Jeff Svoboda has covered Ohio State hockey for Buckeye Sports Bulletin, The Ozone, The Lantern and OSU student radio since 2003. He is now the editor of Buckeye Sports Bulletin. Below are his thoughts on the present and the future for Ohio State hockey, and its student section, The Ohio State Knucklebucks.
When I was a freshman at Ohio State, I bought a ticket package for three men’s hockey games that also came with a free long-sleeved T-shirt. The shirt was really awesome – the front read “Champions bleed scarlet and gray,” and I’m not afraid to admit I still own it. A good long-sleeved T-shirt is hard to replace.
I bought the tickets with a number of other friends in Haverfield House, and we spent those winter nights shuttling over to The Schott and had a blast. In fact, I remember one Michigan game in 2003 that we traveled to by stuffing six people into one car – with me laying across the back on the laps of others.
As much fun as those games were, I also remember that there wasn’t exactly a student section to speak of, as we sat in numerous places throughout Value City Arena for each game. The first student section I remember developing was in the mid-2000s when about 30 students would stand behind the east goal for games – a noble effort, but not very intimidating in the end.
That comes in stark contrast to some of the other road venues I’ve been to. I love hitting the road to follow the team because the student sections at other schools truly make the atmosphere special. I don’t think there’s a better place in the country to watch a sporting event than Michigan’s Yost Ice Arena, and the student sections at places like Miami and Bowling Green add a lot to the experience.
That’s one reason it’s been so fun to see the Knucklebucks section grow at Ohio State. Hockey, to me, is the perfect sport for a college audience. The game is fast-paced and the goals are perfect for emotional celebrations. And college hockey is perfect for the college wit to think up chants that get under the skin of opponents.
Now, can Ohio State ever have a student section like Michigan or Miami? In some ways, no. Hockey is simply a bigger part of the culture in the Mitten, and it comes through in the support the Wolverines get, while Miami’s dominant hockey program has made it the “it” sport down in Oxford. And perhaps most importantly, the Schott is three times as big as Yost and five times larger than Miami’s Steve Cady Arena, so it’s simply more difficult to have the same impact on the game at Ohio State.
But I have seen what rowdy crowds at OSU can do, and there’s no doubt the players enjoy the support. It’s no mistake that players like Travis Statchuk take the pictures the Knucklebucks’ shirt salutes and use them on social media. And I remember coaches like Miami’s Enrico Blasi speaking favorably of the ruckus caused by the OSU students in recent years.
There’s no doubt things have come a long way, but how can things keep getting better? I have a few suggestions.
1. Show up. The student section for the Miami opener was full, just as it should be for a rivalry game – especially one in which the opposing fans travel as much as they do. With big-name Big Ten games on the horizon, a full student section should be the norm, not the exception.
2. Come up with chants. This is supposed to be fun, and I know Ohio State has some of the smartest students around. So many schools have the copied “See Ya” and “Sieve” chants that places like Cornell and Michigan use that it’s just not creative anymore. Surely, there has to be something unique that Ohio State fans can come up with. The post-goal “Hey Baby” song and the ever-popular “Michigan still sucks!” chant are great starts.
3. Pick a song, any song. Michigan students dance like crazy to “I Can’t Turn You Loose” from the action scenes in “The Blues Brothers” between the second and third periods, and it’s one of the coolest damn things I’ve ever seen. Miami fans go nuts for “Jump Around” at the final media timeout. There’s no reason Ohio State can’t have the same kind of thing that people will remember when they go home.
4. Play intramural hockey. I used to play at 1:15 a.m. at the OSU Ice Rink. It’ll make you feel closer to the sport, and college students don’t need sleep anyway. I know hockey will never be football at Ohio State, and that’s fine, but there’s no reason Value City Arena can’t be a true home-ice advantage for the Buckeyes.