5 Ways To Improve The UMass Hockey Experience

Today happens to be the anniversary of the first ever post on Fear The Triangle.  A year ago I wrote that I wanted FTT to be a central place where UMass fans could go for news on the team, some commentary, a recruit database, and game previews and recaps.  I think I’ve fulfilled that goal.  I also wanted this place, through the comments section of the posts, to be a place where fans can discuss the team they love with me and other fans.  Personally, I’ve thought the interaction has been excellent and the readers have helped make this place the goto site for UMass hockey with their input on the topics as well as keeping me up to date of news that I may have missed.  I’m amazed to say that in the past year there have been over 85,000 views of the blog.

I’m really happy for all the positive feedback I’ve gotten in the past year for the blog and the people I’ve had the chance to meet and talk to that I probably otherwise wouldn’t have.  So as Fear The Triangle enters its second year and the season looms on the horizon, I’ll continue to do my best to keep everyone up to speed on the Minuteman hockey program.  While I think the format is pretty conducive to that purpose I’m also open to suggestions for ways to improve this place, so feel free to share if you have any ideas.  I know that the site is pretty minimalistic in terms of photographs and that’s something I’d like to work on this coming season, though I think I can sometimes pass for a writer but will defintely never make it as a shutterbug so we’ll see how that goes.  I also have a couple other ideas to try and make post game recaps and overall news reporting better so hopefully those things come to pass as well.

But most importantly on this anniversary I want to say two things specifically; thanks for reading and is it October yet?

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With the season just a couple months away, I was thinking recently about ways to make the UMass hockey experience at the Mullins better.  So here are just a few random thoughts:

5)  New Third Jersey – UMass had its first foray into the third jersey a few years back with the black alternate jersey.  While I wasn’t a big fan of the shine material used for the jersey itself, I really liked the design.  The black added a different color that still went well with the maroon that was part of the rest of the uniform.  Plus, many probably did not realize that the design itself was inspired by a jersey worn by the school back in the fifties as you can see in this photo from the Pond Club website:

I think a historically based third jersey would be preferable and while many readers probably assume I’m talking about the blog name inspiring pennant jerseys of the 1990s, that’s not the case.  The jersey I’d most like to see adapted into a third option for the team is the one UMass wore when they won the 1972 DII Championship.  It is essentially a maroon and white jersey with double stripes on the sleeves, a player number on the upper left front, and of course what is better known as the Chicago Blackhawk logo on the front.  Personally, I think this is a great design that would look good in today’s world while drawing on the programs past success and tradition.  Unfortunately, I have a feeling in the political correctness that dominates today’s world (where even the venerable Fighting Sioux mascot is being retired) there would be too many obstacles to introducing this alternate look for the Minutemen.  Although a few years back Lowell was able to bring back their old Lowell Chiefs jerseys for a couple games with success and as far as I know no controversy.

If the old Redmen jerseys wouldn’t work, I’d like to see a completely original look and and design.  Unfortunately I don’t really trust Addidas to come up with anything decent for the purpose.  They are the ones after all who produced the pinkish “maroon” hockey jerseys after they got the UMass contract a few years back and still seem to be unable to produce any decent licensed jerseys or apparel for hockey.  It would be nice to see them give it a try however.  Who knows, maybe this time around the team will actually do better on the scoreboard when wearing the thirds, something that didn’t seem to be the case with the blacks.

4)  Slice Is Nice – While I’m not advocating a return of the triangle jerseys for the team, I do think the school should bring back a different celebrated triangle from that same time period.  Bring back Mr. Slice.  Sure, Mr. Slice was just a promotional spokesperson pushing inferior pizza product back in the day, but he ended up being the unofficial UMass hockey mascot during his time.  A lot of this was due to the fact that the school could never seem to find a Sam the Minuteman who could skate so in the end Mr. Slice got much more exposure at the games.  There was just something captivating about watching people try to score on a giant slice of pizza in between periods.  One of the best taunts I ever heard come out of the UMass stands was a kid yelling “Mr. Slice OWNS you!” to his friend who had just been stonewalled by the loveable piece of pizza.  Nothing bruises the ego more than being bested in an athletic event by junk food.

3) No More Puddles – A new (or additional) ice compressor for the Mullins.  The one they have now just can’t handle two ice sheets for the arena and the practice rink.  I know compressors don’t grow on trees but poor ice is affecting game play and has specifically hurt the Minutemen as Toot continues to bring in speedier, more finesse players.  Maybe we can just pass the hat at the games.  Or perhaps the program’s half of the Chuck a Puck proceeds can go towards a new compressor “slush” fund!

2)  UMass Hockey: Est. 1908 –  This suggestion is actually for both sports played at the Mullins; fill the place with history.  UMass basketball has a long and well documented history.  UMass hockey has a long and somewhat undocumented history.  Yet, to walk to the sterile Mullins Center concourse you’d think neither program has any history.  Where are the trophies?  The pictures?  The memorabilia?  The past legends?  The athletic department has begun to tackle this issue with pictures up high along the sides of the concourse and the ones hanging on the light poles outside.  But there are cases filled with the treasures of past UMass conquests, from all sports,  sitting on the second floor of the Mullins that most Minuteman fans never get to see.  In addition to balls and nets from basketball’s haydays there are sticks, trophies, and even a Redmen jersey like I mentioned earlier in this post.  These things should be moved downstairs where people can learn about the rich history of UMass athletics.  I love walking through the old hockey barns in Burlington and Alfond, and even the new ones like Agganis, and seeing the foundations and celebrations of their programs on display.  Pictures of John Leclair in a Catamount jersey.  The listing of BU players on the 1980 Olympic team.  Doug Flutie’s hail mary ball…oh wait, the Collegian’s Jeff Howe proved that was fake.  How great would it be to see a display of memorabilia for the 1972 DII Champions before heading your seat?  Or see pictures of the UMass players who have played in the NHL while you kill time in between periods?  A lot of people think that UMass hockey doesn’t have any history or tradition.  This is simply untrue.  It’s just impossible right now to easily learn what that history is.

1) Fight Mass – The top way to improve the UMass hockey experience……..a hockey band.  A hockey band makes the college hockey experience complete.  Places like Cornell and Maine have excellent bands and are considered top places to watch a college hockey game.  It’s not coincidence.  Over the years the music played at the Mullins has been awful to excellent and anywhere in between, but even a so-so band is better than the best piped in music.  And UMass doesn’t have a so-so band program.  It has one of the best.  It has the Power and Class of New England.

A hockey band would make UMass hockey better in two ways, creating better atmosphere and addressing a common complaint.  There have been many discussions about student behavior at UMass games and how it sours the experience for home and visiting fans alike.  I’m not going to use this time to lecture the students or rehash those discussions, but I will make the point that I believe a hockey band will lessen what’s seen as negative behavior.  A hockey band allows for a more constructed environment and will work to better organize the student cheers so they don’t become mish-mash or worse, devolve into crass ugliness.  If the band worked together with the leaders of the student booster group it would also allow for collaboration for new songs/cheers that would finally help build a student cheer tradtion that has thus far barely existed at UMass.

Now, a lot has been made about reasons why the marching band program absolutely cannot field a band for hockey.  I’ve heard them all, including in discussions with George Parks himself.  They’re all false.  It’s grandstanding and people playing politics within the university.  The chief excuse is that the band would be too stretched out to cover hockey in addition to football, men’s hoops, and women’s hoops.  Ignoring the fact hat the women’s hoops band typically outnumbers the fans in attendance, this isn’t true.  First off, UMass is the ONLY school that does not have a hockey band (though to be truthful, Providence’s band has been missing in action for the last few games I’ve seen at the Coffin.  Providence fans may say the same about coaching).  Schools with limited resources like Lowell and Merrimack are able to get a band at every game, with the River Hawk band being my pick for most underrated of the conference foes.  UMass has the highest undergraduate population in the conference and the largest marching band.  Last year ground was broken on a much deserved and long overdue $5.7M marching band building with the majority of the funding coming from the university itself.  The bands at schools like Maine and UNH, with resources much less in terms of both funding and manpower, are able to have bands play for football, men’s and women’s hoopes, men’s hockey, and even women’s hockey.  It can be done.

The marching band program and hockey games, now the most heavily attending sports events by students on campus, should be an easy marriage.  It gives fans yet another chance to hear the amazing talent of one of the campus greatest sources of pride while allowing the marching band to extend their mission of supporting the school’s athletics program.  Too long have hockey games been without a band.  The time for finger pointing and excuses is over.  Hockey is seeing sustained strong numbers of attendees and interest.  The marching band is as good as ever and is about to embark on a new era in their state of the art building.  What better time to fuse these two stars of the campus together.

How would you improve the UMass hockey experience?