison Sports Arena packed to the rafters.  There are several clips where the Hyslop Sports Center has people hanging from every conceivable nook and cranny.

Other highlights of the show for me included a highlight of NDSU defensive back Tyrone Braxton returning an interception where it looks like he was shot out of cannon, the Jim Kleinsasser catch and run, the Bentrim pitch in Vermillion and dozens more.  There is a lot of good stuff.

One final thing I took from “When They Were Kings” is the intensity still displayed by Rocky Hager.  He sounds like a man ready to line up and play this Saturday against UND.

If nothing else, the documentary is a great history lesson.  A job well done by PPTV.

Eades to Become Coach/GM in Sioux Falls

Cary Eades

I just received confirmation that longtime UND assistant coach and player Cary Eades has accepted the positions of Head Coach and General Manager of the Sioux Falls Stampede of the United States Hockey League.  An official announcement will be made at a 3:45 press conference today in Sioux Falls.  Eades reached agreement with the new ownership group this morning in Sioux Falls.

Congrats to Cary!


UND Television Contracts

For the last 10 years, this has been my view of Fighting Sioux Hockey.  And before that, six years at the Old Ralph.  It’s been a very good vantage point for a guy who loves hockey.  For 16 years I’ve had the privilege of being part of an excellent, hard working and fun loving crew producing and televising UND hockey, basketball, football and volleyball.

But as we speak, bids for the new television contract with the University of North Dakota are being reviewed.  And sometime in the next couple of weeks we will find out if we’re going to be a part of the production or not.  If we’re not, we’ve had an epic run.  If we are, let the good times roll.  Exciting times in the television business to say the least.

New Conference, New Refs?

A press conference is being held today in Colorado today to announce the new hockey conference of which the University of North Dakota will be a member.  That is exciting.

What’s also exciting is that with a new conference will come new refs.  I’m not sure where these officials will come from, but I assume it’s possible a couple of the WCHA refs will be asked to work in the new conference.  Regardless, it seems obvious that the officiating in the new conference will undoubtedly be better.  Even if they do bring a couple of guys over from the WCHA.

A couple of days ago I asked Summer Sidekick about the quality of refereeing in the WCHA.  As a former Sioux player he has quite a bit of knowledge on the topic.  In fact, he spent so much time in the penalty box during his college career that he had his mail forwarded there.  SSK figures that there are maybe two officials that are decent in the WCHA but that the majority aren’t very good.

So, by default, the officiating in the new conference has to better.  Doesn’t it?

Frattin Named One of Three Finalists for Hobey

University of North Dakota Hockey player Matt Frattin was named one of three finalists for the Hobey Baker Award today.  Also named were Boston College junior forward Cam Atkinson, and Miami senior forward Andy Miele.

The NCAA had originally said that the announcement of the three finalists would be made tomorrow, but for some reason released the list today.  The Hobey Baker will be awarded next Friday at 6:00 p.m. in St. Paul, unless the NCAA decides to do it a day earlier.  Regardless of when they actually hand the trophy out, Frattin has already won it.

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Bemidji’s New Hockey Arena

Sanford Center in Bemidji

This past weekend I had the great pleasure of taking in a WCHA Hockey game between the Minnesota Gophers and the Bemidji State Beavers at Bemidji’s sparkling new hockey arena, the Sanford Center.  I had been to the arena just before its completion last Summer and this was my first trip back.

This is the point where I preface my comments about hockey arenas:  When talking about hockey venues, always take Ralph Engelstad Arena out of the discussion.  It is unmatched collegiately and probably professionally, and thusly, no other arena should be compared to it.

Having said that, the Sanford Center is very nice.  It seats about 4,400 for hockey, and has 26 luxury suites.  I would say that is about the perfect size, and that it will be full or close to full more often than not.  There is just the lower bowl of seats and then the suites ring around the top of that.

Sanford Center in Bemidji

It has a nice, intimate feel to it, without feeling “small.”  I hazard to say that there aren’t too many bad seats in there, and you feel like you’re right on top of the action.  The center hung video and scoreboard looks huge just above the ice, and there are auxiliary scoreboards at either end of the ice.

Sanford Center in Bemidji

On Friday night, the building was sold out.  And with a fairly low ceiling, the noise generated was, well…loud.  Add to that the public address announcer YELLING EVERYTHING AT THE TOP OF HIS LUNGS, you get the picture.  Other than that, one of the few drawbacks I saw was that when the concession lines got a little longer, the concourse became very tough to navigate.  But that’s probably a good problem to have.  And beer…it’s sold all over the arena.  And I noticed the students (of legal drinking age) were allowed to drink in the student section.  And they were having a lot of fun.


*The Bemidji State pep band played an awesome version of “25 or 6 to 4″ by Chicago.  That song should be mandatory on all set lists.  Everywhere.

*Parking is $3.

*I didn’t wear any Fighting Sioux clothing, but we did see quite a few people who did.  And when the announcement came that UND had defeated Michigan Tech, a fairly large cheer went up across the crowd.

*I think a hockey weekend in Bemidji is probably a must for any Sioux hockey fan.  Great town, great arena, awesome atmosphere.

*Tomorrow:  Bemidji restaurants reviewed.

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Jordin Sparks Brother to Play For UND

P.J. Sparks

According to my people, and I have pretty good people, P.J. Sparks has signed a letter of intent to play football for the University of North Dakota.  At this point in his life, P.J. is probably better known as the brother of American Idol winner Jordin Sparks.  I’m sure he’d like to carve out his own notoriety on the football field at some point. But interesting nonetheless.

P.J.’s father, Phillippi Sparks played cornerback for the New York Giants in the 90′s.  P.J. played high school football at Mountain Ridge in Glendale, Arizona.

P.J. and Jordin’s grandfather, Jim Wiedmann, played for the Sioux in the late 60′s.

I hope Jordin makes it to the Alerus Center.  Both in concert and in the stands to watch her brother.

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Random Thursday

*I see that the movie “Inception” is now out on DVD.  Maybe I should rent it so I can feel like a moron again, but this time in the comfort of my home.

*Is it a bad sign when you walk outside when it’s -5 Fahrenheit and you say to yourself, “It’s not too bad.”?

*A couple years ago, gas was $3 a gallon and people took to the streets with pitchforks and torches in protest.  Now it’s $3 a gallon and there seems to be little or no outrage.  Except for me.  I am not a crazy old person, but when I was in college at Moorhead State University, gas was $1 a gallon at the Orton’s on Main in Moorhead.

*That reminds me, I sure do miss Mick’s Office in Moorhead.  I understand it’s still open and still awesome.  Some things never change.  Other than gas prices.

*Reggie Tales shout out to Mike and Thonya in Fosston.

*A couple of Fargo Force Hockey leftovers.  Sioux Hockey fans are going to enjoy Colten St. Clair and Zane Gothberg.  St. Clair was the best player on the ice and Gothberg is a big goalie, structurally and fundamentally sound, always square to the puck.  There is very little to shoot at when he’s in the net.

*One last thing:  To the UND Hockey Coaches:  Brian Cooper of the Fargo Force is an uncommitted defenseman from Alaska.  He’s very good.  At 5 foot 9 inches, he generated a slap shot from the point on the power play that would be best described as a heat-seeking missile.  It’s a good thing he missed the net because it might have killed the goalie if it had been on target.

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Wednesday Photo

Two WCHA Refs Enjoying the Tales

This photo was sent to me by a huge Fighting Sioux hockey fan.  It was taken during this past Saturday’s UND/Notre Dame hockey game which ended in a 2-2 tie.  The way the story was relayed to me, the two WCHA refs stopped the game with 3:03 remaining in the the third period to take a look at Reggie Tales. I must say I’m humbled and a bit embarrassed that two of the WCHA’s very best (wink) would check out my blog at such an important juncture of the game.  To them I say, “Thanks for reading!”  To them I would also say, “I think there was goalie interference on Notre Dame’s tying goal.”

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Big Sky It Is

As expected, the University of North Dakota announced today that it has accepted an invitation to join the Big Sky Conference.  President Kelley and Athletic Director Brian Faison confirmed what had been rumored over the weekend today at a press conference at UND.  North Dakota will begin Big Sky Conference play in 2012.  Women’s basketball coach Gene Roebuck said today is “probably the greatest day since I’ve been here, and I’ve been here a long time.”  Football coach Chris Mussman added that UND is “truly blessed to be in such a prestigious league.”  Stay tuned to and WDAZ News at 5, 6, and 10:00 for the latest on this story.