Grand Forks, North Dakota. Winter. It’s so cold you can barely breathe, and 12,000 people don’t care.
They brave the wind, snow, and negative temperatures to watch their beloved University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux hockey team, and they expect a win — because they don’t hang second place banners in their hundred million dollar arena.
In this town children proudly wear the jerseys of 19-year-old superstars; wait hours to collect the signature of those who are college kids one minute and professionals the next. Families plan their lives around hockey – weddings, vacations, honeymoons – and the most common outfit in Christmas photos is the latest Sioux hockey gear.
Over the course of documenting the team’s 2010-2011 season, I discovered an intrinsic need for people to come together around a common goal – the fans, who support their team with passion, the individual, who commits himself, body and soul, to be a member of the team, and the coach who is a mentor, disciplinarian, and leader.
The goal of every team is to win, but this season the Fighting Sioux seemed destined for glory. They had one goal – to win the national championship. And when, just two games from that goal, they ultimately lost to the University of Michigan at the 2011 Frozen Four tournament, there was shock in their locker room.
It was well past midnight and players couldn’t bring themselves to remove their jerseys or pack up their gear. It was then that I realized this was so much more than a game.
It is about skill, focus, and determination, but also, as I learned, camaraderie, sacrifice, elation, struggle, and, ultimately, a twist of fate, a bounce of the puck.
It is also about relationships, like the one between a father and daughter who never missed a game, even if it meant watching from a hospital bed. Or the relationship between friends who have played together, lived together, and fought together.
This work was published by Burn Magazine as a book entitled One Goal in November 2012.
“(…) One of the most interesting aspects of the book is the look into the otherwise-closed-off life of [Coach] Hakstol. Hakstol is stoic and reserved on the bench and for the media, rarely causing controversy anywhere. But his emotional side exudes throughout, as pictures of him with his fists in the air celebrating a win, or embracing his wife or looking after his kids show a personable side that undoubtedly exists, even if television cameras or column inches in a newspaper don’t show it. And that curiosity perhaps makes Hakstol’s presence in the book an interesting twist” – from Timothy Borger’s review on USCHO.com
“As a Minnesotan I’ve spent many hours watching hockey. My University of Minnesota hockey experiences run from ushering at games as a Boy Scout to photographing the Hockey Gophers when I was at the Minneapolis Tribune. I find the book not only gives an intimate and revealing look at the sport, but also does a great job of communicating the cold and bleakness of winter in North Dakota. Nothing is colder than a windy, snowy, dark night on the prairie. ” – Kent Kobersteen, Former Director of Photography, National Geographic Magazine
Allison Davis O’Keefe is a graduate of Claremont McKenna College and the International Center of Photography. Her photography has captured the U.S. landscape in portraits of a cross-country journey, the 2004 & 2008 U.S. presidential campaigns, the apex of power on Capitol Hill, and, most recently, the curiosities of life and sports through the lens of a college hockey team’s season. For nine years, Allison worked for CBS News in New York and Washington, and as part of the team was honored with an Emmy Award for coverage of 9/11 Allison attended the Eddie Adams Workshop in its 25th anniversary year.