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Maybe the fact that the Harvard Band came without a percussion section was an omen.
Or maybe it was the huge sea of red--all those empty seats gracing the arena at game time--that served as the warning sign.
Whatever the source of the malaise in Bright Hockey Center was, last night's ECAC quarterfinal game felt less like the vital playoff contest that it was and more like the empty, lifeless Beanpot consolation Harvard suffered through this past February.
Given the ups-and-downs of the season, one would suppose that the team could use the shot in the arm that a rowdy, excitable Section 12 could provide.
And while there were a few brave souls that showed up early to smash RPI's self-esteem, those folks were still the bulk of the Harvard noise by the time the game started.
"Obviously, it would be nice to have [the stands] full," Harvard coach Ronn Tomassoni said. "But there could be zero in the stands. We want to go to Lake Placid."
Junior goalie Tripp Tracy acknowledged that the crowds have been subpar, but that it hasn't affected the team's performance.
"This year, the crowd hasn't been what it was in the past," he said. "I'd love to see the stands full, but we have to play above that."
But it's got to have some effect, especially when your team is playing its biggest games of its season and the opposition's fans are making almost as much noise as yours are.
Last night's game was a 2-2 tie. Turn up the decibel level, and the balance may be tipped just enough to rattle the opposition goalie or force some opposition rabbit ears to take that stupid penalty that gives Harvard the power play it needs to break the game open.
And here's another point to consider: whether or not Harvard wins this series, this weekend is the last chance that Harvard fans will be able to see the team at home.
Seniors Steve Martins, Cory Gustafson, Bryan Lonsinger, Michel Breistroff, Perry Cohagan, Ben Coughlin, Steve Hermsdorf and Keith McLean--there will be no more 'Bright Nights' for them after this weekend.
So what could be done to improve the attendance?
For starters, playoffs cost $4 a ticket for students, undoubtedly a turnoff for prospective fans.
So here's a thought, from intrepid hockey reporter David Griffel, that makes a whole lot of sense.
Josh Liston, Rudd Coffey and the rest of the U.C. gang, listen up: Forget Live. Forget putting on some rock concert. Wanna make the school rock?
Buy up a heap of tickets to the hockey playoffs, pass 'em out free, and watch what happens.
We'd fill the stands. We'd blow the opposition fans out the door. Cambridge police would be directing traffic to the game in riot gear. (It happened Tuesday night when the women's basketball championship was free.)
We could even get the "Angry Pilgrim" out there, running around the stands, raising Cain among Harvard's loudest.
(Well, okay, maybe that's taking things a little too far.)
Bottom line: make the game a school-wide happening. If we can get the school in a tizzy over the Harvard-Yale football game, surely we can stir a storm over a do-or-die hockey playoff at home.
So this evening, when you're searching for that study break from midterms, and you feel like the guy in that painting who's screaming his head off, go someplace where it's perfectly OK to let all the aggression out.
It'll probably be your last chance this year.
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