The University of North Dakota "Fighting" Hawks hockey team sure plays in a palace.

The 11,000-plus-seat Ralph Engelstad Arena is a better venue than most NHL stadiums.  It's affectionately known as "The Ralph" to most who frequent the rink.

UND will unfortunately play on the road tonight in the opening round of the NCAA Regional in Maryland Heights, Missouri and they will play in anything but a palace.  In pure headscratcher, the NCAA awarded this city a regional with a rink that only holds about 2,500 fans.  2,500 "tip up" seats at that.

In comparison, The VFW Sports Arena in Bismarck holds 1300 with another 300 for standing room.  Not all that much smaller.

This rink is known as the Centene Community Ice Center and is the main practice rink for the St. Louis Blues.

North Dakota will likely have the majority of the fans in the rink tonight as they face off against Michigan at 7:30 pm.

The game can be seen locally on ESPNU.  If UND can make it out of their regional this year, they won't have far to travel for the Frozen Four, which will take place at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Getting back to the Ralph Engelstad Arena, how would you like a peek inside the nicest locker room in all of college hockey?

My son grew up playing youth hockey in Grand Forks, and I was fortunate enough to coach him for several years.  We often played and practiced in the Ralph and even on a few occasions got to spend some time in this "Taj Mahal" of a locker room.

A good share of North Dakotans have gotten to experience "The Ralph" before but very few have seen where so many former NHL players got their start.  The locker room inside the Ralph.

I know it had a big influence on my son.  Enjoy!

A Look Inside The Nicest Locker Room In All Of College Hockey-UND's Ralph Engelstad Arena

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