Gophers-Sioux; An Underrated Rivalry

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Brett Cloutier-

Over the weekend one of the biggest rivalries took place.

No, it was not the New England Patriots-New York Jets AFC Divisional playoff game.

Nor was it Universal, Disney, Paramount, and Warner Brothers battling it out at the 68th annual Golden Globes.

This rivalry was one in the amateur ranks, and a rivalry that many- even in the sports world- are unaware of the magnitude.

The Minnesota Golden Gopher and North Dakota Fighting Sioux men’s hockey teams took the ice for the 280th and 281st time in this storied rivalry.

The fact that The Sports Bank.net’s Timberwolves blogger is blogging about this rivalry speaks volumes to its magnitude in the two states.

This rivalry has more hatred than UNC-Duke’s basketball rivalry and Oklahoma-Texas’ football rivalry combined.

I have been captivated by Gopher hockey ever since I jumped on the bandwagon when they won back-to-back NCAA championships in 2002 and 2003. And my hatred for the Fighting Sioux has grown exponentially ever since.

Minnesota is the state of hockey, and as a Minnesota sports rube it is my duty to rock the maroon and gold.

Coming into this weekend the Gophers led the series with an overall record of 139-126-14; a very even series.

The Gophers have won 5 national championships, with the aforementioned 2003 season being the last. The Sioux have won 7 national championships with the last coming in 2000.

As far as frozen four appearances the Gophers lead that by one with their 19 to the Sioux’s 18 appearances. They rank 4th and 5th in frozen four appearances amongst all Division 1 teams.

Many of the top young NHL players originate from this rivalry.

Boston Bruins’ forward Blake Wheeler, New York Islanders’ forward Kyle Okposo, Pittsburgh Penguins’ defensemen Alex Goligoski, and Toronto Maple Leafs’ forward Phil Kessel all wore the maroon gold.

St. Louis Blues’ forward T.J. Oshie, Chicago Blackhawks’ forward Jonathon Toews, and New Jersey Devils’ forwards Zach Parise and Travis Zajac have all worn the repulsive Green and Black.

In the past few years the rivalry has reached a tipping point.

Like clockwork, almost every series in recent memory has had at least one line-brawl and/or flat out fists being thrown.

I’m not talking about your High School line-brawls where someone makes a horrible mom joke, and a grab of the facemask is in order. I’m talking about fists being thrown.

Here are a few examples:

This is one of the original fights between the two teams.

This Vannelli-Mcmahon tussle from a few years ago.

This epic scrum from the 2007-08 season. (Note 1:35 mark during handshake lines.)

This January 9, 2009 fight is another epic tussle.

Then the next night… (Skip to 1:40 for the goods)

… Later that same night

Saying this rivalry is heated would be a shoe in for understatement of 2011.

This past weekend’s installment of the rivalry was more unique than ever; this would be the first time in recent memory that the teams would only face in one regular season match up. (Due to the expansion of the WCHA)

The Gophers entered the weekend unranked and carried a mediocre 9-8-3 record.

The Sioux entered 16-5-2 and carried the number 2 national ranking.

But regardless of record, this weekend was set to be another great installment of this rivalry.

And Friday night the teams didn’t disappoint.

After North Dakota’s Brad Malone- a main antagonist over his four years in Grand Forks- sent Gopher Kevin Wehrs into the boards at the end of the second period, it didn’t take long before tempers exploded. (Skip to :50 for the scrum)

As a result seven players started the third period in the penalty box.

The Gophers would eventually go on to win 3-2 on Friday night.

But the Sioux came back and defeated the Gophers 4-1 on Saturday. And sadly there was nothing more than a few post-whistle face-washes during this tilt.

Although the teams won’t play each other again this regular season, the Sioux are currently 1st in the 12-team WCHA while the Gophers are tied for 6th. So there is hope for a match-up in the WCHA conference tournament, the WCHA Final Five.

-Brett Cloutier

Brett is co-host of The Backdoor Cut, a Minneapolis based sports talk show, and Minnesota Timberwolves beat writer for The Sports Bank. You can follow Brett on Twitter at twitter.com/brettcloutier, or contact him at cloutier@augsburg.edu.

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Comments

  1. bryanvickroy says

    tis a shame that the Sioux will no longer exist after this year. while i hate them with a passion, and most of the physical state for that matter, the Fighting Sioux is one of the best nicknames in all of college sports, not to mention one of the sharpest jerseys around.

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