Side note before I begin: I just went grocery shopping at Whole Foods (because it is one block from me, not because I’m veggie or organic or anything) and followed it up with a fountain Cherry Coke from the 7-11 next door. Now, nothing says contradiction like buying my favourite German mineral water, bagged salad, hummus, and organic curried squash and apple soup, then following it up with a Gulp.
On to our previously scheduled blog.
We are well into collegiate hockey season here in Boston, which means I have been spending my weekends having, “Puck them up, puck them up, BC sucks!” screamed into my ear. (And yes, I fully realize that most of my students aren’t saying “puck” in that chant, but let me pretend that they are.) It’s been a down-and-out year for my school’s team, which I, and many others, anticipated, given that we lost the goalie that was the only real reason we contended nationally last year to graduation. While Mr. Curry is off making his contortionistic saves for Team USA and the Las Vegas Wranglers, BU is left to play musical goalies. They currently stand sixth in Hockey East with an overall record of 2-5-2. All is not lost – in the three years I have followed BU Hockey, I recall that they have begun their seasons slow and mistake filled, only to pick up steam in December. In fact, the statistics from the past four years support this:
(Thanks to www.collegehockeystats.com for the amazing collection of information.)
Will the Terriers end up more like that 2003-04 team, or more like the 2004-05 team? I don’t think anyone can accurately make that assessment yet, as all of Hockey East seems to be going through a strange first part of the season. Consider that Merrimack has suddenly become a threat, BC’s Nathan Gerbe actually got suspended for his ongoing poor behavior on the ice (“While a suspension might not have been forthcoming on last night’s actions alone, this is not the first time this season that I have been made aware of inappropriate behavior from Nathan.” stated Hockey East Commissioner Joe Bertagna. This season, Mr. Bertagna? Try this kid’s entire career. He is routinely one of the dirtiest physical hockey players out there, and doesn’t get called out enough for it.), and it seems like no team has played enough games to actually be judged on their performance.
However, one aspect of college hockey that can always be judged are the teams’ fans. And with this, I call to your attention the of the fans of the Northeastern University Huskies. When played at NU’s Matthews Arena, this cross-town rivalry often brings out many BU fans to add to the already ruckus Huskies fans. There is always a back and forth between the students as to whose SAT scores are higher, whose futures are dimmer, and of course, who has more Beanpot trophies. It’s generally good-spirited (with the few exceptions that you’d find at any hockey game.)
One practice of the Northeastern fans that I have always found really odd over the past three years of my watching college hockey is their practice of using really annoying bullhorns and other random noisemakers. This was especially evident during Saturday’s BU-NU game at Matthews when they must have been distributed earlier in the season or right before the game. The fans, as well as the pep band, play their horns (which sound like a first grader learning the trumpet) during the entire game. It’s a wonder the kids don’t collapse or need oxygen at the end of the night.
Here are the two aspects to the horn blowing that I find totally odd:
- Most, if not all, professionally managed arenas (of which Northeastern would be considered one, as they have professional Athletics staff overseeing the facility,) prohibit the use of artificial noisemakers, including airhorns, bull horns and the like. The only things usually allowed are those totally annoying inflatable “Thunder Sticks” (if sold or handed out at the arena) and the occasional cow bell (in the event that anyone has a fever, of course.) This is one of those rules that is stated on the ticket, mentioned before the event, and enthusiastically enforced by overbearing security personnel. However, at Northeastern, none of these rules seem to exist, and if they do, they’re routinely ignored.
- The fans use the horns throughout the entire game. The acoustics in the wooden planked roof Matthews Arena make for a weird echo and overall sound experience, making the horns overbearingly loud. So you have 25 fans with these bullhorns, and then you have the 12 person pep band with a 5 person horn section who join in on the loudness (and play music during the action half the time anyway.) The fans don’t tend to pay attention to when their team has the puck, and continue to play the horns. Now, when any sports team is on a scoring opportunity, it is usually the practice of the fans to be somewhat quieter, or be chanting some supportive chant. This is so the players trying to score can concentrate and hear any calls, plays or coaching that would help them. Well, the use of the horns sure is not helping the Huskies hear each other or concentrate while on a scoring opportunity. Honestly, I really don’t care if the fans use the horns while the visiting team is on power play or ready to score – that, I imagine, is the point of the noise, to distract the opposing team. But you don’t want to distract your own team.
I could be completely off by these two points. It could be a case of when the team is in play, they block out anything going on around them, as I heard a coach once describe. This phenomenon consists of the idea that the athlete is so focused on the task at hand that they are oblivious to all sounds other than that of their teammates and their coaches. It is quite possible that the Northeastern players work within that phenomenon, but for a rookie, it has to be quite difficult to adjust to. It also might be simpler than that – despite the fans possibly distracting their own team, they are most definitely distracting the opposing team, so it will all shake itself out in the end. Either way, the Huskies horns are one of the most perplexing, but most unique, practices in college hockey, which in itself is a collection of odd but ultimately amusing fan practices. Tune in next week as I dissect the UNH fan practice of fish throwing. Or not – that may be one practice that no one will ever get a complete handle on.