North Dakota expected to finally give up the fight, retire Fighting Sioux nickname

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After a contentious battle, it appears that the University of North Dakota is going to give up their fight to keep the Fighting Sioux nickname.

For years, the school has adopted the Native American name and look to their athletic team logos but now after pressure from the NCAA and a lack of support from one of two Lakota Indian tribes, the school is expected to retire the “Fighting Sioux” name and imagery from being associated with their athletic teams.

The nickname over recent years was found to be “hostile and abusive” towards Native Americans and the NCAA flexed their muscle on UND to get the name changed by threatening sanctions on their athletic teams if they persisted in fighting the change. Banning them from postseason play in sports such as football and hockey were threatened and with the UND hockey program being as big and popular as it is, these threats were taken seriously.

After meetings between NCAA officials and North Dakota representatives including state governor Jack Dalrymple, the NCAA feels confident that their wishes will be met.

“It’s our understanding coming out of this meeting that the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo will be dropped,” said NCAA VP for communications Bob Williams in the article. “The contingent from North Dakota made it clear that they were committed to changing the legislative action that would require retention of the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo. However, our settlement agreement remains in effect and as a result, the University of North Dakota will be subject to the policy effective Aug. 15.”

While the North Dakota legislature tried their best to fight the efforts made by the state board of education and the wishes of the NCAA by passing a law making a change to the nickname only possible through the state government, it’ll take an action by the governor to transfer that power back to the board of education and hope that the legislature approves it to allow the retirement to happen. While there could be more holdups by the government here, it’s clear that the fight to keep a nickname and appearance that the NCAA finds to be abusive has grown tired.

The tricky part of all this is how the school will handle obscuring and covering up the many Fighting Sioux logos throughout Ralph Englestad Arena where the hockey team plays.  When Engelstad gave his money to the university to have the arena built, he demanded that there be as many Sioux logos as possible carved throughout the building knowing full well that one day the NCAA would come calling for the name. That part of the issue is still under discussion as Chuck Haga of the Grand Forks Herald discusses.

Dalrymple said the NCAA leaders also agreed that the transitioning of Ralph Engelstad Arena regarding logos and insignia will be negotiated by Stenehjem and the NCAA.

Williams confirmed that the two side “agreed to have a discussion regarding that timeline,” but he said provisions in the 2007 settlement agreement concerning what must be removed and when “remains in effect.”

Hodgson did not speak with reporters as he left the meeting. In the past he has been adamant about not stripping logos and other Sioux-related items from the privately owned arena.

This issue is just another awkward one when it comes to the entire situation. While UND has never been one to have offensive mascots (hello Washington Redskins) or crowd chants (like the Atlanta Braves) and the Fighting Sioux name was always treated with respect, they never got approval from the Standing Rock Tribe to use the name. Standing Rock and Spirit Lake Tribes were the two Native American tribes the university needed to get approval from to use the Fighting Sioux nickname and while Spirit Lake passed a referendum of their own, Standing Rock refused to vote on it.

As Haga’s piece discussed, some Native American students felt offended by the name and joined in a lawsuit against the school to get them to drop it.

The students named in the lawsuit include Lakota (Sioux) people and members of other tribes in and outside North Dakota, who have said they all suffer discrimination or discomfort because of the nickname.

All allege that the nickname has had “a profoundly negative impact” on their self-image and psychological health, and the long-running and often bitter fight has denied them “an equal educational experience and environment,” according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court.

With these kinds of complaints as well as the possibility that some athletic conferences would refuse to allow admittance to North Dakota because of the nickname problem, UND’s hand was essentially forced by those opposed to it. Is this the right move to make to respect a group of people or is this political correctness run amok yet again? After all, other universities still have Native American nicknames and aren’t being forced to change them (University of Illinois, Florida State University for example). For the Fighting Sioux and their hockey team, getting a new look and a new name will make the future a strange one.

NCAA standout Foo leaving school, will sign NHL deal this summer

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Spencer Foo, who racked up a whopping 62 points in 38 games this year for Union College, is forgoing his senior season to achieve his “life long dream of playing in the NHL.”

Where that dream takes place remains to be seen.

Foo, 22, won’t be back at Union in the fall, but will complete his spring term at Union and not sign with a pro organization until summer, per the Daily Gazette. The decision comes after a banner three seasons in school, capped off with a junior campaign in which he was nominated for ECAC Hockey Player of the Year and shortlisted for the Hobey Baker.

Foo has reportedly drawn interest from the Flyers. There have also been rumblings of the Oilers being in the mix — Foo is an Edmonton native — but it appears nearly every team has some level of interest. Consider this, from LA Kings Insider:

The Kings are among the teams involved in [Foo’s] courtship, and asked where the stiffest competition was coming from, I was told, “about 29 other teams.”

Foo is an undrafted free agent, so there’s no real rush for him to make a decision. Sounds like NHL teams are more than willing to wait it out.

Announcing the Hobey Hat Trick: Aston-Reese, Butcher, Vecchione

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Northeastern’s Zach Aston-Reese, Denver’s Will Butcher, and Union’s Mike Vecchione are the three finalists for the Hobey Baker Award.

Aston-Reese, a 22-year-old forward, had 31 goals and 32 assists in 38 games this season. Undrafted, he signed with the Pittsburgh Penguins earlier this month.

Butcher, a 22-year-old defenseman, had seven goals and 29 assists in 41 games for the Frozen Four-headed Pioneers. A fifth-round pick of the Avalanche in 2013, Butcher is still unsigned and is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent Aug. 15. It remains to be seen if the Avs will offer him a contract, though it’s been reported they will.

Vecchione, a 24-year-old forward, had 29 goals and 34 assists in 38 games. Undrafted, he’s expected to sign with an NHL team shortly — possibly the Flyers or Wild.

Jimmy Vesey, Jack Eichel, and Johnny Gaudreau were the Hobey Baker winners in each of the last three years.

After 12-game absence, Boychuk back for Isles

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The New York Islanders, four points back of the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference and having lost their last two games, will get a huge boost tonight on the blueline.

Johnny Boychuk, who’s missed the last 12 games with a lower-body injury, will return to the lineup on Thursday when the Isles take on the Flyers in Philadelphia. It’ll mark the first time the veteran defenseman has played since getting hurt back on Mar. 3.

(Boychuk draws in at the expense of Thomas Hickey, who’ll sit tonight.)

Needless to say, this is a massive addition for the Isles. Boychuk was averaging close to 21 minutes per night and had 21 points through 59 games before his injury, and led all New York defensemen in shots on goal.

The Isles are going to be an interesting team to watch down the stretch. It’s tough sledding, with five of their final seven contests being played on the road, though that’s mitigated by the fact they’re playing a bunch of teams outside of the playoff picture (Philly, New Jersey x2, Buffalo and Carolina).

McAvoy has the talent to improve Bruins right now

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Charlie McAvoy could be in the Providence Bruins’ lineup as soon as Friday against Albany.

Providence also plays Saturday and Sunday, so even if it’s not Friday, the 19-year-old defenseman is expected to get his first taste of pro hockey sometime this weekend.

Of course, the real question is when his Boston Bruins debut may occur.

“He has the attributes to be able to play NHL games right now, absolutely,” said Bruins GM Don Sweeney, per the Providence Journal. 

McAvoy has yet to ink an NHL contract. He’s in Providence on an amateur tryout after making the decision to leave Boston University. If he plays an NHL game this season, the first year of the three-year entry-level contract he’ll sign would be burned.

Hence, Sweeney’s desire to see McAvoy in the AHL before making any decisions.

“This gives an opportunity for him, first and foremost, to get a chance to play professional games, which is another level for him. [We’ll] evaluate from there,” said Sweeney.

It’s certainly possible, given McAvoy’s talent, that he could help the NHL Bruins right now. The bar is essentially Kevan Miller, Boston’s third-pairing defenseman on the right side. (If McAvoy were a left shot, the bar would be slightly lower, with all due respect to John-Michael Liles.)

The NHL Bruins, who’ve yet to book a playoff spot, have six games left in their regular season. They host Dallas tonight, Florida Saturday, and then they’re in Chicago Sunday.

Assuming McAvoy stays with Providence all weekend, his first real chance to get into an NHL game would be Tuesday against Tampa Bay.

Stay tuned.

Read more: Bruins will leave door ajar for McAvoy