Letter: UMass hockey is great, but where are the students?

By Alfredo DiLascia

(Caroline O’Connor/Daily Collegian)

To the Editor:

The University of Massachusetts is a great school with many excellent academic programs. But an academic career alone does not round out a student’s college experience. In fact, a great deal is missing if you do not attend and support sports programs while at college; it is part of the college experience that students will remember for the rest of their lives. All sports are important, but for now, let’s focus on ice hockey.

UMass plays in one of the toughest and most respected hockey conferences in the nation, the Hockey East Conference, facing some of the most formidable opponents in the Northeast such as Boston University, Providence College, UMass Lowell and Northeastern University. Second-year head coach for the men’s hockey team, Greg Carvel, and his staff are in the process of rebuilding the prominence of UMass ice hockey, and they are making good progress with some exciting new freshmen players while combining them with some very good existing upper classmen. These freshmen include Cale Makar, who was drafted in the National Hockey League 2017 draft by the Colorado Avalanche, Mario Ferraro, who was drafted in 2017 by the San Jose Sharks and former Cathedral High School sensation and John Leonard, the Western Massachusetts Hockey Player of the Year for 2017. The team is off to a good start with a 3-1 record.

The first UMass game was an away game against Arizona State University. The Southwest is not known for ice hockey as New England is, but the game was played before a sold-out arena. This past weekend, the Rochester Institute of Technology played against Northeastern University for their homecoming game, an event that has sold out for the past seven years. Student support was immense. Are you beginning to get the picture?

UMass home hockey games are played at the Mullins Center in the heart of the campus, in a building that has a maximum capacity of 10,500. It is a great place to watch a game; it is not cold at all and it is in fact very comfortable. Additionally, the new LED lighting that was installed a couple of years ago allows spectators to see everything with great clarity. But the best part is that students can get in free if they show their UCard ID at the Mullins Center entrance near the Champions Center.

And yet, students don’t turn out for hockey games in the same way they do at other schools. I have personally been to hockey games where there were less than 1,000 fans in attendance. The average attendance for a UMass hockey game in 2016-17 was only 2,332. We can do better.

The next UMass ice hockey game is Friday, Oct. 20 at 7 p.m. against Ohio State. What do you say? Support your team and have some fun.

See you at the game.

Alfredo DiLascia