The first month of school always feels empty, like something is missing. That something is UNH hockey. Since my freshman year I have been to almost every home game with the same group of people, and we always sit in the same area. It is our own little tradition, and I would not want it any other way. Needless to say, we were in the same section as always at the Whittemore Center Saturday night to watch UNH tie St. Francis Xavier in an exhibition game. As a lifelong UNH hockey fan, a few things really jumped out at me throughout the course of the game.
Almost immediately after taking our seats, I noticed that the Whitt featured new boards, which I heard were being replaced. No big deal, right? The surprising thing was that the corners are now about three feet shallower, which is strange because the Whit has always been known for its ice size. Although the dimensions are the same, the shallower corners may help the team adjust for smaller rinks at opposing arenas. This could be important because UNH is hosting NCAA Northeast Regional rounds at the Verizon Wireless Center in Manchester, which has a smaller ice surface.
The next thing that I noticed was the lack of enthusiasm from many student fans, most of whom were probably freshmen. Now, I understand that Saturday night was simply an exhibition game, but standing emotionless, refusing to take part in any cheers or even clap, is down right unacceptable. Attending UNH hockey games is a privilege; nobody is too cool to cheer. Leaving after the first period? Unforgivable. Say what you want, but UNH is a hockey school; it has been forever and it probably always will be. Hockey games are not social events that you attend to take self-portraits with your friends. Hockey games are for watching the best college hockey players battle it out for a chance to win a championship. Hockey games are about passion, tradition and pride for your school.
One of my closest friends goes to Maine (yeah, I know…). Maine also had an exhibition game this weekend. You know what their student section was like? There were students lining up around the building two hours before game time, the section was fully packed and the students treated the game like any other. I am issuing a challenge right now for my fellow UNH students. There should never be an empty seat in the student section. There should never be a silent moment from the time the puck is dropped until well after the final whistle. We want opposing players to fear the Whit. For the past few years, UNH has led Hockey East in average attendance, but that is not good enough. We need to be loud, rowdy and make the building shake to truly have the best fans in the conference.
If you are asking yourself: "Why should I care about college sports so much? It's not like they're pro." Then think about this: as a UNH student you are more a part of the "team" then any professional team. Every single full-time UNH undergraduate pays a mandatory "Student Athletics" fee of $882 a year. That fee, which is $300 more than any other mandatory fee, is described on UNH's website as "admittance to all home games of organized sports at UNH and financial support for athletes and athletic teams." (Later this week I will have a post on more of these mandatory fees.) You are, in part, paying for the athlete's scholarships; you better cheer for them to do well. Also, it shows that we really do not get free tickets to the home games. UNH home games for all sports are as free as every meal you eat at the dining hall. Just because you don't pay to enter doesn't mean you're getting in for free. Also, it really shows that UNH athletes should be nice to the student fans. We're paying for you to go here. You're welcome.
This year's team has the talent to be a national title contender. With a little time for the lines to gel together and the best home ice advantage, UNH could easily win Hockey East. All of the eyes in Hockey East are on the defending NCAA champions Boston College and the high-powered offense of Maine, so UNH has the potential to sneak up on a few teams this season. Any year can be our year; let's make it one to remember.
Stay classy, not UMassy.