Usually, when the team charters planes, they fly directly into the city that UND is playing, no matter how small the town is. Oxford ended up being the exception.
There is no airport in Oxford that can handle a passenger plane, so the team had to fly into Cincinnati and drive an hour to Oxford. I did the same on Friday.
Once you get out of Cincinnati, the road that takes you into Oxford isn’t exactly a highway. It is a 45 mph speed limit road that has houses along the side for much of the way. When you think of stereotypical backwoods types of roads, this is it.
As I’m cruising down this road looking at some not-so-well-kept houses along the side, and other businesses that you know have not changed since the 1960s, all that’s going through my head is, “How in the world does Miami get players to come here?” I couldn’t believe it.
Then, I got to Oxford. And then I understood.
It’s a pure college town. In Grand Forks, we tend to think that all the city has is UND. Well, that’s really true in Oxford. All Oxford has is Miami. Think of a town that’s half the size of Grand Forks with a college that’s larger. That’s Oxford.
En route to my hotel, I went through the main drag downtown. It was great. There were restaurants, bars, everything along the brick street. There were students and people everywhere. Even on Saturday afternoon, when it was cold and windy, it was a vibrant area.
As I drove through downtown, my thoughts quickly changed to, “How in the world did four kids decide they would rather live with billet parents in the CHL than hang out here?”
Almost the entire town feels like it is on campus. If you’re not on campus, you’re probably near housing that students live in.
For someone that is always up late and works late like myself, the great part about this town is that everything is open late. They even have a place called Insomnia Cookies open until 3 a.m. Pizza places are open late, too.
But I could see where it’s not a town for everyone. There is no airport, no movie theater (seriously, I looked), no Burger King, among other places we take for granted.
I tried a few different places, including a pasta house called Paesano’s. That came highly recommended by an NHL scout who says he makes a mandatory stop there every trip to Oxford. The restaurant was a small house with very limited seating, but it had a cool atmosphere.
As for pizza places, you’ve got to love Will’s, where pizza is still a buck a slice. I ordered two slices of pepperoni and a Gatorade and was charged $2.63. I made the cashier re-state the amount because I couldn’t believe it was that cheap.
Was any of it good enough to earn a spot on the all-NCHC dining team? Not sure yet. Will decide at the end of the season.
The Goggin Ice Center is the name of the entire complex. The arena where Miami plays is called Steve Cady Arena. There’s another sheet of ice basically attached to Cady Arena with a much smaller set of stands. It looked like it was an NHL-sized sheet.
The place is nice. It reminded me a bit of Notre Dame’s new rink. Notre Dame’s is a little bit larger, but both are fairly similar. As most of you figured out, Cady Arena is very small compared to the old WCHA standards. It seats about 3,700.
The atmosphere in the rink was pretty good. It wasn’t anything more than what you would see at St. Cloud or Duluth, but I would say it was more lively than CC or Denver. The big reason for that is the students. They put them all in one end (the one where the visiting goalie is for the first and third periods). They occupy pretty much the whole zone from the blue line back to the end wall on both sides.
STAYING IN OXFORD
There aren’t a ton of hotels in Oxford. I got lucky and finally found a room about 12 hours before I checked in. I know a lot of other UND fans ended up staying in Dayton, about an hour away. So, if you decide to make this trip sometime, make hotel reservations early.
Photo No. 1 — I had a great start to the trip. Not only did I get to Cincinnati on time, but I got to see a guy drop-kick his duffel bag across Hertz after his card got denied. He kicked the bag from where he was standing all the way into the wall by the vending machine, showing great leg strength. I understand that Akron’s kicker is 4 of 10 on field goals this season. So if anyone knows this disgruntled gentleman, get him a Zips uniform now.
Photo No. 2 — High Street. This is the main drag in town. Restaurants and bars are all down the street. Almost all of them seem to have outdoor seating that is full. Just a really lively place. This photo was taken on Saturday, when it was cold, wet and windy, but you can still see people out. Someone asked me what WCHA town this reminded me most of. I said Houghton, though it’s quite a bit more lively than Houghton.
Photo No. 3 — Goggin Ice Center from the outside. You’ll notice the brick building. That’s what every building on campus seemed to look like.
Photo No. 4 — Steve Cady Arena. This is a photo from one of the ends of the rink.
Photo No. 5 — Game time. Here’s some game action on Friday night. All the fans you can see in this picture are students, so you can see how much room they take up.
Photo No. 6 — The lobby of the arena. As you can see, they have decorated it by hanging every jersey of a former player that made the NHL. They also have big mural tributes to Stanley Cup winners. Others include defensemen Dan Boyle and Alec Martinez.
Photo No. 7 — The Redskins. Miami changed its name from the Redskins to the RedHawks in the late 1990s. This building opened in 2006, almost a decade later. But still, they put the old Redskins logo on the wall.
Photo No. 8 — The Gwoz. What arena would be complete without a Gwoz banner? The Gwoz coached Miami in the 1990s.
Photo No. 9 — Football. Well, I think the UND football team outdrew someone on Saturday. I ended up going to the Miami game (the RedHawks are 0-7 and fired their coach midseason), and I was one of about 15 people. Announced attendance was 15,000, but there’s no way it was close to that. The RedHawks ended up losing to Akron, which hadn’t won on the road since October 2008. Yikes.