ND Free Pass: Hockey

Author: Carol Schaal '91M.A.

Carol Schaal

My Notre Dame spectator experience has been teaching me a lot about being a fan. Recent lesson: You wanna be a hockey fan? Toughen up.

Here is what you might face:

Danger. Among the legalese, a note on the ticket for the ND vs. Northern Michigan Wildcats game on Sunday, Dec.14, states that the ticket holder “voluntarily assumes all risk of . . . personal injury.” I already knew about that. When we went to a Notre Dame hockey game last season, my husband got kayoed in the ear by a flying puck. Fortunately it caused no real damage, unless you count the fact that we both now live in fear of errant projectiles.

Freezing your tuchas off. First you get damn cold while driving over frozen roads on the way to the Joyce ACC. Then you spend the entire game time inside shivering in the ice palace. Where’s beach volleyball when you need it?

Ear-piercing noise. Some noise is good, like performances of the smaller version of the Notre Dame band and the music piped in on loudspeakers, everything from the Chicken Dance to “Jingle Bells.” Then you get the blaring siren, which signals ND goals and time outs and end of periods. Yes, this keeps the excitement level up. It also permanently damages your hearing.

Opinionated people. A voracious bunch, those fans. If they don’t like something, you’ll hear about it. When a Wildcat illegally smacked a Irish player, the crowd went on the attack, too. “Throw him out!!!” “Ban the bum” and a general chorus of “Booo” filled the air. Those boos were replaced by loud cheers when the announcer told the crowd that the wild Wildcat had received a “game disqualification.”

And when the Irish score, as they did handily that Sunday, band members shake a finger at the opposing goalie and chant: “All your fault! All your fault!”

But, yes, the fans also can be nice. Near the end of each period, when the announcer informs the crowd that there’s “one minute to go,” the crowd politely says, in unison, “Thank you!”

Strange rinkside stuff. When the aforementioned wild Wildcat went on a tear, a referee circled behind the player, pinning his arms down in a giant bear hug, then skated him over to the penalty box. Referees and linesmen as supernannies? Do they get combat pay?

Holiday cheer. At Sunday’s game the Irish needed to avenge their previous-day’s 3-2 loss to Northern Michigan. Which they did, handily, 5-2, warming up the shivering fans. But what really lifted spirits was the Toys for Tots teddy bear toss. When the Irish scored their first goal, fans threw teddy bears onto the ice. This barrage of cuddly creatures benefitted the Marines’ Toys for Tots program.

Aww, it was too sweet. As was the Mini-Mites game during the first intermission — little kids all swathed in defensive gear, doing their best to skate — and the post-game free skate where Santa and the Irish players mingled with kids and adults taking advantage of the ice.

Hard-hitting hockey and holiday cheer. My tuchas is thawing already.

Check out ND Free Pass for a spectator’s sampling of the less-heralded side of Notre Dame competitions: the rowing and the running, the putting and the spiking. Carol Schaal is managing editor of Notre Dame Magazine. Email her at schaal.2@nd.edu.