THURSDAY, OCTOBER 18, 2012
9:48 a.m. (AKDT) - Everything was going so well. At least, as well as could be expected for a 14-hour travel day spanning 2,700 miles, four airports, three flights and four time zones.
After departing Grand Forks on Wednesday morning and making connections in Minneapolis and Seattle, we arrived at our final destination - Fairbanks - to discover that the baggage for at least half of the passenger on our flight did not arrive. This included the personal luggage of several of our players and staff, as well as well as one player's equipment bag.
Crisis was averted, however, when the missing baggage arrived in Fairbanks this morning. I must say, everyone handled it well last night. No freak outs (my suitcase was not among the missing) and everyone took it in stride. I can't speak for the others, but I was pretty much a travel zombie by the end of the night.
We're just a few minutes away from practice at John Carlson Center, which, of course, more than one player assumed was named for the Washington Capitals defenseman of the same name (it's actually named after the former mayor of Fairbanks).
It's nice to finally be in regular season mode. Tim Hennessy has pre-taped his intermission interviews with Rocco Grimaldi and Connor Gaarder, the coaches are doing their pre-practice prep, Dr. Greek is likely doing a jigsaw puzzle, and the team will be on the ice momentarily.
Following practice, there is a tournament banquet at our team hotel, where the head coaches and captains from each team will say a few words. After that, we'll have a few hours downtime before dinner for guys to take care of homework, naps, etc. Personally, I'm going with the latter.
2:19 p.m. (AKDT) - Just back from the tournament luncheon at our hotel. Head coach Dave Hakstol and senior captain Andrew MacWilliam spoke on behalf of the team. Andrew touched on the program's history and tradition, and made sure to mention several notables about the University, including its record enrollment, the aviation program, and the law and medical schools.
Alaska head coach Dallas Ferguson mentioned Coach Hakstol being the team captain the last time UND visited Fairbanks. He also alluded to the fact that Hakstol the player had once committed to Alaska, which I hadn't known. The Nanooks' coach at that time was Don Lucia.
It's interesting, when you hear anecdotes like that, to take a few minutes to wonder how things may have changed had that original commitment come to fruition, not only for Hakstol, but for the program at UND, as well as the career paths of the many players he has coached.
It reminded me of hearing former UND standout Lee Goren tell of how he originally verbally committed to Michigan Tech while playing in the SJHL. He only ended up at UND after catching the eye of then-head coach Dean Blais while Blais was recruiting Jason Ulmer. Goren ended up winning a national title, leading the NCAA in goals and earning All-America honors as a Fighting Sioux.
Would those have happened had he ended up in Houghton? We can never know, but it's still interesting to think about.
10:38 p.m. (AKDT) - One of the things I miss the most during the offseason is the Thursday night team meal. While Friday and Saturday on road trips tend to be all business, the Thursday night meal is a chance for everyone to relax and enjoy each other's company. The calm before the weekend storm, really. As expected, tonight was no different.
What I didn't expect was what came after.
After we returned to the hotel, I decided to unwind in hotel lounge. This isn't atypical. We spend so much time in the hotel room, it's nice to escape those four walls from time to time. While in the lounge tonight, I had the pleasure of meeting David Badley, one of our most devoted UND hockey fans. I've interracted with David on Twitter and in our gameday chats, but never had the pleasure of meeting him in person. Turns out, David flew up to Fairbanks from his home...in Texas. Simply an amazing example of the passion and dedication that characterizes our fan base.
We spent much of the time swapping tales of running into UND alums all over North America, often in the most unexpected places. Another gentlemen in the lounge must have overheard us, because he turned his stool to us and asked, "Are you guys in town for the hockey games?" When we answered in the affirmative, he informed us that while he has lived in Fairbanks for the last 20 years, he is originally from Pembina, N.D., and his father still lives in Grand Forks.
After exchanging pleasantries for a few minutes, David and I went back to our conversation. He told me that, while eating dinner in Texas, a gentleman noticed his UND clothing. While they didn't know each other, they turned out to not only be neighbors in Texas, but they had lived in the same 4-plex while attending UND some 30 years ago.
From the I-can't-make-this-up-file, David had just finished telling this story when another gentleman at another table asked the now-familiar question, "Are you guys here to watch the UND hockey team?" This particular gentleman, it turns out, lives in Japan and is in Fairbanks on business. However, he had spent the previous two years living in Grand Forks while stationed at the air force base. Where in Grand Forks did he live? In the exact same apartment building in which I lived during by graduate school days.
David and I were among probably eight total customers in the lounge. Yet here we are, closer to the Arctic Circle than the Red River Valley, and on this particular night, half of us had ties to either UND or Grand Forks.
It is not uncommon for those of us at UND Athletics to remark, often in wonderment, how our alums are everywhere. Tonight was yet another incredible reinforcement of that.
When we began the Division I transition, our marketing campaign centered around a slogan. It was a great slogan, but it's one we haven't used since year one of the transition. On this night, it seems only appropriate to once again remind everyone, "We are one. We are North Dakota."
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 20, 2012
10:58 a.m. (AKDT) - Well, that was some kind of performance, wasn't it?
The running joke in the locker room after the game was that the players who sat out may have trouble cracking the lineup. Those who did play combined for one impressive effort.
Freshman Bryn Chyzyk, who had a goal and an assist, received the hard hat from his teammates. Chyzyk and his classmates certainly didn't display any freshman nerves last night.
The key now becomes bottling that kind of performance and duplicating it tonight against the host Nanooks.