Op-Ed, Opinion

OP-ED: BU hockey’s reputation alone isn’t enough to sustain a community

Op-Eds do not reflect the editorial opinion of The Daily Free Press. They are solely the opinion of the author. 

Arman Sanentz (CAS ‘17) is a Boston University alumnus and former BU Pep Band Manager and student section leader in the Dog Pound. He has been a BU Men’s Hockey Season Ticket Holder for seven years.

Annika Morris | Senior Graphic Artist

The banners hanging in the rafters of Agganis Arena tell a more than 100-year-old story filled with tournament titles, star-studded players and five national champion teams. There’s no doubt about the Boston University men’s hockey team’s reputation as a college hockey blue blood and powerhouse. 

After two back-to-back trips to the Frozen Four, a Hobey Baker Award winner in Macklin Celebrini and a consistent ranking of second in the country for a large stretch of the season, men’s hockey continues to meet and exceed expectations. 

However, the support the team receives from the student body and BU community does not meet the expectations one would expect from such a high-caliber program.

For the last 10 years, I have watched Agganis fill up on game days, with the exception of half of the student section seats. Long gone are the days of call-and-response chants between Sections 118 and 108. 

Attendance from those who do attend, however, has increased in volume, passion and creativity in making game days more memorable — they have done a fantastic job given what they have to work with. 

The BU faithful — alums, season ticket holders — continue to fill the loge seats for events at TD Garden, while the student sections up in the balcony continue to get more and more dwarfed by those from rival institutions. 

At the Frozen Four semifinal in St. Paul earlier this month, BU’s allotted section of seats had a noticeable hole in spectators. This has often sparked conversation among my friends and members of the BU community.

Improving student attendance and sentiments of school spirit are not new challenges. 

When I was a student from 2013 to 2017, I held several constructive sessions with representatives across BU to attempt to address these gaps, covering BU Athletics, Agganis Arena, ResLife, Dean of Students and Orientation. I met with great people in nearly all spaces who were passionate about getting this right. 

What was clear to me, though, is that these departments were not communicating with one another. 

Jersey giveaways and ticket discounts only do so much if they are not uniformly advertised across university mediums. 

New students won’t feel compelled to attend games when none of their admissions ambassadors or resident assistants have ever been to a game and can talk about them. 

Big-game watch parties only work if venues don’t close and kick students out before the game ends. 

BU has moved away from making hockey games one of “the things to do.”

It feels like a vicious chicken-and-egg cycle. The university has lessened marketing and advertising of the hockey game day experience, resulting in less attendance from students. Because there is less student attendance, the university sees less reason to market it.

I ask representatives from the aforementioned departments to ask themselves as if they were students: Once you arrive on campus, if people you know aren’t attending hockey games and the university isn’t calling them part of your BU experience, why would you end up going? Why would you continue to go for four years and for years to come once you become an alumnus? 

What happens 20 years from now when the expectation for season-ticket holders and alumni to fill seats are placed on former students who never went to games?

A similarly selective university like BU is Duke University, which has supported the Cameron Crazies — the university’s basketball student section — for over 40 years. Why? The Blue Devils have a historic reputation with trophies and banners to back it. 

The student section has been an ongoing tradition that student participants love. The university has made it an integral part of the Duke experience through marketing, advertising and continued support. I believe a variant of this approach has the potential to succeed at BU, but all three boxes need to be checked for this to work properly. 

Supporting and nurturing a hockey fanbase is one mechanism the university can use to improve general school spirit sentiments and give students another way to connect to their university community — to put the “proud” in “#ProudToBU.” But this cannot be done piecemeal. 

I implore current students as well as representatives from notable BU departments to come together this offseason and declare a multi-year joint vision for improving school spirit at BU. This should start with the men’s hockey team, which has a storied tradition, talent and excitement that more students should experience. 

This partnered effort should include Athletics, Agganis Arena, ResLife, Dean of Students, University Marketing, Admissions, Orientation, Development and Alumni Relations. 

All parties need to understand the value that their contribution could bring — giving students an experience that will be memorable to their time at BU, an opportunity to showcase and attract fans to the university that will show up in the student section, and an opportunity for students-turned-alums to consider donating to their alma mater or coming back for a game or two to support the team. 

As a former band kid turned hockey fanatic, I do not expect everyone to have the same experience I had at BU — hockey games gave me lifelong memories and friendships that took me, my friends and the pep band all over the country. I will always support the team, and all BU teams for that matter. 

At a bare minimum, my hope is that the university creates more BU fans — if not for the student experience, then for the team itself. For a top-ranked team to struggle to fill its student allotments at Agganis Arena and TD Garden says a lot about the community that the team represents. 

Let’s give our Terriers a reason to be proud to play in scarlet and white. Go BU.

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  1. My sentiments exactly. As season ticket holders, my dad (ENG 91) and I (CAS/SED 17) love the energy that the team and diehard Dog Pound students bring, but we have been disappointed by the lack of Scarlet at TD Garden for the Beanpot and HE Tournaments.

  2. I think you are missing the main point and that is the composition of the student body and those who are “full paying students “ who have less than zero interest in hockey. This is a larger problem with the entire dynamic of the school. A lot of foreign money involved

  3. BU has been proven as of late to not care for its student body. You don’t need to look further than the absurd cost of attending this institution nearing $100k, along with graduate students and res life workers striking because of the university deciding it just doesn’t care. Why should students support a representative of the university in the form of the hockey team? Ask anybody on campus if they’ve refunded their sports pass, and the most common answer you’ll get after “I don’t care about sports” is “I don’t want to give more money to BU”. It sounds unfair, and I am speaking as a fan of the hockey team and current STH. But I also have seen current Dog Pound leadership complain that the university does not care for it. So what point is there in pursuing efforts with administration? No. Any efforts to raise student spirit and support of the hockey team needs to be effectively grassroots.

  4. Rick Meagher Fan

    The writer is spot on! I have been going to games for over 55 years. Agganis is a near first class experience in almost all aspects but alot of the spirit of students has dwindled. Those that show up do get involved but there should be many more who care. The student sections of BC, NU have grown and do dwarf the BU sections these days. Now, with the right coach in place, it is time to make a concerted effort to make Agganis the snakepit that Walter Brown was. The BU neutral site sections need to reflect the many years of success. Show up – be loud and proud!

  5. Samantha Maloney-Gracie

    Beautifully written. Sanentz makes some excellent points. All an RA has to do is to organize a floor outing to a hockey game, or any game. This allows students on a floor to get to know each other, promotes school pride, and it’s a great way to have cheap fun.

    I was in town for the big BU vs. BC game weekend in January. We had tickets for Saturday’s game, but we’re in town Friday night too. We took it for granted that we could find a bar near BU to watch the Friday game. I called so many sports bars and bars to see where we could watch it. No one was playing it and we ended up tethering our computer to the hotel TV so we could watch it. I was left wondering why doesn’t the school sponsor watch parties or have an unofficial “official” establishment that all students can watch the game at?

  6. Great article go terriers

  7. David Franco

    Excellent take. The pieces are there to drive student and fan engagement. It starts with orientation and students’ first trip to campus. Being from Florida, I had never been to a hockey game and it was only until a friend brought me to a BU game, that I realized how much fun it is to attend.

    There should be an introduction to BU hockey at orientation and in weeks of welcome. All departments in the university have to buy into it heavily market it.

  8. Disconnected Student Body. Hockey Games to Most Are Foreign.

  9. Jimmy Joyce

    BU grad. Didn’t even know there was a Hockey team until the end of sophomore year. We just figured west campus was a zoo where a group of entitled non-students ran around tormenting the freshman girls. We really couldn’t care less.

  10. Chris Lynch

    BU Alum and season ticket holder here: This is an outstanding article with a message that should be shouted from the rooftops on Commonwealth Avenue. It’s a crime that the student sections at each end of Jack Parker rink are not packed to the gills every game. The primary victims of said crime are BU students, most of whom don’t know that they’re missing. Even a modest, but coordinated effort would remedy this problem and create memorable experience for thousands of BU students. Let’s crawl, walk and eventually run towards becoming the next Cameron Crazies, but addressing the problem eloquently is a great place to start.

  11. When I was at BU, I spent every spare second working to pay for tuition and room/board.

    Sports was generally not in the equation, tho’ I did catch Najarian scoring a few touchdowns back in the day. Hockey, no.

    Yes, I am now an ardent BU Hockey fan.
    Make some of the games FREE for students. Standing room, maybe?

  12. BU Freshman

    I think you make a lot of good points in this article. I honestly wish BU had a lot more school spirit. Both the administration and the student body are to blame for the lack of school spirit. I have seen people trying to combat this issue though, so hopefully things change.

  13. I am Prof. Hal Daniels of MDC Kendall, FL. I was sports editor of the defunct BU News and assistant head sports info director for BU from 1972- 73. I helped open Brown Rink and the Case Center in those years. Attendance and school spirit has always been a problem at BU. It just isn’t a jock school. BU has a diverse pluralistic aura, a university with many interest groups vying for attention. To bolster sports attendance, I would like to see investment in basketball, a very popular sport in the Northeast. I also recommend a return to football of the Division 1 variety. But that might prove too pricey.

  14. Doug Dagrosa

    Great article and spot on. As a University you have limited assets to differentiate yourself in the market and athletics is one, that is now very expensive to create. BU has one, based on it’s past success and a historical moment at the Olympics in 1980. And yet it continues to miss this opportunity to take advantage of the success of it’s men’s (and now women’s) hockey teams. The facility is already in place (two actually) and the current coaching staff(s) are set. As an Alum (SMG ’84) who was already a hockey fan, bringing my freshman friends to games on a Friday/Saturday and then going to the Dugout after to celebrate/commiserate and talk hockey was the foundation for lifetime friendships. The admin and Dean of Students is a missing a huge opportunity by not taking advantage of hockey and leveraging to improve the freshman and student body experience. Yet they think asking Alums to pay for caps and gowns for students who can’t afford it at a $70K University is a smart way to raise money.

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