Lawmaker seeks to preserve UM-ND hockey rivalry

Published 8:04 am Friday, March 22, 2013

MINNEAPOLIS — A Minnesota lawmaker wants to make sure the Minnesota-North Dakota men’s college hockey rivalry continues after the two teams leave the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.

Rep. Ryan Winkler, D-Golden Valley, introduced a bill Thursday that would pay the University of Minnesota $800,000 any year the school plays North Dakota at least once. It wouldn’t matter which team wins.

Winkler said his bill is “a little bit in jest” and that it won’t become law. But he pointed out that he’s on a higher education committee with jurisdiction over university funding and hopes the measure gets the school’s attention.

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Minnesota is leaving the WCHA to join the Big Ten’s new hockey league while North Dakota is joining the new National Collegiate Hockey Conference. The teams won’t play again in the regular season for at least two years, though Minnesota coach Don Lucia has said he expects they’ll play nonconference games after that.

Television money is one of the main reasons Minnesota is leaving the WCHA after this season, but Winkler said that’s no reason to “get rid of one of the great rivalries in college hockey.”

Winkler said he’s interested in the rivalry because he comes from a family of hockey fans. He played high school hockey while his brother, Shaun Winkler, played for Colorado College. He said his parents were at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul on Thursday for the last WCHA Final Five in the league’s current incarnation.

“We have to maintain some hockey traditions or we all might as well move to Anaheim,” he said.

As for the $800,000 incentive, Winker said he arrived at that figure because that’s what the Gopher football team paid to cancel its nonconference games against North Carolina in 2013 and 2014. He said that must be what the university thinks a game is worth.