ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Frozen friends: Northland couple enjoys camaraderie of attending Frozen Fours

CHICAGO -- Frank Siiro sat back in his chair at United Center on Wednesday, proudly wearing his Minnesota Duluth sweatshirt and watching the UMD men's hockey team practice.

3267698+0BzbsdLE9dS1za3JDZ0tKZTdzcHc.jpg
Minnesota Duluth hockey player Dominic Toninato (right) passes the puck with teammate Jared Thomas near center ice during a practice session Wednesday at United Center in Chicago. UMD was getting ready to face Harvard in a national semifinal game Thursday as a part of the NCAA Frozen Four. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

CHICAGO - Frank Siiro sat back in his chair at United Center on Wednesday, proudly wearing his Minnesota Duluth sweatshirt and watching the UMD men's hockey team practice.

Siiro's maroon cap had 11 Frozen Four pins attached to it, but that only tells about a third of the story. Siiro and his wife, Bonnie, have attended every NCAA Division I Frozen Four since 1989 - "a long time" as he calls it - and with their beloved Bulldogs in it this year, they sure as heck weren't going to miss this one.

UMD (27-6-7) plays Harvard (28-5-2) in the national semifinals at 5 p.m. Thursday in the Windy City.

"We've been from Boston to Anaheim and down to Tampa Bay twice," Frank Siiro said. "But the highlight would have to be when the Bulldogs won the national title in 2011 in St. Paul."

The Siiros live 10 minutes west of Duluth in Munger.

ADVERTISEMENT

Frank Siiro, 75, is from Moose Lake but moved to Duluth in ninth grade and graduated from Duluth Denfeld in 1960. He served as an equipment manager for hockey, baseball and football for the Hunters, and for a short stint at UMD in the early 1960s.

Duluth-News-Tribune-April-2017-picture-3267757.jpg
UMD fan Frank Siiro talks with North Dakota fans Thom McCann and Pat McCann at United Center on Wednesday. (Clint Austin / DNT)

The Siiros have been married 54 years and were high school sweethearts.

"He was in 10th grade, and I was in ninth, and that was it," Bonnie Siiro said.

Frank was always into sports, Bonnie wasn't, but they quickly found it was something they could enjoy together.

"We're married, so we might as well," Bonnie said.

When asked whose idea it was to attend all these Frozen Fours, though, Frank quickly said, "mine."

ADVERTISEMENT

Frank Siiro worked 36 years as a highway inspector for the Minnesota Department of Transportation before retiring in 1998. That allowed him to do more of what he loves, and that's attend sporting events. He attends about a dozen football games each fall and a staggering 150 hockey games each winter, from the Minnesota Wild on down, with his wife attending about half those.

"If there is a hockey game, he'll go to it," Bonnie Siiro said.

As a UMD season ticket holder, Frank Siiro joked he got the inside track to premium seats for the Frozen Four in Chicago.

"We're a No. 1 priority - straight across, top row," he said, laughing.

Duluth-News-Tribune-April-2017-picture-3267755.jpg
Hockey fans are silhouetted by a large display at United Center in Chicago on Wednesday. (Clint Austin / DNT)

The Siiros were sitting about midway up the lower level on Wednesday at United Center. The House that (Michael) Jordan Built was nearly empty but is expected to be near capacity Thursday.

Next to them sat friends Pat and Thom McCann. While the Siiros were decked out in maroon and gold, the McCanns, with roots in Grand Forks, N.D., donned the kelly green of the University of North Dakota. Seeing them next to each other, catching up on old times and teasing each other, is proof we can all get along, even in this world seemingly gone mad. They became friends through attending Frozen Fours.

ADVERTISEMENT

"They're like cousins," Bonnie Siiro said of the McCanns.

Call it spring break for seniors, especially when it's in Tampa.

They always attend Frozen Four practice, which is laid back for spectators, allowing them to converse while getting an inside look.

"It's the smart kids against the hockey players," Pat McCann said of the Harvard-UMD matchup. "It's the most fun right here. This is where you really get to see them. I remember the one year Boston College came out, and we all just looked at each other and said, 'They're going to win it,' and they did. They just looked sharp."

That bodes well for UMD, which had an upbeat practice on Wednesday. With no North Dakota this week, these four all will cheer for the Bulldogs, and it would be the same the other way around, or for just about anyone from the Upper Midwest for that matter.

"Reluctantly, we even cheer for Minnesota," Pat McCann said with a laugh. "Cheering for Duluth is a lot easier than cheering for Minnesota."

Related Topics: HOCKEY
Jon Nowacki joined the News Tribune in August 1998 as a sports reporter. He grew up in Stephen, Minnesota, in the northwest corner of the state, where he was actively involved in school and sports and was a proud member of the Tigers’ 1992 state championship nine-man football team.

After graduating in 1993, Nowacki majored in print journalism at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, serving as editor of the college paper, “The Aquin,” and graduating with honors in December 1997. He worked with the Associated Press during the “tobacco trial” of 1998, leading to the industry’s historic $206 billion settlement, before moving to Duluth.

Nowacki started as a prep reporter for the News Tribune before moving onto the college ranks, with an emphasis on Minnesota Duluth football, including coverage of the Bulldogs’ NCAA Division II championships in 2008 and 2010.

Nowacki continues to focus on college sports while filling in as a backup on preps, especially at tournament time. He covers the Duluth Huskies baseball team and auto racing in the summer. When time allows, he also writes an offbeat and lighthearted food column entitled “The Taco Stand,” a reference to the “Taco Jon” nickname given to him by his older brother when he was a teenager that stuck with him through college. He has a teenage daughter, Emma.

Nowacki can be reached at jnowacki@duluthnews.com or (218) 380-7027. Follow him on Twitter @TacoJon1.
What To Read Next
NASCAR on Ice, an ice racing event featuring NASCAR drivers and retired cars, is a go for this weekend after being postponed in January due to thin ice.
Hull was a five-time 50-goal scorer, led the NHL in goalscoring seven times, twice won the Hart Trophy and was voted a First-Team All-Star on the left wing 10 times.
Peterson’s unassisted goal lifts Springfield to the NAHL home win.
Ice cross racers are competing in three divisions during multiple days of competition at Mont du Lac Resort in Superior as part of the U.S. Ice Cross Association's annual ATSX 250 event.