Superfan | June 1, 2022

If you’ve been watching the NHL Playoffs, you know that the Edmonton Oilers and the Colorado Avalanche are now competing in the Conference Finals; the winner of their series will play for the Stanley Cup.  If you’ve been reading North Dakota Nice for a while, you know that Kyle has loved (/hated) the Oilers for 42 years.  With that, I’m going to interrupt my regularly-scheduled programming (next week will be a story about the long weekend, so you’ll need to pretend like that’s still fresh in your mind) to tell you what it’s like to be married to a hockey – and specifically an Oilers – superfan.

Even if you don’t know anything about hockey, you probably know Wayne Gretzky.  Wayne Gretzky played for the Edmonton Oilers from 1979 to 1988; during that time the team won four Stanley Cups.  The call of the Wayne was so strong that little Kyle Kosior broke ranks from his family’s long-time Montreal Canadiens legacy to don the navy blue and orange.  This switch was a CHOICE because the Kosiors had collectively been Canadiens fans since the 50’s, when his grandmother’s cousin played for the team.

Little Kyle immersed himself in everything Oilers.  By the time he was ten, he knew the stats and minute-by-minute gameplay of every player on both the Oilers and their farm team.  Also when he was ten, the Oilers – the defending Stanley Cup Champs – had advanced to Game 7 against the Calgary Flames in an early Playoff series.  In the third period, the game tied, an Oilers player named Steve Smith went to pass the puck back to a teammate, missed his target, and hit the leg of his own goalie (Grant Fuhr) to score on his own net.  Little Kyle flung himself on his bed, sobbing in despair.  He cried all through the night and through school the next day.

Twenty years later, Kyle found himself in an elevator with Steve Smith.  Kyle was carrying a case of beer (a gift to a friend), and Steve asked him for one – and Kyle, the guy who has literally given people the coat off his back, channeled that inner ten-year-old and did about the meanest thing he’d ever done in his life.  He looked Steve dead in the eyes and said, “No.”

(As a hockey mom, I’d like to say that Steve Smith is not the reason the Oilers didn’t advance in the playoffs.  Hockey is a team sport, and if the Oilers were so great they would have won that game/series regardless.  As someone who loves Kyle, however, I will continue to keep my mouth shut.)

The Oilers won their last Stanley Cup in 1990.  Since then, they have…what’s a gentle way to put this?…sucked.  While some of the Oilers fans drifted away to less-craptastic teams, Kyle remained steadfast.  Also, miserable.  When we met in 2004, his M.O. would be to watch a game, stomp around the apartment swearing for fifteen minutes (social media wasn’t a thing back then; now he does his grumping on Twitter), and then toss and turn all night.  I found these tantrums so enticing that I decided to marry him.

The Oilers managed to enter the Playoffs in 2006, the same year we were wed.  As much as he tried to play it cool, Kyle was hopping with excitement.  That is not an exaggeration; we were living in an apartment on the south end of Grand Forks at the time, and Kyle would bounce between the living room and bedroom to shake off his nerves before every puck drop.  Despite decades of losses, ten-year-old (but now thirty) Kyle was so convinced of their success that he decided to host a watch party with a large group of his law school friends.  Unsurprisingly, the Oilers lost – and Kyle stood up from his Oilers easy chair (which was set below his Oilers wall clock, Oilers wall decals, and Oilers framed autographed pictures) and left.  Not out of the room; out of the apartment.  He came back a few hours later, long after all of our guests had left.

“Where did you go?”  I asked him the next morning.

“For a walk,” he said.

“Where did you walk?”  I asked.

“To East Grand Forks,” he said. (note: About 14 miles roundtrip)

I’ve now been Oilers fan-adjacent for nearly twenty years.  In that time:

  • Kyle tried (unsuccessfully) to name our first-born Ryan Smyth Pisani Kosior after two of his favorite players.
  • In 2017, Kyle didn’t watch two games out of disgust, and has since spent the last five years telling me about the time he didn’t watch those two games.
  • He has followed, and unfollowed, and refollowed every single Oilers blog and fan on Twitter. He has also cancelled multiple dinner dates because the Oilers lost earlier in the evening and “He just didn’t feel up to it.”
  • He has taken our sons to see an Oilers game every year of their lives (excluding 2020), and I finally had to lay down the law on gifts of Oilers merch because I have enough t-shirts and jerseys to outfit the entire team.
  • When I suggested that maybe he find a back-up team to follow to help balance out the Oilers suckiness, he didn’t talk to me for an hour.

Now the Oilers are in the Playoffs, and poor Kyle has had a permanent stomachache since about November.  I told one of our friends that he’s so tensed up that I’m not sure he’s gone to the bathroom.  The ten-year-old in him is still hopping with excitement; the grown man is so afraid to watch that he’ll turn off the TV in the middle of the game and I’ll have to refresh Twitter (or go into another room with a TV, because the Playoff games this year have been pretty fun) until I see that they are winning.

By the time I post this story the Oilers and Avs will have played their first game, and I wanted to get this on record before the series advances – because…well, because twenty years of because.  I asked Kyle the other day if he was happy about the Oilers, and he thought about it for a long time and then said, “I don’t know.”

And that’s what it’s like being married to a superfan.

The photo above is of Kyle watching an Oilers game.  Look at how much he’s enjoying it.

This week’s news has lemonade, fish, and 13,850 miles.  Read on.


A group of Hunter second-graders raised $2,016 via a one-day lemonade stand to help one of their classmates purchase a new vehicle.(Facebook)

Time to borrow a fishing rod, because North Dakota residents 16 and older can fish for free on June 4 and 5. (KX Net)

A little (or even a lot) of rain didn’t deter the annual North Dakota Memorial Day ceremony.  As Maj. Gen Al Dohrmann, North Dakota National Guard adjutant general, said, “It’s a beautiful day.  Any day we can gather and honor our veterans and honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice is beautiful.” (Bismarck Tribune)

Jamestown’s Helene Neville has spent the last 12 years running across every state in the country – totally 13,850 miles – and is the “fifth and oldest person to ever run the perimeter of the continental U.S.” (Jamestown Sun)

Congratulations to the newly-crowned Mrs. North Dakota America, Mrs. North Dakota American, Miss North Dakota for America Strong, Teen Miss for North Dakota, Junior Teen for North Dakota, Junior Miss for Grand Forks, Little Miss for Grand Forks, Junior Miss for Grand Forks 2023, Miss Red River Valley for America Strong, and Mrs. Downtown Grand Forks America! (Grand Forks Herald)

I know this isn’t a typical North Dakota Nice story, but I happen to know the Vanderpans and they are the nicest family and I think it’s awesome that Matt is sharing his story to raise awareness of stroke symptoms. (Grand Forks Herald)

And finally, a little North Dakota Nice from Facebook, courtesy of a a North Dakota Associate Poet Laureate:

Screenshot_20220526-211539_Facebook


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Hockey Bubbes | May 11, 2022

My ten-year-old’s hockey team closed out the spring season with a tournament in Minneapolis.  As his mother, I’m legally obligated to tell all of society (but, like, in a casual way) that they went undefeated, and won the championship, and my son and his friend (the team’s two goalies; they each play half-periods) had two shut-outs and the whole thing was very fun.

My parents live in the Cities and attended all of Ten’s games.  The championship was held on Mother’s Day – and so my mom recommended (by saying “Amanda, you need to drink more water and your next column will be about me”) that I use this week’s story to honor those mothers and grandmothers and aunties and next-door neighbors who give the entirety of their love and support to a child athlete without actually caring about the sport itself.  My mom calls them “Hockey Bubbes” because my children call her Bubbe (the Yiddish word for grandma) and so I’ll use that for simplicity’s sake – but really, Hockey Bubbe-dom transcends all activities, genders, ages, taste for concession stand hot dogs, and geographies.

There are three rules to being a Hockey Bubbe.

The first is that you can’t be bothered to learn the rules of the game.  My mother is currently teaching herself another language and has watched hundreds of hockey games; and while those two things are unrelated they are proof that she has both the intelligence and access to understand the general nuances of the sport.  She does not, however, have the interest.  As such, 100% of her understanding of hockey is that the puck has to go into the net more times on one side than the other in order for the game to end.  She knows that icing is more than a topping on a cake…but she definitely can’t identify an icing call when it happens. 

This lack of knowledge does not keep her from commenting on the game, of course; which she does from the puck drop to the handshake (I also have this gift of non-stop chatter, and I’d like to formally and deeply apologize to any past or future moms who have the misfortune of sitting in my general vicinity.  Thank you for not turning around and saying, “Jeepers creepers, Amanda, shut your piehole.”).  A Hockey Bubbe’s commentary is accurate maybe once every thousand times.  She will yell “Hustle!” during an end-zone penalty kill, or “Get to the net!” to a player who is already off-side.  At this recent tournament, the buzzer rang to indicate the end of the period.  One of the opposing players tipped the puck into the net as he skated back to the bench.

“Goal!”  My mom shouted at the ref.

“The period is over,” I said.

“So what?”  She said.

“So…the game is stopped,” I said.

“Well, that doesn’t seem very fair,” she said.

Fairness is the second rule of Hockey Bubbe-ness.  In the case of my mother, she wants everyone to have fun and feel good but she also only wants her own grandchildren to win.  As my son is the goalie, this means that she demands that every game end with a 1-0 score.

It also means she doesn’t like any cheering against her own grandchildren and/or their teammates.  My son was scored upon in the second game and the other team (unsurprisingly) celebrated.

“That is terrible,” my mother said.  “Look, they made him feel sad.”  And then, loudly, “That is terrible.”

A few seconds later, my son’s team scored, and my mother jumped to her feet and cheered,

“Great job, [kid’s name]!  Great job, [another kid’s name]!  Great job, [a third kid’s name who was not on the ice]!  Whoop whoop whoop whoop!  Beat their butts!”

Finally, the last rule of Hockey Bubbe-ing is to have opinions on everything.  Here are a few of the exact comments that came out of my mother’s mouth over the weekend:

“What was that penalty?  Hooking?  I think that was tripping.”

“That ref needs to stop blowing his whistle, I have things to do today.”

“I don’t like the color of those jerseys compared to the other team.”  And then, when it was communicated that the Home team always wears white, “I want to see a few alternates.”

Obviously, there is no greater fan than a Hockey Bubbe.  Also, obviously, there is no one who can move on from a game and onto the next activity faster.  To quote my mother when my son emerged from the locker room after his championship win: “You’re the best goalie in the world, now let’s go to lunch.” 

The photo above is of the boys holding their championship trophy – because, you know, legal obligation.

This week’s news has an interactive playground and not one, not two, but THREE TV shows.  Read on.


Connor George has a sweet new playset thanks to Make-a-Wish North Dakota. (Jamestown Sun)

Heart River Elementary School now has the first interactive indoor playground in North Dakota, which uses touch projection to keep kids active. (Dickinson Press)

Bismarck’s Cody Adolphson is the winner of the History Channel’s “Forged in Fire,” a TV show where bladesmiths recreate historical weapons. (Hot 97.5)

Congratulations to Halliday’s Chloe Fredericks, who made it all the way to the finale of NBC’s “American Song Contest.” (KFYR TV)

The Badlands will be front and center in a two-part NOVA science series called “Dinosaur Apocalypse,” which will feature the findings from a fossil site near Bowman. (Fargo Forum)


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Squirt International | February 23, 2022

Last weekend, my ten-year-old played in the Squirt International hockey tournament in Fargo, North Dakota.  The “Squirt” in “Squirt International” refers to the age group in which he skates – specifically, fourth- and fifth-graders.  My son, a fourth grader, is a first-year Squirt.  I’m not sure why “Squirt” is the nationally-recognized term, but my guess is it has something to do with the fact that kids of this age like to hold their water bottles out in front of their pelvic region and squirt water/Gatorade all over the ice to simulate going to the bathroom.

The “International” part is because this tournament attracts 240 Squirt teams from all over the United States and Canada, who descend on Fargo for three four-day hockey tournaments (80 teams per weekend) in February.

For the past year, my fellow hockey moms have been warning me that Squirt International was “a big deal.”  As a marketing professional, I am permanently skeptical about anything pitched as “a big deal,” as everything about marketing is “a big deal,” even when it’s “not really any kind of a deal at all.”  Also, I started this blog because it’s a best-kept secret that North Dakota is awesome; and, as such, was wary that something of such “International” magnitude would be allowed to be located in Fargo.  I was so convinced that it wasn’t a big deal that I had an entirely different story written for today.

Anyways, I was wrong.

First of all, it turns out that Fargo was an ideal spot for the tournament.  There were enough hockey rinks between Fargo, West Fargo, and Moorhead that all 80 teams were able to play during normal human hours.  While urban areas like the Minneapolis metro also have a lot of rinks, in Fargo all of the rinks were a five-or-so-minute drive from the hotels.  Speaking of hotels, ours was totally cool with hockey families taking over the entire place.  The area restaurants were also cool, the Fargo parents who ran the concessions were cool, and whomever had to sweep up fifty billion pin bags (more on that later) was definitely, definitely cool.  Maybe Fargo should host the next Winter Olympics; the tagline basically writes itself (“Good Sports?  You Betcha!”).

Second of all, I knew I was wrong when I showed up to the Scheels Arena for the Opening Ceremonies and there were so many hockey players on the ice – 600, to be inexact – that I could smell them from the seats.  The music was bumpin’, the beer was flowing, and my shy little goalie was so pumped up that he spent twenty minutes dance-skating in circles with goalies from Grand Forks, Los Angeles, and Nevada.  The Opening Ceremonies included a group photo (somehow they convinced hundreds of children drunk on adrenaline to sit still for ten solid minutes), a warm-up skate, and the Squirt Olympics.

The Squirt Olympics had five(?) events like sharp-shooting, obstacle course skating, and goalie races happening simultaneously on two rinks.  Obviously, Kyle and I were only focused on the goalie races (and getting beer) – and since our son managed to get himself to the very back of a line of 100+ goalies for their timed trials, Kyle figured he had lots of space to procure us the aforementioned beers from a grown-up line equal to that in length of the goalies.  Our son was at the starting gate when Kyle returned sans anything but himself, annoyed because the person in front of him ordered eight vodka-cranberry juices with twists of lime, and those drinks took so long that Kyle had to leave the line to get back for the race.  Fortunately, our son’s team later played the vodka-cran’s team, meaning we got to carry around a pretty solid (one-sided) parental rivalry before the puck even dropped.

Thirdly, there was a huge amount of parental effort that goes into Squirt International.  As you can imagine, it’s hard enough to feed 15 kids, their parents, and their siblings in one go; but even more difficult when there are 79 other teams trying to do the same thing.  As such, the moms on my son’s team organized two potlucks…which meant that two moms had to sleep in hotel rooms with simmering pulled pork and taco meat for the entire weekend.  The moms also printed up Fat Heads (giant pictures of our children’s faces), packed up gift bags and, with the dads, toted kids all over town to games, photo shoots, and whatever else.  For my part, I brought hamburger buns and got myself dressed every day.

Finally, the biggest deal about Squirt International was the pin trading.  You may be thinking, “Like those little buttons we wore on our jean jackets back in the 80s?”  NO.  Fancy enamel pins with additional enamel whosiewhatsits that shift and spin and light up.  One of the teams had a pin that was as large as my hand and weighed a solid two pounds.  Each kid was given a prescribed number of their own team pins, which they used to trade for other team pins.  This trading happened in large piles on the floor; at every rink, hotel, and restaurant there were groups of kids kneeling down, their fabric pin books open to show off their wares – think New York street hawkers with fake Gucci bags.

The pin trading system was vast and complex.  In one instance, my son – who decided to forgo swimming in order to trade – bartered with another kid to swap my son’s biggest pin with a 2019 two-parter pin that was deemed “super-rare.”  When I asked what made it super-rare, my son just looked at me like I had suggested Sidney Crosby was not the best player in the world, so apparently I should stick to fake Gucci bags and stay out of the pin market.

We’re back home now, still trying to catch up with laundry and basking in the glow of all of our super-rare pins.  I’m going to celebrate Squirt International’s conclusion with a vodka-cranberry (with a twist of lime) and make a mental note to tell all of the next year’s first-time Squirt moms that Squirt International is a big deal.

The photos above are as follows (left to right):

  • The Lakeville South (MN) pin was one of the most popular because it was giant (that’s Kyle’s hand for scale) and the hockey player moved back and forth.
  • Approximately 1/5th of the goalies in the Olympics goalie race. Kyle took this photo, and I’m not even sure our kid is in it.
  • Kyle has been streaming our son’s games on Facebook Live.  The moms and dads on our team were so appreciative of his commentary that they made him this rad t-shirt.

This week’s news has t-shirts, Top Chefs, and grandmas.  Read on.


The (very large) Marsh family in Dickinson is selling t-shirts in support of the Stark County Association of Deputy’s youth-and-resident-in-need program. (Dickinson Press)

Students in Wahpeton put together a fast – and highly effective – gift basket auction (with thanks to many area businesses) to raise money for a local family who lost a son on February. (Wahpeton Daily News)

Bismarck’s Stephanie Miller is typing up her apron as a contestant on the Bravo TV show “Top Chef.” (KX Net)

Employees at Dickinson’s CountryHouse Residence got grandma Marilyn Wert to Bozeman, Montana so she could surprise her granddaughter at her college basketball game. (Dickinson Press)

I put up another one of my Flash Fiction stories – this one based on a conversation I had with another hockey mom, who said her son only scores when she’s in the bathroom.  You can read it here.