Friday, 7 July 2017

Collector's Item?

With a summer heat wave finally arriving, I decided a mini-vacation was in order as I made a run across the border. One of the things I've learned from a number of trips across the border is to blend in with the locals so that you don't look like a tourist. With my destination being Grand Forks, North Dakota, I decided that I should probably wear one of the University of North Dakota hats I own. The catch is that all my hats are Fighting Sioux hats, not the new Fighting Hawks hats. I had some trepidation in wearing the Sioux logo, but ultimately I decided to wear it and accept any lumps that came my way. Instead, I found quite the opposite.

The name "Fighting Hawks" has been the name of the university's sports teams since 2015 after they spent three years nameless following the retirement of the "Fighting Sioux" name and imagery. June 11, 2012 saw 67.35% of North Dakota voters vote in favour of retiring the Sioux name and logo as Referendum Measure #4 in a statewide vote. If you're good with fractions, that's 2/3rds of the voters - a rather sizable group of North Dakotans. Three days later with the results of the vote being known, the state's Board of Higher Education voted to drop the name and logo with its intention of picking a new name in 2015 after a three-year penalty was imposed.

Let it be known that I saw very little Fighting Hawks merchandise being worn by the people of Grand Forks. For the most part, people seemed to wear Minnesota Vikings and Minnesota Wild gear with the sprinkling of a few other teams mixed in. I don't know what the sales of Fighting Hawks merchandise is, but there was no one looking at the gear for sale in Scheels while I was there either while the Vikings and NHL sections had a handful of people in them.

Why am I telling you this, you ask? I was stopped on two occasions and asked from where I had purchased my Fighting Sioux cap. One gentleman who had to be no older than his mid-thirties told me that I "shouldn't be wearing it because it's a collector's item around here". As I thought about it, he might be right as I saw virtually no Fighting Sioux merchandise in any store despite the university producing a limited series of items known as the "Dacotah Heritage Collection" with the Sioux logo on it in order to retain the trademark and prevent others from producing merchandise with the name and logo on it. From the way it sounds, "limited series" might be a handful of trinkets if my hat is now a "collector's item".

It never occurred to me that the Sioux name and logo could eventually become the new Hartford Whalers situation where, after ten years of controlling the trademark, the city of Hartford and the state of Connecticut allowed the NHL to use the Whalers mark in merchandising with the trademark rights transferring back to the Carolina Hurricanes. While the NCAA may not like the idea, there seems to be a demand for Fighting Sioux merchandise still. Granted, it's not quite in the same demand as the Whalers were, but the name and logo still resonate locally in Grand Forks.

I'm not saying this will ever happen. I'm sure the NCAA will keep the pressure on UND to produce some merchandise so that there aren't packs of fans showing up in Sioux merchandise after the school rebranded itself. However, for the two men who came up to me in the city and commented on my hat, it seems they may represent a group of people who are die-hard Sioux fans, especially considering that the logo had been in use from 1930 until its demise in 2012.

Maybe I do have a collector's item on my hands?

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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