In the State of Hockey, even law schools have hockey teams.
And while the Fighting Mondales might not be the official team of the University of Minnesota Law School, they’re as close as it gets.
Mondales member Joe Lewis said he first learned about the team when he was researching the law school.
“If you go on the [University] Law School Wikipedia page, there’s a section on the hockey team,” Lewis said. “That’s something that’s unique to Minnesota.”
The Fighting Mondales officially became a team in 2004, according to team members, but law students playing together on an intramural hockey team goes back decades before that.
The name pays homage to former U.S. Vice President Walter Mondale, an alumnus of the law school and the namesake of the school’s main building — Mondale Hall.
The law school now has groups such as the Fighting Pawndales, a chess club, and Mondale F.C., a soccer team. Still, the Fighting Mondales were one of the first — if not the first — to adopt their moniker.
Mondales co-captain Toni Haraldsen said Walter Mondale has yet to come to a game, but he’s aware of the team.
“That’d be great, I think, if we could get him to a game,” Haraldsen said.
The Mondales play intramural games in both the fall and spring semesters and then play against other area law schools in April for the Golden Gavel.
The team affords its busy law students a chance to take their minds off law for a couple of hours a week.
“It’s really important in law school to not get totally enveloped in your studies, which can happen really easily. My first year, this team saved my life,” Lewis said. “I don’t know if I would have made it without it.”
A chance to participate
About 15 law students play for the Mondales.
While the team is mostly men, there are a few women on the roster.
Mondales players range in age from early 20s to at least one player in his 40s. Skill level also varies.
A player on the current roster played for a Division III hockey team, but some players are just beginning hockey.
“It really just depends on who is at the law school at the time and who is willing to come out, because we sometimes have trouble getting players to commit … because people want to focus on their job or their studies,” Haraldsen said.
In the law school, first-year students are given schedules to follow and often don’t have a chance to interact during the day with those who are years above them. They have lockers and spend the day in one building with their peers, which Haraldsen likened to going back to high school.
Groups like the Mondales give students a chance to meet people they otherwise wouldn’t.
“You never really see people outside your section, so this was a great way to meet other people and explore things outside of that cloistered environment,” Lewis said.
Haraldsen, a third-year law student, said most team members tend to stick around for all three years if they show up during their first year.
She said members occasionally back off a little during their second year of law school but still participate when they can.
This semester, the Mondales play Monday nights at Mariucci Arena instead of the smaller atmosphere of Ridder Arena.
“We joke that the reason why they put us there is because we have such a big fan base, we have to be able to hold everyone,” Haraldsen said.
The battle for the Gavel
The Mondales might not be able to pack Mariucci Arena like the Gophers men’s hockey team, but they do drum up interest from their classmates for the annual Golden Gavel tournament.
Every April, the four area law schools compete in a two-day tournament, usually held at Augsburg College.
The Mondales square off against law students from the University of St. Thomas, and Hamline University takes on the team from William Mitchell College of Law.
The Mondales consider St. Thomas their biggest rival.
“There’s definitely a rivalry between the different law schools, so when you say you’re playing St. Thomas or William Mitchell, people show up,” Haraldsen said.
So, who usually wins the Golden Gavel?
“Not us,” said Mondales member Joe Meyer.
William Mitchell and Hamline tend to have the strongest teams. The winner of that game generally wins the tournament.
The University of Minnesota Law School draws more out-of-state students than the other three schools. That means the other three have a higher percentage of students who have played hockey before, Haraldsen said.
Though the Mondales don’t typically win the tournament, they enjoy the competition.
“I think the undergrads are in quite a bit better shape than most of us, so it’s nice [playing against] someone maybe our age,” Meyer said.
In intramural hockey, the Mondales sometimes play against former high school hockey players.
“The law school games [offer] a little more parity,” Meyer said.
It’s not all about winning
Last season, the Mondales played against a team that didn’t have a goalie for the first few minutes of the game.
They still couldn’t score.
A player even made it through the entire defense only to miss the empty net.
“We joke, ‘That’s the Mondale play right there,’” Haraldsen said. “[We] rag on each other about the fact that we didn’t score until they got a goalie.”
The Mondales might not be the best team in the intramural league, but for the members, it’s about more than that.
“We try to make a point to go out for a couple drinks after each game,” Lewis said. “If we focus just on what happens on the ice, that’s missing out on the more important thing, which is coming together as a group of people.”