A trip to Notre Dame

Since people seemed to enjoy the profile of Fairbanks, I’ll try another off-the-wall blog entry about the trip to South Bend, Ind.

THE TOWN

First off, I had no idea about this until the week of the game, but Notre Dame actually is not in South Bend. It is technically in the city of Notre Dame, Ind. You will see that if you go to the school’s website. Nearby Holy Cross College and St. Mary’s College also are located in Notre Dame, Ind.

The city itself, really, is not all that nice. We were told by a former Notre Dame student that it’s probably best not to walk around after dark. A lot of the buildings are older and I’m told there are still abandoned industrial buildings in town from when the Studebaker plant closed in the 1960s. On campus, as you would expect, almost every building looks like a church, even the dorms.

We stayed right across the street from the College Football Hall of Fame in South Bend. I cruised through that Saturday afternoon and saw the plaque of former NDSU center Mike Favor. I remember attending an NDSU game as a youngster in Fargo and my dad telling me to watch Favor. Until then, I had never paid attention to an offensive lineman. He was good. Obviously.

COMPTON FAMILY ICE ARENA

The size (a little more than 5,000) seems about perfect for their fan following. I was impressed that they sold it out Friday with the students on break. The atmosphere is much different than WCHA games (maybe in part because the students were gone). It was fairly tame in there. It’s a very intimate rink, though, with great sightlines.

Perhaps the most noticeable part of the arena is that there are no ads anywhere. No ads on the boards, none in the concourses…. zero. Very, very strange sight, but I like it. Not every school is swimming in money and can just decline advertising revenue, though. On one end of the arena, they have five flags — U.S., Canada, Austria, Italy and Sweden — representing the countries of all players on the team.

Another strange Notre Dame twist: When they announce the starting lineups, they announce which dorm the player is living in. Name, position, town, residence. Very strange.

NOTRE DAME STADIUM

On Saturday morning, we went to the football stadium to film our pregame preview in front of the famous Touchdown Jesus mural. We saw a bunch of UND fans over there.

One really cool twist they have at the stadium — one that The Ralph could possibly copy — is that each gate is named after an Irish legend. Ara Parseghian Gate. Knute Rockne Gate. Frank Leahy Gate. Lou Holtz Gate. Dan Devine Gate. Each gate has a statue of the coach it is named after with a quote and the coach’s record (note: every coach that has won a national championship there has a gate).

The Ralph currently has its gates named after directions, but wouldn’t a Cal Marvin Gate or a Gino Gasparini Gate with statues dedicated to them be a lot cooler than Northwest Entrance or Southwest Entrance? I think so (especially for a school, program and arena that is so in touch with its history).

THE BUZZ

We were in town the week that Notre Dame hit No. 1 for the first time in about 20 years, and we watched the Irish punch their ticket to the national championship game at a place called Legends, located about 50 feet from Notre Dame Stadium. Everyone has been asking what it was like.

It actually wasn’t nearly as crazy as I expected. I didn’t think we would get into Legends to watch the game, since we were arriving at the end of the first quarter. There were tons of open tables. Fans mostly politely golf clapped when good things happened for the Irish. After the game, we didn’t see anyone on the streets celebrating or anything. The area outside the stadium was empty.

Still, it was obvious that football was the show in town. People brought “Beat USC” signs to the hockey game. Even at UND, you don’t see people bringing “Beat Minnesota” signs to football games. The PA announcer ended Saturday’s three-star selection announcement by yelling “Beat USC!” And Anders Lee was asked about the football game right away after his presser.

Here are a few photos….

1. A look at Compton Family Ice Arena. You can see how there are no ads on the boards, scoreboard… anywhere.

2. The end of Compton Family Ice Arena. You can see the flags that are dedicated to the homeland of each of the team’s players.

3. The press box. As you can see, it’s everything a writer needs. I like the hooks on the back wall for our coats and bags. There are plenty of outlets. There’s a speaker for someone to read off goals and assists. Comfortable chairs. And reliable internet.

4. Touchdown Jesus. The mural is located on the library, I believe. If you are sitting in the football stadium, you can see the mural over one of the end zones.

5. The tunnel. This is what Rudy dreamed of running out of.

6. On Sunday, we drove to Chicago to catch our flight. In the process, we covered the Vikes-Bears game. Jimmy may no longer be playing, but the legend lives on.

16 thoughts on “A trip to Notre Dame

  1. Here, Here to the National Title gate idea, Brad. We too saw the gates while walking around the campus and enjoyed our short visit with you outside the football stadium. Great job as always!

  2. Brad, a little background info on the dorm thing. At Notre Dame over 90% of the students stay in the dorms lower and upper classmen alike. Students are actually required to do so through their junior year. The arrangements are oriented as such: Freshman are on the lower levels and as the levels go up so does the seniority. Typically students stay at the same dorm throughout their tenure. This is one of the schools methods to ensure student unity and belonging. Have you ever heard an alumni from Notre Dame say they had a bad experience? They don’t have fraternities at Notre Dame so there is a lot of pride in each individual dorm. The dorms compete against eachother in events like building a boat out of cardboard and tape to row and race aross one of the campus lakes or a flag football tournament etc. You probably noticed many students wearing shirts/hats displaying their dormatory name. I know a lot of people have said when I attended UND that they would never want to be in a dorm more than one year but I think Notre Dame is a great school with many unique and cool traditions. What a beautiful campus as well.

  3. Great column. Your opening comments about Mike Favor brought back memories but not from his playing days. When I was in High School he was our Head Football coach and in charge of campus security. Big gentle giant! My senior year I remember wearing my Fighting Sioux sweatshirt proud and having a great banter back and forth with him in the halls! A class act in my book.

  4. You are the Rick Steves of college hockey — SO interesting to hear about the people and the places as well as the hockey! I will join your fan club — is there one?? :-) Go Sioux!

  5. I find it odd that you mention they type of city South Bend/Notre Dame is. My wife and I currently live in Ann Arbor and this was our first Men’s hockey game in 3 years (our first close enough since leaving GF). We loved South Bend and thought it was a nice city. I think people in the Dakota’s are accustomed to a higher standard of living than most people in this country. Sure, there was blight, but overall the city appeared clean and safe. From someone who lives 40miles from Detroit, I can tell you, that was a nice city!

    I also missed the Sioux atmosphere. The loudest the arena got? During a kiddy hockey game at intermission! Next up for loudness was a dance camera contest, than an annoying amount of “get loud” screens on the jumbo-tron. That crowd was tame, which made it easy for us Sioux fans to stick out….. Even when the students are away, the Ralph is MUCH MUCH louder. Can’t wait until these people get a welcoming to the Gophers twice a year!

  6. Great write up Brad!!! Thank you for sharing the pictures too!!! I am a devoted Irish football fan since 1990. It took all of one game watching “Rocket” Ismail on tv and I was hooked. To say the Notre Dame football program has been in a football title drought is an understatement. One also might say the rich traditions of the North Dakota Fighting Sioux men’s hockey program run along many parallels to those of Notre Dame’s football program. Winning is expected year in and year out, greatness within both fan communities is measured in National Titles, not in just winning seasons, high caliber/highly anticipated recruits are the norm, and the devoted fan following/support of the teams are second to none. The North Dakota men’s hockey program, like Notre Dame football program, is also in a title(National) drought. Nevertheless, the love, admiration, devotion, and hope runs deep among their large fan bases and this is an important part of what builds tradition and sets these types of programs apart from the rest. At Notre Dame it may in deed be “God, Country, Notre Dame”, but I dare say that in the state of North Dakota, it is God, Country, and North Dakota Fighting Sioux Hockey. Some may argue my statement, but in my mind this is how it is and how it will always be. Although the name has been stripped from the University of North Dakota, it is forever ingrained in the tradition of the university, the hockey program, and in the hearts and minds of the unwavering support Fighting Sioux fans and Fighting Sioux Alumni that will forever be a part of the Fighting Sioux family tradition.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>