Campus Currents

Hockey's Turbofans

When Allison Walls '03 heard the buzzer signal the end of the UNH men's hockey season, she knew she had to do something. So the sports studies major sat down and wrote the team a letter.

Like anyone else, I was disappointed with the outcome of the game, but only because a caring, cohesive, tight-knit and hard-working group of guys like yourselves did not deserve to come home with anything less than a championship title.

Michael Hutchins '06 signs a jersey at a welcome-home barbecue attended by more than 1,000 fans.
Photo by Lisa Nugent

Walls reminded them how they had sent a card, stuffed animal and signed jersey to a friend of hers, UNH sophomore Amy Niepokoyczycki, who was hospitalized for lymphatic cancer treatment. Niepokoyczycki, a dancer and hockey fan with a crush on forward Lanny Gare, was deeply touched, Walls wrote. When Niepokoyczycki died, the entire team showed up as a sign of respect at a celebration of her life. That day, wrote Walls, she learned a lesson that guides her today:

While all of your on-ice efforts have greatly impressed me, it is your poise, dignity and generosity off the ice that set you apart. Thank you... for creating an athletic environment where caring and compassion for teammates and the community are as valued as running the right defense and offense.

Such strong feelings about UNH hockey are common in the Wildcat nation. Marty Scarano, UNH's athletic director, is a former Penn Stater and not one easily bowled over by diehard support. "I am wowed by the level of fan support here," said Scarano, who joined thousands of fans at exuberant rallies before and after the team's Frozen Four games in Buffalo. "The synergy among the alumni, the community and the players is amazing—maybe even unique. It nurtures the program from year to year."

In the championship game on April 12, the 'Cats did what they'd done all year: used grit, balance and depth to make up for lack of superstar power. By the end, no one could deny the presence of a new star in goalie Michael Ayers '04, whose performance made the difference in the 3-2 semifinal victory over top-seeded Cornell and was pivotal in the team's ability to tie defending champion Minnesota through two periods. Most of the contest was much closer than the 5-1 score suggested.

By 10 p.m., freshly-showered and shaved players filed into the banquet room crowded with fans who would not leave without paying one last tribute to their team. Team captain Patrick Foley '04 returned the compliment, calling the fans "our seventh player."

 Easy to print version

blog comments powered by Disqus