Students create the atmosphere at college games. You see it on TV at every major college sporting event. Throngs of rowdy and jubilant students, united in dress and cause, chanting, cheering, standing and taunting. Cameron Crazies exist at most major universities these days, especially when the TV cameras are watching.
It’s a scene that has been played out at UMaine hockey games for decades. The balcony in the end of the Alfond Arena is packed with Maine students, standing elbow to elbow, gleefully giving the refs and the opposing team the business. The Naked Five primed and ready to sprint when a Black Bear lights the lamp.
And I’m here to tell ya they are all as good as ever. Friday night I watched Maines 1-0 loss to Providence from almost under that balcony. The Friars goalie, and us adult fans beneath, were exposed to an impressive display of sign banging, singing, yelling, taunting and even a little cursing. I loved it! And I am a little more than just impressed.
The kids are admirably continuing a long tradition. They get in to the games for free. But it’s first come first served. In years past students were forced to sit, stand or sleep in frigid conditions outside the doors to be high enough in line to assure a seat when sworn enemies like BU, BC or UNH bussed to Orono.
Duplicating a Black Friday scene outside of Walmart is no longer required for entrance. Yet, the effort put forth by these students is too cool! Not only for the prep, costumes and props they bring to any given game, but consider even a fifth year senior has not experienced how a Black Bear team should dominate at home. The Alfond used to be a place where losses were as rare as sixty degree days in January.
Unfortunately today’s kids are just as likely to see Maine lose at home as win. The Black Bears are a mediocre 37-37-9 the past five seasons on the hallowed home ice.
Still these kids believe in the possibility of something they have never seen for themselves. If the average fan in the student section is twenty years old today, they were thirteen years old the last time Maine played in the NCAA tourney, eight years old when the Black Bears last skated in a Frozen Four and in a crib or mommy’s belly when Maine claimed their last national title in 1999.
Yet you would never know that from the show these young men and women put on at most home games. They bring it. And I hope they always will.