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Logo-less University of North Dakota opens hockey season without single ND native on roster

Thursday, 10.04.2012 / 1:54 PM / News

The Canadian Press

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Logo-less University of North Dakota opens hockey season without single ND native on roster

GRAND FORKS, N.D. - After several years of controversy over the Fighting Sioux nickname and American Indian head logo that adorned the team's jerseys, one of perennial powerhouses in college hockey is now known as just North Dakota.

Funny thing, though. For the first time in more than 30 years, there are no North Dakota natives on the roster.

Instead, it's probably the team's most geographically diverse lineup yet, with players from Minnesota (6), Alberta (5), Manitoba (3), Ontario (2), British Columbia (2), California (2), Missouri, Arizona, Wisconsin, Saskatchewan, Colorado and Washington, D.C.

"When you look at the players that are coming from non-traditional areas, I think melting pot maybe is the right word," coach Dave Hakstol said. "You used to look at our roster and you would see western Canada and Midwestern United States making up 90 to 95 per cent of it.

"I think the real key point is, guys walk into that locker room and they become part of the tradition here," he said.

Freshman Colten St. Clair, an Arizona native, spent three years playing junior hockey in Fargo and last year redshirted with UND because of academic issues. He joked that he has spent enough time in the state to be a quasi-native.

"I might be the closest thing to it," St. Clair said, laughing. "I might as well be the (local) guy this year."

The North Dakota drought should be short-lived. Cousins Luke Johnson and Paul LaDue, of Grand Forks, have committed to UND for next year. Another home state product, Keaton Thompson of Devils Lake, is slated to play UND in one or two years.

NCAA rules prohibit Hakstol from talking specifically about those recruits, but he light-heartedly said he was willing to "predict a one-year hiatus" from in-state talent.

What the Grand Forks school will not have is a nickname for at least three years, an order from the state Legislature after it rescinded a bill that would have made the Fighting Sioux nickname a state law. The nickname was officially retired this summer after a long fight with the NCAA about it.

The NCAA is allowing thousands of Sioux logos in the Ralph Engelstad Arena to stay in place, including those on brass medallions on chairs and a 10-foot sketch in the granite floor of the foyer. However, a massive emblem that had been painted into centre ice has been replaced by "NORTH DAKOTA" in green block letters.

The end of the logo won't change the team's "style of play or routine," senior Joe Gleason said.

"We really just have to focus on the hockey," Gleason said. "It is pretty much done, but a little bit of that will always be deep in our hearts."

Said St. Clair, "It is what it is. We've got to move forward."

A poll of Western Collegiate Hockey Association coaches has UND picked to finish second behind Minnesota in what will be the last year of the league. Hakstol's team will also be depleted when it opens conference play later this month at Alaska-Anchorage, after seven players were suspended because of underage drinking at a team party.

Hakstol, a former UND defenceman who has guided the team into the Frozen Four five times in his eight years as coach, noted that last year's team played short-handed often because of injuries. UND was forced to suit up fewer than the regulation 18 skaters on 14 occasions.

"There are going to be some twists and turns throughout that you have to deal with," Hakstol said. "You deal with them directly, you deal with them honestly and you build your hockey team around good people."

Quote of the Day

We want to make sure that whoever makes our team really makes our team by earning it and not putting them in situations where they get preference because of their status as a first-round pick or whatever it might be. That's not going to happen. Everybody has to earn their way on our team.

— Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen on the team's prospects at development camp