The extended hockey family…
There are approximately 15,000 students at the University of North Dakota, and at least 35 of them - players, coaches and support staff - are involved in hockey. And even if you are a student who doesn’t care about sports, you’re going to be exposed to hockey in some way, shape, or form; the UND band plays at hockey games, students sell concessions at games, your dorm roommate might be a hockey player, or you might be sitting beside a hockey player in class.
The first year I went to UND was 1986-87, and I lived in one of the dorms called Walsh Hall, known as the hockey dorm. I never played organized hockey in my life, but that’s where UND put me. My roommate was Arne Pappin, whose father Jim Pappin played for several National Hockey League teams including the Chicago Black Hawks, the California Golden Seals and the Toronto Maple Leafs. Pappin, who won his first Stanley Cup with the Maple Leafs in 1964 and again in 1967, led the NHL in playoff goals. Arne wasn’t as good of a player as his dad. He was on UND’s team, but he rarely played. And after a weekend series, he would start the week all upset because he didn’t play. He just didn’t get it, but he hung around with all the other hockey players- some good, some not so good.
One of them was Brent Bobyk, a guy from Regina who seemed to be a pretty good hockey player with an unusual personality. Unfortunately, Brent had quite a temper, and at some time during the 86-87 season, he got kicked off the team because he went out, got drunk, and drove his car on the sidewalk up to Walsh Hall, putting a lot of students in potential danger. His UND experience didn’t work out because the best he could do professionally was play roller hockey with the Orlando Jackals.
Another player who was kind of a social butterfly in Walsh Hall was Eddie Belfour. Eddie wasn’t the smartest guy in Walsh, but he sure was friendly and honest. He was the polar opposite of Brent Bobyk. Anyway, as any hockey fan will remember, it was goalie Eddie Belfour who figured prominently in UND winning the NCAA championship in 1987. His goaltending was impeccable, and once he finished his education at UND, the Chicago Black Hawks snagged him up pronto. Eddie had an illustrious career with Chicago and later the Dallas Stars, who won the Stanley Cup in 1998. And, as the Stanley Cup got passed around from one player to the next, Eddie brought the prestigious trophy back to his hometown of Carman, Manitoba, for a public viewing.
Because I was working at the newspaper in Langdon, I was close to Carman, so I went to see the Stanley Cup and maybe say 'hi' to Eddie. There were all kinds of high-profile hockey types there including Dean Blais, who coached UND hockey after Gino Gasparini. Regardless, Eddie said he remembered me and autographed the UND hockey cap I was wearing. Keep in mind, it had been 12 years since we were in Walsh Hall and geography class together, but that’s the kind of guy Eddie Belfour is. He comes from a small town, just like a lot of us in North Dakota. Besides, he married a girl from Cavalier so occasionally visits North Dakota with his wife.
Another player worth mentioning is Brett Hull. He was never affiliated with UND but had a sterling career in the NHL. Anyway, my dad and I were in Winnipeg for a weekend, and one of the things we did was head out to Winnipeg Arena to see the Jets. At the time, Brett Hull was a teenager, and his father, Bobby Hull, was a player with the original Winnipeg Jets. We ran into Brett Hull on the concourse and struck up a conversation about his dad. And Brett, maybe being a little overzealous, asked us if we’d like to meet his dad, and, of course, who would turn that down? So he took us back to the Jets locker room where we met Bobby Hull, talked with him for a few minutes, and got his autograph all because of his son, Brett, who followed in his father’s footsteps.
After spending that one year in Walsh Hall at UND, I learned that hockey is a great big extended family as these examples show. That’s how hockey rose to prominence in the United States. Players, who either came here or learned here, embraced Canada’s game and its attitude toward the game and passed it on to UND.