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.