Obama, Clinton Stick Up For North Dakota’s Team

It’s not often that the worlds of presidential politics and college hockey collide, but when they do, smart politicians know that they way to North Dakotans’ hearts is through the Fighting Sioux hockey team.

Presidential contenders Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton both came to Grand Forks last Friday to address the state Democratic convention. Each left with a hockey stick autographed by the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux hockey team, which is headed to Denver this week for its fourth straight NCAA Frozen Four appearance.

Saturday’s Grand Forks Herald prominently featured photos of Obama and Clinton, smiling with the autographed hockey sticks triumphantly held aloft.

Both candidates made reference to UND’s hockey team, but Clinton seemed a bit more clued in when she said, “What if the Fighting Sioux had fought the Gophers to a tie and then given up? They didn’t … and that’s why they’re going to the Frozen Four.”

UND battled rival Minnesota to a 1-1 tie on Jan. 2, the last time the two teams met. Obviously, the Sioux did not give up at that point of the season and they will be one of four teams in Denver on Thursday playing for a shot at the national championship.

Clinton, who came on to the convention stage with the theme song from “Rocky” blaring, invoked the Fighting Sioux nickname a number of times in reference to her intention to continue fighting for the Democratic presidential nomination. But that move also earned her criticism from some convention participants who considered it a mistake given the controversy surrounding UND’s nickname.

Sharing the stage with Clinton and Obama were members of North Dakota’s all-Democratic Congressional delegation, Sen. Byron Dorgan, Sen. Kent Conrad and Congressman Earl Pomeroy. Dorgan, who presented a hockey stick to each candidate, attempted to avoid the nickname controversy by referring to the hockey team as the “UND Sioux.”