Officially, the UND Fighting Hawks won the NCAA hockey championship.
But many fans who witnessed the Frozen Four victory would tell you the Fighting Sioux won.
It was deafening sitting in Joe Black’s during the semifinal game. In a sea of green, I watched on the edge of my seat as UND battled Denver in the closest and most dramatic game in the Frozen Four. And nothing thundered through the venue like the patrons chanting “Sioux Forever.”
Sioux pride continued in the championship matchup against Quinnipiac University. Fans packed the bars once again to watch UND take down the Bobcats 5-1. Green flooded downtown after UND won its first championship in 16 years. A banner with the logo designed by artist Bennett Brien flew high above the crowd as Sioux fans celebrated victory.
Yes, they would tell you the Fighting Sioux are the champions.
The nickname has been retired for almost four years, and with the reveal of a new nickname last November, UND officials hoped they could finally move on from the controversy that led to a lawsuit, protests and public outcry. It’s expected the creation of a logo, which will likely be released this summer, will give the school some identity, a vital step if the university wants to move away from the Fighting Sioux moniker.
I have no doubt that administration was cheering for UND because they wanted to end the 16-year drought. A championship would mean national recognition — some that would help give UND attention after being overshadowed by the North Dakota State University’s championship run in football.
But it wouldn’t surprise me if in the back of their minds UND officials were thinking an NCAA win under the Fighting Hawks name would cement the idea that it’s time to move on and embrace the change. After all, the Hawks are 1-0 for winning the Frozen Four, and what better way to start out the nickname legacy with a championship?
If that’s what they thought, they were probably disappointed.
The chants of “Sioux Forever” and “Let’s Go Sioux” probably have never been so loud. Fans wore their Sioux gear proudly as they cheered on the hockey team. Even UND’s former head coach Dave Hakstol, who had his own playoffs to focus on as he led the Philadelphia Flyers against the Washington Capitals, rooted for his old hockey team with a “Go Sioux.”
The retired moniker is very much alive in the minds of fans. That’s evident by looking at social media, including on the Herald’s website. I’ve watched more than enough arguments unfold on the issue and it won’t end.
I’m not going to take sides, nor am I going to speculate on whether UND could have handled the transition better. The NCAA threatened sanctions against the school, and for whatever reason the school could not meet the conditions of keeping the name and had to retire it. That’s a simple fact.
UND is trying to move on from the Fighting Sioux nickname by implementing the Fighting Hawks moniker. Soon we will see the logo, and it will be plastered on jerseys and all over campus.
There is no way of knowing what fans from 50 years in the future will think of this chapter in history. Will Fighting Sioux supporters be far and few in between? Will UND students look back and wonder how silly this whole controversy was? Or will they still be chanting for the retired nickname?
No matter what side you are on — whether you want the retired nickname back or if you think it’s time to move on — there is one thing no one can’t deny. The Fighting Sioux name isn’t going anywhere for a long time. It likely will take decades before “Sioux Forever” fades into a whisper. The school can only try to convince its fans to cheer for the Fighting Hawks — and it’s going to take some serious campaigning to do so.
For now, at least for fans, the Fighting Sioux have won, and for nickname supports, the victory was sweet.