Massachusetts Daily Collegian

The rhapsody of hockey

Heckling at hockey games can sometimes verge on offensive, but it’s a crucial part of the atmosphere, writes Morgan Reppert.

%28Amelia+Shaw%2F+Daily+Collegian%29
(Amelia Shaw/ Daily Collegian)

(Amelia Shaw/ Daily Collegian)

(Amelia Shaw/ Daily Collegian)

By Morgan Reppert, Assistant Op-Ed Editor

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Anyone who has ever had the pleasure of attending a hockey game—whether it be professional or junior—has learned the unspoken rules of fan etiquette. First and foremost, you should come in your team’s apparel or not at all. Secondly, always throw your hat on the ice when someone scores a hat trick. Lastly, you should keep your heckling creative; no one wants to hear “URI was my safety school” four times.

Although the Mullins Center is a slightly different experience than TD Garden, it’s a close second. The beauty of attending games at the University of Massachusetts is that no one is invested in the fact that you may or may not be a Bruins fan, people are more preoccupied with the Minutemen placing the biscuit in the back of the opponent’s net. UMass hockey fans also share one massive thing in common: As Gordie Howe once said, “All hockey players are bilingual. They know English and profanity.” Howe clearly had the infamous student groups devoted to creating a lively student section—the Sons of Liberty and the Militia—in mind.

It’s hard to tell which erupts the crowd more, freshman goaltender Matt Murray handing Northeastern its first shutout of the season or the notorious red-haired man feasting on a Big Y sub sandwich. The two student-section groups have brought both solidarity and comradery against our opponents in the Hockey East, leading the students in provocative chants, distributing fatheads of Coach Carvel and hosting special giveaways to incite a larger student presence at games.

The Sons of Liberty has turned Section Q into a comedic hub. Although they have no official affiliation with UMass or UMass hockey, their witty banter has truly added to the atmosphere of the student section; their commitment to “uniting the masses” is admirable. If you haven’t been lucky enough to witness the Sons dousing themselves in blue Powerade or performing the “Cotton-Eye Joe,” you’re missing out. There is just something inspiring about the way they chant phrases like “BU doesn’t even have a campus” at the top of their lungs and then slowly sit down and smile.

But where do these student groups draw the line when heckling goes too far? Before the upsetting loss to Boston University, I was able to learn how the Sons of Liberty felt about bigots in the stands. Sons Cam Cavagnaro and Jeff Polidor both shed light on how, when it comes to leading the crowd, they draw a line at violating serious boundaries—as any true hockey fan would. In the short time I spent with them, it was apparent that they sincerely enjoy engaging the student section with their hysterical shenanigans.

On a more serious note, any true hockey fan knows that there are always people in the crowd who cross obvious boundaries when heckling. It’s all a matter of keeping the crowd engaged and electrified without shouting racial slurs and politically incorrect terms. So yes, it can be stated that heckling does have boundaries. Given the nature of the game, it is more than acceptable to stir the pot, but there is never room for bigotry and racism.

In the words of former National Hockey League goaltender, Bobby Goepfert, who has dealt with his fair share of professional hecklers, “Don’t stop heckling. It really adds to the atmosphere of the game and the nature of the position. Obviously there are boundaries to all things, but from my experience, as passionate as hockey fans are, they know the boundaries of good taste and not cross over that line…In the end, who knows, maybe years from now, your chant or heckle will be twogged about by an aging goalie, as he smiles and laughs remembering it, shaking his head thinking to himself, ‘Good one…’”

Morgan Reppert is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]

2 Comments

2 Responses to “The rhapsody of hockey”

  1. john aimo on February 9th, 2018 11:21 pm

    It was only a matter of time before social justice warriors invaded hockey, and in the guise of combating “bigotry and racism”

    [Reply]

  2. Vincent Reppert on February 10th, 2018 3:43 pm

    This article is not only accurate but also the most well written and concise article on a very difficult subject matter in the entire publication.. Please note that my statement has nothing to do with my sur-name.

    [Reply]

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