Josh Archibald skates on a thin line.
“I used to tell him that you have to play on the edge, to be on that cliff but not fall off,” said Jim Archibald, Josh's father.
Josh Archibald is UNO's high-energy sophomore forward who has 15 goals this season, including a Western Collegiate Hockey Association-leading 14 in league games.
And there's plenty of name recognition on both sides as the Nos. 14 and 15 Mavericks prepare for this weekend's series with seventh-ranked North Dakota.
Jim Archibald is a member of North Dakota's athletic hall of fame. And in addition to being a prolific goal-scorer in the early 1980s, he also picked up more penalty minutes than any player in NCAA history.
“I've seen plenty of videos, and just going off what I've seen and the stories I've heard — I've heard he was kind of a nut job, kind of crazy,” Josh Archibald said, laughing.
“He was either scoring a goal or taking a penalty every time he was on the ice. But he put his heart and soul into the game ... and it brought out many sides of him.”
The college game, and more specifically the NCAA's punishments for fighting, was different back in Jim Archibald's day. The players policed themselves more, and they were able to exact revenge for those perceived to be ill-treated by opponents.
Jim Archibald took the responsibility very seriously.
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But he also scored 75 goals for North Dakota, including 37 in 1984-85, the eighth-best single-season total in school history. With 144 career points (75 goals, 69 assists), he's tied with current North Dakota star Danny Kristo and two other players for 27th place on North Dakota's prolific all-time scoring list.
But it's the number 540 that usually stands out when discussion turns to Jim's playing career.
“Any time anybody ever mentions my name, it's the penalty minutes that come up first,” Jim said, laughing. “Does anybody know how many goals I scored? I don't know either, because nobody ever mentions it.”
Jim, who played briefly in the NHL for the Minnesota North Stars, also volunteered that he's the answer to a question in the Trivial Pursuit board game's All-Star Sports Edition. It's for the penalty minutes.
“There are quite a few videos that kick around downstairs at home,” said Jim Archibald, whose role in several brawls is legendary. “When Josh was younger, he and his buddies used to get together and have quite a riot watching them.
“But I think he understands what the game was like back then. He knows how I used to play, and he's developed his own style.”
UNO Associate Athletic Director Mike Kemp, who was a Wisconsin assistant during much of Jim Archibald's playing days, said no player's intensity has ever struck him more.
He still remembers Jim Archibald pacing, in full uniform and skates, for 15 minutes waiting for the go-ahead to get on the ice just to start warmups — which were still 45 minutes before game time. Meanwhile, most of the other players were drinking coffee in their underwear in the locker room.
“He was like a caged lion in a zoo, pacing,” Kemp said. “Back and forth. And back. And back.”
Through 64 games in his UNO career, Josh Archibald has picked up a mere 53 penalty minutes, but observers can still see the passion — if not the penalties — in his game.
Though listed at just 5-foot-11 and 183 pounds, like his father, he frequently delivers some of the most physical checks in any particular game, and he'll often crash the net at top speed in the pursuit of goals.
“He obviously wants me to play tough in the corners, which was his style of game, and I've kind of adapted over the years,” Josh Archibald said.
“There are characteristics that are similar, but there are times where I have to control myself in situations where I don't think he would have.”
Josh Archibald scored 10 goals as a freshman, when he also skated for Team USA in the prestigious World Juniors tournament.
Said Jim: “We're a little bit similar, but I think Josh probably has a lot more skill than I ever had. I got by a little more on sheer determination. Josh is very determined, but maybe a bit smarter than I was.”
The Archibald family is able to attend most of Josh's games in person — they've been to nearly every series in Omaha, and the five WCHA schools in Minnesota are relatively easy drives from Brainerd, Minn.
Jim, who coached Josh at Brainerd High School, where he still coaches, liked what he saw last weekend against Michigan Tech, after Josh got checked to the ice.
“Finally somebody knocked him on his butt, so he got mad and did something,” Jim said. “You could see the jump in his step had changed.”
Not long after, Josh bumped a bigger NHL draft pick off the puck with a strong back-check, gathered it up in the neutral zone, then sped past everybody on a give-and-go with teammate Tony Turgeon for a game-tying goal.
Earlier this season, the night after his hat trick against Colorado College, Josh pulled up and rifled in a slap shot from the top of the right-wing faceoff circle for his fourth goal of the series.
It was pure Jim Archibald, said UNO coach Dean Blais — who was a North Dakota assistant when Jim played there.
“At North Dakota, Coach Blais and I used to go on the ice a half-hour before practice started two or three times a week,” Jim Archibald said. “And he'd stand at center ice and feed me pucks as I skated down the wing, and I'd stop at the top of the circle and shoot as hard as I could.
“After a while, the guys who played on my line knew that one of two things would happen: I was shooting for the bottom left corner of the goal, and if I missed they were already heading for the boards on the other side to get the puck.”
Jim said he appreciates the effort Blais took in helping him become a better player, and he's sure that the shared background was considered when Josh decided to play for Blais at UNO.
“There are times on the ice where I've heard Blais say, 'That's something your dad would have done,'” Josh said. “He's said, 'You're developing your dad's shot.' Using the (less-sophisticated) sticks they used back in the day, he obviously had an incredible shot.
“So it's pretty cool to be compared to him, because he was obviously a great player. He's a great person, too.”
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