College Hockey:
Book review: ‘One Goal’ captures emotional images of North Dakota’s Frozen Four run

A picture might be worth a thousand words. But some pictures elicit so much more than that.

To North Dakota fans, Allison Davis O’Keefe’s “One Goal” and its pictures of the players, coaches, fans and community surrounding the 2010-11 Fighting Sioux hockey team illustrate, with little text necessary, the raw emotion of a team focused on that one goal.

The final full season under the Fighting Sioux banner had high stakes and high emotions, and “One Goal” captures both in 71 stunning black-and-white looks into the locker room, the offices and the arenas where the team’s mission and accomplishments unfolded.

When the carpet was pulled out from under a rolling Sioux squad with a 2-0 loss to Michigan in the 2011 Frozen Four semifinal, players agonized over their failure to accomplish what they considered to be their only objective. But as O’Keefe found out in her behind-the-scenes look at one of the most prominent, yet private, teams in college hockey, the bigger picture and ultimate goal does not fall on deaf ears in the bowels of Ralph Engelstad Arena. And the pain of that loss pales in comparison to the immense tradition and honor that emanates from this team and community, as “One Goal” demonstrates.

“For me, this book is about skill, focus and determination,” O’Keefe wrote in her afterword. “But also, as I learned, camaraderie, sacrifice, elation, struggle and, ultimately, a twist of fate, a bounce of the puck.”

O’Keefe spent most of the season with the team through its ups and downs en route to a 32-8-3 record and a Frozen Four appearance. But when the team lost on its way to the only prize coach Dave Hakstol and his squad wanted, the lessons learned in O’Keefe’s first personal photojournalism project after a career covering politics and news nationally for CBS could not be confined to a 200-by-85-foot sheet of ice.

That became the undermining theme, then, especially after the original “One Goal” wasn’t achieved.

“Because in the beginning, maybe, they would say, ‘In the end, you’ll have this project, we’ll win, and there will be a book to be a memento to this whole event,’” O’Keefe said. “But it became about what you can learn along the way and what you can learn from losing.”

The front cover of "One Goal" by Allison Davis O'Keefe. (Allison Davis O'Keefe)

The front cover of “One Goal” by Allison Davis O’Keefe.

The book goes beyond the ice sheet, capturing the community surrounding the team to create a feeling. That helps to drive the intensity of the book, O’Keefe said.

“It’s a sense of place,” she said. “Where you are — you’re meant to feel cold.

“[A picture of] the kids getting ready for the game. Some of the fans are super intense. You can see how many people are here. They have cheerleaders. To me, that feels super intense and that’s how I want it to feel.”

A team game, and a team project

O’Keefe was afforded credentials to almost every aspect of the season — from the locker room to the Thursday night team dinner table. And before long, it seemed that the New York native became a part of the team, helping to capture the essence of victory and hard work.

O’Keefe may have had a head start on earning trust with Hakstol — they are cousins by marriage. But that didn’t mean she cut any corners.

“I think I had an ‘in’ into this team,” O’Keefe said, “but that doesn’t mean that I just walked into the locker room and started taking pictures. It took time. I had to build trust with Dave and with the team.”

For a full season, she followed the likes of Chay Genoway, Jason Gregoire, Matt Frattin and the 23 other players who had no other goal that season but to win it all. And that focus drove the project.

“They meant business, and they were out for it from the very beginning, and they really wanted it no matter what,” O’Keefe said. “They still had a lot of fun along the way. But I think it was so expected.”

The book isn’t chronological, strictly speaking. But to an extent it feels that way. The pictures start out laid back and carefree — an overhead view of the ice at a game against Bemidji State, or a tranquil North Dakota landscape. But as the book goes on, through big game after big game in the WCHA, through the Final Five and through the NCAA Midwest Regional in Green Bay, the goal comes into focus.

And then slips away. You can see it in Frattin’s eyes as he watches the seconds tick away in the semifinal loss to Michigan. Then you see the complete dejection in Frattin as he buries his face in his hands on the next page.

Failing to reach that ultimate goal was heart-wrenching for O’Keefe, too, she admitted.

“I did feel connected to these guys,” she said. “I thought that they expected to win and that was going to be the end goal and that was going to be the result.”

But, like the unpredictable bounce of a puck, that wasn’t the result. O’Keefe wasn’t upset that the fairy tale didn’t turn out the way the team wanted.

“I didn’t have any full expectations,” she said. “I just wanted to go through it with them. I just wanted to experience what they experience. I wanted to give a sense from the inside and figure out why everyone loves this team so much. And honestly, I don’t really think I have the answers. But I hope I show a little bit of it. It’s a unique experience.”

Hakstol revisited

One of the most interesting aspects of the book is the look into the otherwise-closed-off life of Hakstol.

Hakstol is stoic and reserved on the bench and for the media, rarely causing controversy anywhere. But his emotional side exudes throughout, as pictures of him with his fists in the air celebrating a win, or embracing his wife or looking after his kids show a personable side that undoubtedly exists, even if television cameras or column inches in a newspaper don’t show it.

And that curiosity perhaps makes Hakstol’s presence in the book an interesting twist.

“He’s the leader of the team and I wanted him to be a character throughout,” O’Keefe said.

O’Keefe didn’t publish too many words and quotes in this book, but she talked extensively with Hakstol before, during and after the 2010-11 season in preparing the book. What she learned about Hakstol and his ability to think beyond the rink becomes a defining theme of the book.

One Hakstol quote, underscoring a picture of him talking to his players in the Ralph locker room, says it all about what really goes through his mind: “It’s not just about hockey. We all certainly know that. There’s a bigger picture here for every individual and everybody that’s part of it. It’s called growing up.”

Many of his quotes went unpublished, but O’Keefe said she hopes to have the opportunity to publish those in another way to show Hakstol in that different light.

“I would love for that to come out, if somebody would be interested to know him better,” O’Keefe said. “Those are little more insight into him as a leader. I think that’s what I talked about a little bit, or at least tried to talk about, is that they’re always taking cues from him, but he’s still in that [learning] process too. …

“Nine years that he’s been coaching, and he’s still learning. About a year after this we were talking, and he said, ‘I really wish I had let them relish their wins, and how it important it is that you recognize your accomplishments.’”

O’Keefe added that Genoway, captain that season, was a driving force behind the team’s focus, too. “You have to do things the right way. It’s about winning, and winning the right way,” O’Keefe said. “But that’s the thing, right? It’s about life lessons and learning how to do the right things for all of us.”

“One Goal” is available at the Ralph Engelstad Arena’s Sioux Shop or on the Sioux Shop website. Signed copies are also available; her contact information is available at her personal website, www.allisondavisokeefe.com.

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  • Genowayout

    What the? Sounds like it’s straight out of the ministry of Propaganda. BTW my grandfather was in Europe during WW2 so you Ralph lovers know what I mean. This review makes it seem like it’s a photo book by a jock sniffer. I hope the book addresses why, unlike Nick Saban, Hakstool can, year in year out, get NHL draft choice after NHL draft choice and go nowhere. Hope it explains the humiliation at the hands of Yale the year before. Yale. Hope it gives insight into the weird stuff among the coaches. The alcohol issues. What happened with Dell. And to pick a year when, as usual, they blow it, what’s the point?

    • Siouxbetcha

      Wow. I think you lost most people when you start comparing college football results with college hockey. Rodent fan I presume. Congrats on making it back to the WCHA Final 5 last season.

    • http://ndgoon.blogspot.com Goon

      Genowayout, you’re a buffoon, your comments are petty and moronic…

    • Ndsioux

      Lol…typical gopher fan. I’ll be at the Ralph next week. Holy Cross is in town….I’m sure you remember them.

    • pevan52

      Genowayout, try to be witty and original if you talk smack. This is neither, just mindless drivel.

  • tj

    genowayout you must be jealous. what a piece of work you are

  • UofMGoldenChokers

    Just jealous dbag goophs fans. Always pissing and morning about a better program.

    • UofMGoldenChokers


  • nogofer

    I received this book for Christmas. It is a fine addition to my memorabilia and shall adorn my coffee table for years.

    Would you read the reviews of a movie by a viewer that had not seen the film? You know the anti-Sioux commenters have not seen nor purchased the book. Why then do we care what they purportedly think?

    As regards the negative comments, I expect this drivel and keyboard slobber from the jealous so-called fans of the teams envious of The Fighting Sioux.

  • Hockey21

    I’m a Gopher fan. I truly dislike the Sioux. That being said, this looks like a neat book, and no true hockey fan can say they wouldn’t be thrilled if this were about their team. This Gopher-Sioux hatred is sort of fun- but for the most part it just gets annoying. And Genowayout I really hope you’re not a Gopher fan, because you sir, are a moron. What’s the point? The point is it’s the last year with the Sioux nickname, and someone did something to commemorate that.

    • UofMGoldenChokers

      Well said.

  • pevan52

    It’s nice to see a “season long look” for a team that comes close but doesn’t win the championship. Passionate fans, committed players, and a close to the vest coach can add up to a good book. It’s too bad O’Keefe didn’t wait a year to do the last year of the WCHA, as opposed to the last year as the Sioux, it would have wider appeal. I hope that book is being written somewhere this year. That said, this book is perfect for every Sioux fan, lot’s of pictures.

    • nogofer

      Veiled insult?

  • http://www.facebook.com/BC1994 Chris Ryan

    Wait until Jerry York releases his memoirs in 10 years. “Winning NCAA Championships every other year never gets old” Go BC! #925 coming tonight

    • tj

      chris ryan i think und has more championships than you guys do. This could be und’s year sorry

      • http://www.facebook.com/BC1994 Chris Ryan

        What have you done for me lately UND?
        BC will surpass UND’s total by 2020 (conservative estimate)

        • nogofer

          If you wish in one hand and… Which one gets full first?

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