Friday, January 28, 2011

"Hell on Ice"

We've got a special guest pump-up today. Joe Yerdon, the editor-in-chief of NBC Sports' ProHockeyTalk, has penned an awesome bit about the fan experience at Houston Field House on this big weekend. Read it all the way though, and think about it when you enter the hallowed grounds tonight.

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Some of us RPI faithful that call the north side of Houston Field House our home during the season have long been critical of our fellow fans on the south side. We've given them pet names, it's true. They're the "boring side" or the "library side" or just rather plainly referred to as the "townie side" of the field house.

Fans that call that side of the old barn home get their dander up when it's referred to as such and with good reason for themselves because they've always been one of the few and proud that try to carry over the traditions of the student side to the traditionally older side of the building. In virtually every year anyone that tries to do that is either met with indifference or scowls of disapproval, each reaction being it's own brand of let down.

Things have changed this year though. Maybe it's the new paint job or Shirley's new party cabana where Section One used to be, or even the brighter lighting in the old house but whatever difference in reactions there used to be aren't as apparent anymore. Fans on both sides of the field house are boisterous now. The applause, the chants, the taunts... All of it are being heard in stereo by the opponents as opposed to the student side mono sound of the past.

What gives? How did this incredible change of events go down seemingly overnight? Is this what happens when you've got a team winning virtually all the time at home and enjoying one of their best seasons in recent memory? Perhaps that's the case, but I'm pinning this sea change in attitude on something else: Pride.

It's about pride in the team in how they've come together this season after an off-season that seemed remarkably bleak seeing two of the most talented players in recent memory leave after one year to start their professional careers.

It's about pride in a team with a storied program with a ton of history; history that now gets shown to those who are old school people with the program or who are new to everything RPI. Just look at that video they play before the team comes out for introductions and before the start of the third period.

RPI teams of old (well, 1985 at least) and RPI teams of modern times are represented in that video and so are the fans, fans who made the trip to Detroit both in 1985 and last season at the Great Lakes Invitational. RPI isn't just that little tech school in upstate New York, they're the school that brings a dedicated pack of fans who get as loud and supportive as any you'll find around all of NCAA hockey.

Most of all, it's the sudden development of new "traditions" amongst the fans. The standing ovation slow-clap call to arms that takes place before the team takes the ice before the game and before the star of each period. It's a simple but effective way for the fans to get themselves into the game and show the guys on the ice that they're as ready for the game as they are.

The rallying cries that come from Section 17 be it from folks in the First Church of RPI Hockey or the scattered members of the Collar City Madmen, they're all united under the same cause: Supporting RPI hockey as loudly and obnoxiously as possible and that's something that everyone has picked up on. Doesn't matter if the game is in Troy, Schenectady, Hanover, Cambridge, or Ithaca.

On the road, there's no north or south side there, there's just cherry and white. This season, that's something that's finally being adopted in the friendly confines of Houston Field House. There is no more "library side" vs. student side bickering. This time around, the fans are all united under Puckman so when the slow clap starts, and the cheers begin , it only means one thing for the opponents. It means everyone is ready to go and it's going to be hell on ice for the next 60 minutes.

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Amen, Joe. Amen.

Now, onto the task at hand.

Brown likes to play a physical game, and when other teams get goaded into taking stupid penalties because of it, that's when they pounce. If the opposition doesn't get rattled, they've got nowhere to turn to.

In light of the need for calm from our guys even while we reach a fever pitch in the stands, let's all relax and chill with a classic Phish jam. It just happens to be one that includes a relevant question for Brown's captain about two minutes in.

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