Since seven students were arrested for underage drinking at the hockey home opener Dec. 2, the enthusiasm and attendance of hockey fans has steeply declined.
In past years, hockey has been well attended by all grades and has enjoyed a large fan presence throughout the season. Due to breath testing, earlier game times, advance ticket sales, increased regulations at Thornton Park and a greater police presence, fan support has declined this year.
Hockey players have noticed.
“I’d like to have a large, excited and somewhat rowdy crowd to know that people stand behind us when we hit the ice,” said sophomore Emmett Sweeny.
At the ensuing Dec. 16 home game, Shaker lost 8-0 to St. Ignatius. Attendance was noticeably low, and freshmen and juniors were best represented. The senior section was nearly empty, with fewer than 10 fans coming out to support the Raiders. No students were Breathalyzed at this game, although there were police stationed near the entrances and bathrooms of the arena.
The St. Ignatius contest was highly anticipated by the hockey team, and members of the team and community expected large crowds. Tickets were presold at both schools the Wednesday and Thursday before the Friday night game. Assistant Athletic Director Mike Babinec said 700 tickets total were sold at the Ignatius and Shaker ticket presales. Despite this effort, Shaker had fewer student fans than the Wildcats.
The turnout disappointed players.
“Rowdy fan behavior is a vital part of our fan base because we really get pumped up knowing we have such passionate support,” sophomore hockey player Ryan LaMonica.
Freshman Carter Lamb said, “People who come to the games now try to be really spirited, and make it fun. But the first game was really exciting because everyone came; now the games just aren’t as interesting.”
Tickets for the Jan. 6 game against University School were sold out during the Wednesday and Thursday presale. Fan attendance was similar to US games in previous years. However most of the crowd comprised parents, college students and lower school students. The senior section again seemed significantly less populated than the freshman and junior sections.
“People try to be really excited and enthusiastic during the games, but it’s hard to get cheers going when there are so few people in attendance” said sophomore Lizzie Weingart.
As Shaker goals were lacking against US, so were the cheers and enthusiasm of the Shaker fans. Many students left the game as the score neared the 3-0 final. Low senior attendance may have affected the cheers, as it traditionally falls upon the senior section to create and lead the effort.
The low-key hockey scene disappoints senior Claire Levin.“I wish the hockey hype hadn’t dwindled during my senior year,” she said. “It’s such a letdown.”
As the playoffs near, fans such as LaMonica hope the crowds will return. The Raiders are fourth in the Red North Division and have state tournament aspirations.
“Attendance should hopefully increase as the playoffs get closer and competition beings to heats up,” he said.
Levin added, “The team is still playing. If they can continue to come out every Friday, then we as fans should be able to as well.”
A version of this article appeared in print on 8 February 2012, on page 2 of The Shakerite.