If you’ve ever heard the University of Wisconsin pep band play “Varsity” (accompanied by 15,000 or so red-clad fans singing and swaying along) prior to the start of a third period at the Kohl Center, you know a little bit about college hockey tradition. It’s been known to produce chills up and down the spine as an army of Badger fans chants “Hail to Thee Our Alma Mater, U-Rah-Rah Wisconsin” in an almost mournful tone.
That’s just one of the great traditions played out every winter weekend at one of the dozens of college hockey rinks from the Carlson Center in Fairbanks, Alaska to the Conte Forum in Chestnut Hill, Mass.
Here are a few more of our favorites:
The Fish at New Hampshire
This tradition started in the early 1970s, when a UNH student tossed a single, slimy fish onto the home ice after the Wildcats scored their first goal of the game (symbolizing the opposing goalie’s need to fish the puck out of the back of the net). It’s become such a part of Wildcat hockey that even UNH coach Dick Umile smuggled the fish into the building one night when campus security was searching students for seafood prior to letting them enter the rink.
Big Red Freakout at RPI
There’s very little love in the air on one night around Valentine’s Day each winter when Rensselaer students come to the rink clad head-to-toe in red, and determined to make so much noise that on more than one occasion they’ve been threatened with a penalty for disrupting play. Students usually get a small freebie (like a red hat or T-shirt) upon entering the rink. Although the red plastic horns given to students in 1987 produced such a cacophony that the NCAA issued what’s now known as the “RPI Rule” which bans artificial noisemakers from college hockey rinks. The 33rd annual Big Red Freakout is Feb. 20, when the Engineers host Princeton.
The Horn and the Bell at Lake Superior State
It’s a feast for the ears for hockey fans in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., when the Lakers are winning. The region’s nautical tradition is honored every time the Lakers score a goal, as an authentic Great Lakes ship’s fog horn (strategically placed above the goal manned by the visitors in the first and third periods) is blasted in the rink. After Laker wins, the players take off their skates, then head out to the arena concourse, still wearing most of their hockey gear, to ring an impressively large victory bell that the school acquired from a New York church in 1992. Incidentally, the Lakers won one of their three NCAA titles that year.
Freshman Hockey Player Introductions at Minnesota Duluth
Before one of the school’s first home football games each fall, the hockey team’s upperclassmen tell the freshman hockey players to wear a suit and tie on Saturday, so that at halftime the newcomers can be introduced to the thousands of Bulldog fans at Malosky Stadium. Each year the nattily-attired freshmen march to the 50-yard line and wait for their name to be called. And they keep waiting, and waiting, gradually realizing (too late) that the joke is on them. Finally, after a few minutes, the public address announcer usually booms, “Hey, you kids, GET OFF THE FIELD!”