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Union College may be the new kid on the ECAC block, but don't tell that to its fans.
On Friday night, 2504 raucous Union fans packed a slightly antiquated Achilles Rink to support their only Division I athletic team.
When the opening Harvard line-up was introduced, the student section pulled out newspapers in mock boredom. The Union fans began cheering midway through an appalling Star-Spangled Banner And throughout the game, the crowd yelped and screamed to pump their team up.
Even though the Union fans seem well-versed in hockey etiquette, they still have a little to learn about the ECAC.
First off, where was the band? Seven students wearing Union sweatshirts hanging out in the balcony and waving assorted brass instruments is not a band.
Some words of advice to the Union band: do some recruiting (your membership should at least be in double-digits), learn some fight songs (the Hartford Whalers theme does not count) and work on some cheers (a good "sieve" chant would be nice).
A message to the Union fans: coordinate. You need cheers, chants, rallying calls. No self-respecting ECAC crowd would dare to just yell "you suck" at random intervals during the game.
It may take time, Union fans, but soon enough you'll be making fools out of yourselves just like all wacky hockey spectators.
Lessons from RPI
Take heart, Union fans, you don't have to go far to see a real ECAC show.
Just travel a couple miles down the New York Thruway to Troy and the home of the Engineers of Rensselaer.
While downtown Troy may be equally as repulsive as its counterpart in Schnectady, RPI's hockey show far outclasses that of its new ECAC neighbor and can provide a few lessons:
First lesson: The rink.
Forget about the 2500 capacity, high school bleacher embarrassment. Get something like RPI's Houston Field House, which seats over 5000 raucous fans.
Second lesson: Banners.
Check out Rensselaer's banners on top. Every ECAC team has one. The home team has about 50.
Third lesson: A minor league team.
Get a minor league hockey team to play in the same rink as your team. Rennselaer has the Central District New York Islanders skating at Houston Field House. It gives them that air of professionalism.
Fourth lesson: Introductions.
The Engineers skate out in a dark rink with a spotlight on each player. The band plays scary music and a grimacing bee skates around and hits things with a hockey stick.
Fifth lesson: Cheers.
Rensselaer fans shout "Oh, shit!" every time RPI gets a shot-on-goal but doesn't score, and "You suck!" after each opposing player is introduced.
Sixth lesson: The band.
The Rensselaer band has about a thousand students playing dozens of different instruments. They start playing about an hour before the game and don't stop until about 30 minutes after the contest is over.
Even the 6-0 shutout didn't stop them from being incredibly psyched about their technical school.
Follow these lessons from RPI, Union fans, and you'll be well on your way to being an ECAC powerhouse.
While Army may be gone from Division I, its memory remains strong in the ECAC. The Cadets played a hard-hitting, messy style of hockey that, though rarely successful, did manage to frustate and injure ECAC opponents.
After this weekend, Union seems ready to fill Army's shoes--or, rather, combat boots.
The Skating Dutchmen had no qualms roughing, holding, cross-checking and generally abusing Harvard on Friday night.
The Crimson--as it has in the past against Army--took the cue and responded with some bruising of its own.
The two teams set the tone early--six penalties in the first 1:32--and kept up the lumbering pace throughout the game. In fact, the sordid affair ended the way it began: in complete chaos.
With 2:42 left in the game, Union forward Rick Clifford beat Chuckie Hughes on the left to bring the Dutchmen within one. Then all hell broke loose.
Go, Fight, Win
After the goal, several Union players began taunting the Harvard bench. What happened afterwards is a little muddled. The two teams scuffled in front of the Crimson bench--a few pushed each other, others just shouted. The referees broke up the melee, mysteriously nailing only Crimson forward Michel Breistroff with a 10-minute misconduct.
As the Union crowd erupted and the referees sorted out the mess with Harvard Captain Kevin Sneddon, Union forward Tim Cregan and Harvard forward Jim Coady began a shoving match at the Harvard blue line.
The fans exploded, and the referres raced to separate the two. Both Cregan and Coady were ejected with 10-minute majors.
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