Of two minds and two colors: Sioux-Gopher hockey rivalry can divide family, friendsGRAND FORKS - Most children are teenagers before they defy their parents.
By: Ryan Bakken, Grand Forks Herald
GRAND FORKS - Most children are teenagers before they defy their parents.
Tyler Thompson was 3. That’s when he decided he was a Minnesota Gophers fan, despite the Fighting Sioux allegiance of parents Dave and Michelle Thompson, who both grew up in Grand Forks.
“I think it was just to spite us,” Michelle said. “He was also picking the opposite team we were cheering for.”
Asked why he took the Gophers’ side at such a young age, Tyler said: “I don’t remember.”
Now he’s 8, an Agassiz Elementary third-grader. And his loyalty has grown steadfast over the years.
“He wears that Gophers jersey with pride at Sioux-Gopher games,” Michelle said. “He walks right through the middle of the crowd with his head high.”
His parents promote his independence, as a recent Christmas card features the three of them in their preferred colors.
He absorbs some teasing from fellow fans when the Sioux win. Sometimes, there are even tears.
“It can become overwhelming for him because the whole crowd is for the Sioux,” Michelle said. “We want to go the Twin Cities for a Gophers game sometime so he’s not so outnum-bered.”
But there are perks for going against the flow, too.
“One game, there was this guy sitting right behind us who likes the Gophers, too,” Tyler said. “I got to be his friend.”
Another benefit came when he wore his jersey while he was helping at a catfish tourna-ment banquet. “A Gopher fan gave him a $1 tip,” mom said.
The Thompsons aren’t alone with split allegiances. With North Dakota and Minnesota sharing a border, there are many families split. Proceed to read about other family feuds over college hockey team loyalty.
A house divided
Cindy Johnson of West Fargo has a great story about being a Gopher-slayer in 1975.
She was a Fergus Falls eighth-grader then, playing for a midget team against the Univer-sity of Minnesota club team. Hockey wasn’t a girls varsity sport in college or high school back then.
“I ended up scoring the winning goal in overtime while we were shorthanded,” she said. “That was the biggest thrill of my life, playing in Mariucci and beating the Gophers. I would have loved to have been a Gopher, but it was only a club sport then and there wasn’t scholar-ships.”
She said it’s a state law that true Minnesotans can’t cheer for the Sioux, so she’s sticking with her home team, even though she has now lived longer in North Dakota.
Cindy and husband Pat have a daughter, high school junior Kacie, who is drawing interest from Division I colleges. She’s already a two-time all-stater with two seasons to go.
If a recruiting battle rages, family members will be on the front lines. Cindy and oldest daughter Erin align with the Gophers while Pat, 23-year-old son Matt and Kacie side with the Sioux.
“I hope she plays D-I hockey somewhere, but if she went to play with the Sioux, I’d have a hard time,” mom said.
It’s a hockey family, as Pat grew up in West Fargo and now coaches the high school girls hockey team. He is chaperoning a school trip this weekend, so will miss watching the series.
“I’m sure Cindy will text me score updates, especially if the Sioux are losing,” he said.
Long ride for someone
It was a long ride home to the Twin Cities last year for Peter Schmidt after his Gophers were swept 6-3, 6-1 in Grand Forks.
“It was rough, a little embarrassing,” he said. “My brother was chirping all the way home.
“But the first couple of years of the new Ralph, the Gophers had the upper hand up there. I called the Ralph ‘Mariucci West’ back then. My brother didn’t like that much.”
Brother Andy is a Sioux fan, although both grew up and went to school in North St. Paul. He said he aligned with UND as a teenager because of its “rich tradition.”
This decade’s tradition of the brothers, both in their 20s, is to make the trip whenever the Gophers play in Grand Forks. They also attend the games together when the teams meet in Minneapolis.
“Once I started following the Sioux, my brother gave me heat,” Andy said. “Being he was my brother, that made being on opposite sides even more appealing and more fun.”
After the series, they drive home right after the Saturday game. “We’re on Red Bull for the drive home and that’s always fun, especially with the nonstop heckling for 5 ½ hours,” Andy said.
But the trip is about more than bragging rights ownership.
“It’s such a long ride that it’s a good bonding trip,” Andy said. “No matter who wins, it pulls us closer. So we always circle this weekend on the calendar.”
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