For passionate sports fans, rivalries are a crucial aspect of the game. They add an extra level of intensity and excitement, and for some teams, they define a season. In the world of hockey, no rivalry is more deeply ingrained in the history of the sport than that of North Dakota. From the collegiate level to the NHL, North Dakota teams have a long-standing tradition of facing off against each other, creating some of the most iconic and memorable moments in hockey history.
At the center of this intense rivalry are two powerhouse teams: the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks and the North Dakota State University Bison. These two universities, located just 90 miles apart, share a long and storied history of fierce competition on the ice. But this rivalry is not just confined to the collegiate level, as North Dakota also boasts a rich history in the NHL with the beloved teams of the Fargo Force and the Bismarck Bobcats.
The roots of this rivalry date back to the early 1900s, when hockey began to gain popularity in North Dakota. As the sport grew in popularity, so did the fierce competition between the two schools. From conference championships to national titles, their matchups have always been highly anticipated events and have produced some of the most exciting and intense games in the history of the sport.
At the collegiate level, this rivalry has seen its fair share of historic moments. In the 1950s, the University of North Dakota dominated the college hockey scene, winning three national championships in a row. But in 1967, North Dakota State University made their first appearance in the tournament and went on to win the national championship, marking the beginning of their own successful streak.
But it was the 1997 NCAA Frozen Four that solidified this rivalry as one of the most intense in the history of college hockey. Both North Dakota teams made it to the championship game, with the University of North Dakota ultimately coming out on top, winning their seventh national title. This game will forever be remembered as one of the most epic showdowns between these fierce rivals, with the historic Sioux/Fighting’ Sioux chants ringing through the arena.
The intense competition didn’t stop at the collegiate level; North Dakota also has a strong presence in the NHL with two highly successful minor league teams, the Fargo Force and the Bismarck Bobcats. Both teams have consistently competed for the Clark Cup, the championship trophy of the United States Hockey League, with the Fargo Force winning it twice and the Bismarck Bobcats taking it home five times.
Aside from championships and titles, this rivalry has also produced some of the most notable players in hockey history. From University of North Dakota alumni such as Jonathan Toews and Zach Parise, both current NHL superstars, to former Fargo Force players such as Auston Matthews and Blake Wheeler, who are also dominating in the NHL, the impact of this rivalry can be seen at the highest level of the sport.
But this rivalry goes beyond just sports. It has created a sense of community and pride for the people of North Dakota. It brings people together in celebration when their team wins, and they mourn together in defeat. It’s a tradition that has been passed down through generations, with families loyal to their respective teams and showing their unwavering support year after year.
The rivalry between North Dakota’s top hockey teams runs deep, and its impact on the sport cannot be ignored. From the heated matchups on the ice to the sense of community and tradition it has created, this rivalry has become an integral part of the history of hockey in North Dakota. And for both the University of North Dakota and North Dakota State University, the fierce competition shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.