America’s Team: Skatin’ Rebels pay tribute to 1990 Runnin’ Rebels

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From left Nick Flanders, Heath Mensch, Mason Kelly, Tristan Rand, and Robert McCollum pose in throwback uniforms. Photo courtesy of RJ Forbus / UNLV Hockey.

“Rebels! Rebels!” echoed through the McNichols Sports Arena in Downtown Denver. The Runnin’ Rebels battled for its first national basketball title against the Duke Blue Devils in 1990. With every basket UNLV scored, it sparked “Rebels!” chants and cheers.

The Runnin’ Rebels made history by dominating the Blue Devils, defeating them 103-73, winning their first-ever national championship while simultaneously setting the record for the largest margin of victory in an NCAA Basketball National Championship game. 

The Runnin’ Rebels were the 1990 National Champions.

Crucial pieces of the historic run for UNLV are displayed on the rafters of the Thomas & Mack Center, including Jerry Tarkanian, Larry Johnson, and Anderson Hunt. 

Downtown Denver erupted with applause and cheers as Duke turned over the ball. The Rebels scored its last bucket within the last 40 seconds. “Rebels” echoed through the arena. People wearing shark hats and shirts that said “Shark takes the bite,” and a sea of red filled the arena as “Win With The Rebels” was blasted from the band. 

A similar scene occurs at City National Arena in Downtown Summerlin. Chants of “U-N-L-V” echoed throughout the rink alongside a bass drum. Children banged on the glass whenever someone made a hit. The No. 5 Skatin’ Rebels are pushing for its first ACHA Division I national title in program history.

The Skatin’ Rebels paid tribute to the team that put UNLV on the collegiate athletics map in its series against the Oregon Ducks on Feb. 16-17.

On its social media on Feb. 12, the team announced that they will be wearing special jerseys based on that historic run. The jerseys replicate the jerseys worn by the Runnin’ Rebels in its national championship game against Duke. 

“I feel very honored to represent them,” said forward Mason Kelly, “I want to live up to it, I want to live up to the hype.” 

UNLV Hockey Team Photographer RJ Forbus created the mockup of the throwback jersey to the team, which came to fruition. 

“I think the inspiration really came about seeing Adin Hill wearing Larry Johnson’s jersey at the [2023 Stanley Cup] parade and how big of a connection that made between the team and the community,” said Forbus. “I remember that they used to call that 1990 team ‘America’s Team,’ and I know that for UNLV hockey, that we’ve also been dubbed as ‘America’s Team.’” 

The Skatin’ Rebels coined the name “America’s Team” when they played the NCAA Division I Denver University Pioneers at the beginning of the 2022-2023 season. 

The Rebels currently have a record of 23-6-1-1, putting them in the top five of the ACHA. They are second in the Western Collegiate Hockey League, trailing behind the University of Central Oklahoma. 

The Skatin’ Rebels, mirroring the 1990 Runnin’ Rebels, won both games of its series against Oregon with large margins of victory. They swept the Ducks, winning (12-0, 6-0).

“Not only is it cool, but I think it’s a pretty big honor to represent Las Vegas’ first college/professional sports team,” said defenseman Nick Doyle. 

Game-worn jerseys were auctioned off to help fundraise for the team, while non-player jerseys will be sold at the door during its final home series on March 1 and 2 against the University of Colorado-Boulder.

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