The Fighting Sioux was one of college hockey's top teams, but were upset before they could advance to the Frozen Four. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Getty Images)
The Fighting Sioux name in North Dakota will soon be no more. The university’s controversial moniker is getting an update, thus appeasing the NCAA as well as actual Sioux nation members from two of the state’s three tribes, who would both need to change stances and endorse the name in order to keep it (the third is already on board).
Over the years there has been much debate over the topic; fans insist their love of the name and logo stems from pride and respect. Charges of racism are often quite wounding to UND supporters, though the hockey team’s greatest benefactor never really helped matters.
Ralph Engelstad, whose name graces the Fighting Sioux’s sparkling arena (which hosted the world juniors in 2005), was criticized for throwing parties in a Nazi-themed secret room at his Imperial Casino in Las Vegas on Hitler’s birthday in the 1980s. His $100 million donation to UND for the arena was contingent on the university keeping the Fighting Sioux name. Engelstad died of cancer in 2002.
But the name is likely a moot point now. The fans can regard themselves as Sioux Nation as long as they want, but the sweaters and pennants will have to be changed. The school that gave us Ed Belfour, Zach Parise and T.J. Oshie will still churn out excellent players, so what should the team be named?
Coming up with a new tag for a school so identified with the old one is tricky. And since the most obvious name for a team from North Dakota – the Bison – is already being used by North Dakota State, UND will have to get creative.
One way to keep the theme of the Fighting Sioux without the inflammatory bits, would be to call the team the Warriors. It’s a little plain, but it’s also vague enough to not be offensive. After all, a warrior can be anyone from a Sioux combatant to Peter Forsberg. Animal names are also very good. Unfortunately, North Dakota doesn’t have a very intimidating menagerie.
The state bird is the western meadowlark and North Dakota is sometimes known as the ‘Flickertail State’ because of a local squirrel. Taking to the ice as the North Dakota Flickertails would provide a little too much ammo for the Badgers and Bulldogs of the WCHA.
The state horse is the nakota, which is a cool-sounding name if you don’t mind the tongue-twister of saying “North Dakota Nakotas.” The Utah Utes have survived, after all.
Otherwise, we’re going to have to look at rare or endangered local animals: eagles, which are common in sports, yet majestic; and wolves, once prominent in the state, but not so much lately.
Of course, there’s only about 100 Florida panthers in the wild and they still named an NHL team after them, so maybe numbers aren’t important. The North Dakota Grey Wolves or North Dakota Wolfpack would both work.
Naturally, not being from North Dakota, my insight into a good new name is rather limited. Feel free to use the comment section below if there is a good North Dakota equivalent to Cornhuskers or Hoosiers that makes more sense. The Fighting Sioux name may be going away, but the passion of the fan base will live on, no matter what the team is called.
Show off your hockey knowledge by entering The Hockey News’ FREE Playoff Challenge!
THN.com's Playoff Blogs, featuring analysis and opinion on the action from the night before, with insight on what happened and what it all means going forward, will appear daily throughout the NHL playoffs. Read more entries HERE.
Ryan Kennedy is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Mondays and Wednesdays, his column - The Straight Edge - every Friday, and his features, The Hot List and Prep Watch appears Tuesdays and Thursdays.
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.