MN lawmaker proposes spending $800K to keep MN-ND rivalry alive

1:24 PM, Mar 22, 2013   |    comments
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ST. PAUL, Minn. - A state legislator is proposing to spend nearly a million dollars to keep the Gophers- North Dakota hockey rivalry going after Minnesota leaves the WCHA.

"If we can't talk about hockey at the state capitol we're not representing Minnesota at all," said DFL State Representative Ryan Winkler, of Golden Valley.

Winkler introduced a bill Thursday that would give $800,000 to the University of Minnesota to keep the Gophers and UND facing off.

After this season Minnesota will play in the Big Ten, leaving North Dakota and more than sixty years of hard fought games in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association or WCHA.

But should we be spending that amount of money on a hockey game? Even Winkler doesn't think so.

"Well of course not," he said. "It's really more of a tongue-in-cheek bill to kind of encourage them to play the hockey game."

So why do it? It's meant to be a shot at the U of M. Last year, the athletic department announced it would give up $800,000 after breaking a contract and changing the football team's schedule.

"This whole $800,000 comment thing is more about the football game they paid to get out," he said.

Even Winkler doesn't see the bill as something that would get out of committee.

"When I first saw it, I was like you have to be kidding me," said GOP State Representative Steve Drazkowski, of Mazeppa.

And while it may be tongue-in-cheek for Winkler, for Drazkowski it's something else.

"I think it's a waste of time. I think the image that's projected in the bill is a waste of taxpayer dollars," he said

It is unclear if the bill will even come up for discussion in the Higher Education Committee. Its chair, Rep. Gene Pelowski did not return phone calls.

"But really the statement has been made that we hope that tradition continues," said Winkler.

Debate aside, it appears the discussion has already started outside of the state capitol.

"That was like the highlight of the season, the UND Minnesota game. That was awesome," said one fan.

(Copyright 2013 by KARE. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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