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January 27, 2012

One of college hockey's best brawls turns 30 (and involved a Rochester player)

Posted by: Feldman

I was 6 when The Water Bottle Game happened.

If you haven't heard of The Water Bottle Game, that's OK. It means you're not a fan of Wisconsin or North Dakota when it comes to college hockey. But, if you are a fan of either of those teams, and you're my age (36) or older, you had better remember TWBG.

Here's a link to a story in the Grand Forks Herald, which goes into great detail about the event. If you can't read the story (I believe you need to sign up with a username), we'll sum it up below.

Also, here's a YouTube video of the incident. I believe the action kicks in about 30 seconds into the clip.

The backstory: UND and Wisconsin were, and still are, heated rivals in the 1980s. The teams first played in 1968. UND won national championships in 1980 and 1982. Wisconsin won in 1981 and 1983.

In a regular season game at Dane County Coliseum in Madison, nearly 30 years ago today (it'll be 30 years on Monday), Wisconsin's John Newberry squired NoDak's Cary Eades (a current UND assistant coach) twice in the face with a water bottle as Eades skated by the Badgers' bench.

After the second squirt, Eades walked onto Wisconsin's bench and put his stick up near Newberry's throat. Wisconsin's Pat Ethier saw Eades confront Newberry, and Ethier ran down the bench and punched Eades. That punch set off the brawl.

The brawl spilled down the tunnel, into the beer gardens, and eventually involved fans and police.

A fact that I didn't know from that brawl appears in the Grand Forks Herald story: "At the end of the brawl, Wisconsin’s Todd Lecy started launching UND’s abandoned equipment — gloves and sticks — into the stands."

Yep, Todd Lecy, who won a state high school championship at JM four years before this brawl.

No surprise to anyone who watched college hockey back then, UND's Jim Archibald re-ignited the brawl, running back to the ice from the beer gardens and throwing a haymaker at a Wisconsin player that eventually earned him a five-game suspension.

Archibald is now the head hockey coach at Brainerd High School; his team won the Kiwanis Festival here in Rochester in 2009 and 2010. In passing, I mentioned The Water Bottle Game to Archibald last year, hoping he'd let the story flow from his perspective. He just smiled.

This isn't condoning fighting, certainly not condoning a bench-clearing brawl. It's just pointing out an incident that Wisconsin and UND fans still laugh about.


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