It should be well known here that once the off season comes around, all the energy I devote to my beloved Red Sox transfers to the Boston University Men’s Ice Hockey team. We won the NCAA Division I Championship last year, along with 6 other championships we played for over the course of a 35-6-4 run. Along the way, we picked up quite a few bandwagon fans. Some of these people actually learned about the game of hockey and now enjoy the sport. Some, well, they’ll just remain bandwagon-ers.
The Terriers have been mediocre this season. They are now 2-4, which is actually a decent record considering some of the teams they have played against (Notre Dame, Michigan, UMass Lowell). Already, many students are jumping ship, giving up on the season, making plans to travel abroad in the spring because they feel they will not be missing anything.
Meanwhile, there is a solid core of fans who are sticking by this team through their struggles and growing pains. Last night, Boston University traveled to Northeastern for their sixth game of the season. BU was without stars like Nick Bonino and David Warsofsky. The lines were strange and the power-play had lost two if its key leaders. Despite this, about 100-150 students gathered in the lower bowl of Matthew’s Arena, clad in jerseys and standing for 60 minutes to support the players who were able to take the ice.
Northeastern fans were vicious. Before the game even started, they were throwing water bottles at BU fans’ heads. A policeman had to stand guard by the BU section, and he had to take down names of BU victims for police reports against Northeastern fans. During the national anthem, the Northeastern fans started screaming and talking about halfway through. They made sure to frequently chant “F* BU.” They encouraged people in the bathroom to use BU fans as urinals.
Through it all, though, the BU fans ignored the Northeastern behavior. They focused instead on the players on the ice, screaming Let’s Go Terriers, Go BU, Rough ’em up, rough em up, go BU!
Towards the end of the game, when BU was down 1-0 with 40 shots on goal, a Northeastern viciously slammed a BU player, Alex Chiasson, head-first into the boards. That type of hit can easily break a player’s neck. It’s not only illegal, it’s unsportsmanlike. The player was ejected from the game, and Northeastern fans were livid. They felt it was a bulls*t call. The resulting 5-minute penalty put BU on a 6 on 4 for the remainder of the game.
The BU section was well-located right where BU shot twice, so for the third period, BU fans were right next to the BU players. All 100-150 fans there were shouting as loudly as they could: “You can do this, boys. You got this. Play your game. You are doing so well. You got this!” Except for the last three minutes of the national championship game when BU was down 3-1, I had never seen such encouragement from BU fans, such positivity. Until the game was over, nobody mentioned the shot inefficiencies. These fans were truly there to root the Terriers on. They could care less about what Northeastern fans were saying, what the score was, how BU was playing. They just wanted the best out of the players. It was phenomenal.
I would love to say that’s how BU fans are for every game. Certainly, the Dog Pound brings an unmatched, continuous intensity to every college hockey game they watch. Throughout this, though, there are a lot of “Why does this player suck?” or “What does he think he’s doing out there?” or “Why did this player ever think it would be a good idea for him to play hockey?” When BU loses or plays poorly at Agganis, fans scream at the players as if they are failures or do not know anything about what they are doing.
It’s terrible. I personally have never, ever booed a player on the team I cheer for. I hated David Wells, but when he played for the Red Sox, I always made sure to encourage him, coax him into a strikeout, say anything supportive. Similarly, I hate one of BU’s players, Colby Cohen. I say a lot of bad things about him when BU is not playing. During game-time, however, I would never say anything against him. It doesn’t help, especially in college hockey venues where players can actually hear what the crowd is saying and know when their fans are criticizing them. It is never a fan’s place to boo their own player. There is a reason fans are in the stands and players are on the ice or fields. Though fans are not always 100% supportive at Agganis, the negativity did not travel to Matthew’s last night, and that was great to see.
Rivalries are great for sports. They bring a higher competitive edge to games, and a lot of Northeastern fans last night were fun to combat in cheers in comments. One fan asked the BU fans which hat they were wearing last night, the National Championship hat or the Beanpot hat. It was a play on how highly BU fans esteem the Beanpot tournament, and if BU had lost the Beanpot last year, it would be interesting what people would say when they won the NCAA championship (most likely, it would have been “Well, a national championship is nice, but it’s no Beanpot). Northeastern was a big fan of the “Sucks to BU” chant, which, while not very original, is still nothing unsportsmanlike. It’s not like we don’t say “BC sucks” at every hockey game, regardless of whether we are actually playing BC or not.
However, there were a large group of students there who did not even seem to realize Northeastern was playing. They were so occupied with telling BU fans how they were ******* and ******* and ***** that I’m not sure they saw much of the game. Quite a few were kicked out before the game started, and more were kicked out during the game. I cannot consider them actual fans of Northeastern. Sure, real fans will make fun of us, but they will also watch the game and remember to cheer for their team. There were a good amount of those fans there last night, but they were unfortunately overshadowed by the poor sportsmanship of some of their comrades.
Last night’s game was very well played by BU. They turned out their best powerplay performance of the season despite the significant injuries that kept a good group of guys from playing. They owned puck possession, improved their face-offs, played their best defense of the season, shut down Northeastern for the most part offensively, and did not get overly physical when Northeastern started playing dirty. Northeastern also played decently. Their offense was not anything special, but their goaltending was fantastic and their defensive dedication paid off. In terms of opportunities, Northeastern certainly stole the win, but at the same time they were not undeserving of a W.
While it’s unfortunate that a select group of Northeastern students clouded the experience for BU fans, I am so impressed by the BU fans’ reactions and diligence. The BU fans were there for the team. They did not engage the Northeastern students the way the could have and represented the university very well last night. I really hope this behavior will carry over and continue at Agganis and the remaining road games, and I am very proud of BU for displaying what a true fan should be.