The Border War that was put on ice when Missouri moved to the Southeastern Conference four years ago was temporarily revived Thursday, ironically enough, on the ice at Silverstein Eye Centers Arena in Independence.
That’s where the Tigers claimed a 5-2 victory in club hockey, but the result was secondary in some ways to merely playing the Jayhawks in front of a partisan crowd.
“It brings the Kansas City area together as one community,” said KU fan Chris LaMasters of Independence.
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Missouri and Kansas don’t officially sponsor ice hockey as an NCAA sport, but both schools have affiliated club teams that drew 3,000 fans for a chance to see the black and gold clash again with the crimson and blue.
The Tigers and Jayhawks have met in recent years during NCAA Tournaments in soccer, softball and volleyball. There have been golf tournaments and other events that pitted the once-bitter rivals against each other.
The Border War on Ice, with its wicked cross-checks and violent board-rattling collisions in the corner — along with a couple of minor skirmishes — proved that the rivalry still has teeth.
“It was more than a usual game, but the rivalry between us and Mizzou is always going to be chippy,” said Kansas defenseman and Wichita Southeast graduate Chase Pruitt.
The dueling “Rock Chalk” and “M-I-Z” chants also showed plenty of ferocity remains between the fan bases. It made for an electric atmosphere, albeit on a much smaller scale than football and men’s basketball used to bring.
“It would just be nice to play them, where we could get more than 1,000 people — get 16,000, 17,000 people again watching those two schools play,” said Tigers winger Cory Cannon of Clayton, Mo. It’s always fun no matter what sport it is. No matter what’s on the line, it’s always a good game. That’s something we miss a lot.”
Kansas had a rowdy student group of roughly 150 supporters who sat behind the Jayhawks’ bench and helped ramp up the intensity.
“It was awesome,” said Kansas freshman forward and Kansas City, Kan., native Miles Manson. “The KU fans were unbelievable. It really got us going a little bit. Once they picked it up, once they started yelling louder, we picked it up and we started playing a lot harder.”
Decked out in a Mizzou jacket, John Burke of Liberty brought his daughter, Lindsey, who wore a Kansas pullover, to the game.
“This is great,” John Burke said. “We used to go when they played at Arrowhead. My wife and I went the three years that they played. We really enjoyed basketball season, where I’d be on one end of the couch and she’d be on the other. … To not have that anymore, it’s a shame. I really wish they would bring it back.”
The Border War was back for at least one night and showed that the passion for the rivalry remains despite the hiatus.
“Growing up, it was always Mizzou-KU, so it’s really unfortunate that it’s not really around,” said Missouri goalie and Oakville (Mo.) native Blake Chapman. “To see the turnout for a club hockey, that’s awesome. I just can’t imagine if it was still football and basketball.”
Club hockey may not grab a lot of headlines, but it proved to be a reasonably suitable placeholder for the rivalry’s all-important bragging rights. The Tigers even got a 6-foot red-and-gold trophy courtesy of Ali Kemp Take Defense Training.
“It’s probably a foot taller than me,” Chapman said. “That was awesome. I’m not sure where it’s staying yet, maybe at our home rink in Jeff City, but I think some of the guys wanted to show it around school a little bit.”
The newest Border War spoils might be in for the Stanley Cup treatment.
“Hopefully, a little less than that,” Chapman said.
The game served as the season finale for both teams, and already there are plans to stage a similar event in 2017.
“If we could have some of our students out, KU had students and they had a blast, maybe seeing this, some of our students might make the journey out here and it can be a huge thing,” Chapman said.