It is a source of sentiment and pride, though, one of the reasons for all the fuss. North Dakota’s teams were known as the Flickertails until adopting the Fighting Sioux in 1930 after a student newspaper campaign. There are no plans yet to introduce a new one.
“You see the Washington Redskins. You see the Florida State Seminoles. I don’t understand. I think it’s people with nothing better to do than try to get some attention,” said New Jersey Devils standout Zach Parise, one of the 15 former North Dakota players who have appeared in the NHL this season.
Parise, though, echoed the growing sentiment of many supporters of the Fighting Sioux, that the nickname itself is not more important than the success of the teams.
“Make a decision, one way or another, and let’s move on,” Parise said.
Minnesota Twins president Dave St. Peter, who graduated from UND in 1989 before climbing the ranks of the baseball organization, recalled the controversy even when he was in school.
“As proud as I am of the Fighting Sioux legacy, I’m equally proud of the state of North Dakota’s legacy,” he said. “I don’t think they can take away the name North Dakota. They’re going to be playing representing the state of North Dakota. To me, that’s still a pretty special honor. I’m not as concerned about the jersey they’re going to wear.”
The northern prairie can be a cold, dark place in the winter, and without any professional teams the North Dakota hockey program has been the state’s favorite entertainment for decades. UND has won seven national championships, and this season’s roster has 15 players who’ve already been drafted by NHL teams. Parise, Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks and T.J. Oshie of the St. Louis Blues are some of the NHL’s best young stars.
Just five hours away from the UND campus, the Xcel Energy Center arena is sure to be filled with UND fans this weekend. On the last word of “Star Spangled Banner,” they’ll yell “Sioux!” instead of “brave,” a long-held tradition at UND games. They’ll be wearing those Fighting Sioux jerseys, too.
“I will be wearing mine,” said Larry Bellerud, from Fargo, the state’s largest city. “I don’t want to see it go, but I’m also realistic about it. In the long run, it’s just a name.”
AP Sports Writers Rick Gano from Rosemont, Ill., and Ira Podell in New York contributed to this report. Campbell reported from St. Paul, Minn.