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BU hockey's reputation alone is not enough to sustain a community – The Daily Free Press

BU hockey's reputation alone is not enough to sustain a community – The Daily Free Press

 


Op-eds do not reflect the editorial views of The Daily Free Press. They are solely the opinions 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 championship teams. There is no doubt about the reputation of the Boston University men's hockey team as a blueblood and college powerhouse.

After back-to-back trips to the Frozen Four, a Hobey Baker Award winner in Macklin Celebrini and a consistent second-place finish in the nation for much of the season, men's hockey continues to meet and exceed expectations.

However, the support the team receives from the students and the BU community does not meet the expectations you would expect from a program of such a high caliber.

Over the past decade, I have watched Agganis fill up on game days, with the exception of half the seats in the student section. The days of call-and-response chants between sections 118 and 108 are long gone.

However, the attendance of those who do attend has increased in volume, passion and creativity. In making game days even more memorable, they have done a fantastic job considering the things they have to work with.

BU's loyal alumni and season ticket holders continue to fill the box seats for events at TD Garden, while the student sections in the balcony are increasingly dwarfed by those of rival institutions.

At the Frozen Four semifinals in St. Paul earlier this month, BUs had a noticeable gap in attendance. This has often sparked conversations among my friends and members of the BU community.

Improving student attendance and school spirit are not new challenges.

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

What became clear to me, however, is that these departments were not communicating with each other.

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

New students won't feel obligated to attend games if none of their admissions ambassadors or assistants have ever been to a game and can talk about it.

Big game viewing parties only work if the venues don't close and students are kicked out before the game ends.

BU has moved away from making hockey games one of the things that need to be done.

It feels like a vicious chicken-and-egg cycle. The university has reduced marketing and advertising of the hockey game day experience, resulting in less student participation. Because there are fewer students present, the university sees less reason to market it.

I ask representatives of the above departments to ask themselves the question as if they were students: once you arrive on campus, if people you know don't attend hockey games and the university doesn't mention them as part of your BU experience, why should you go then? Why would you keep going for four years and more if you become an alumnus?

What will happen in twenty years when the expectation of season ticket holders and alumni to fill seats is placed on former students who have never been to games?

A similarly selective university like BU is Duke University, which has supported the Cameron Crazies, the university's student basketball chapter, for more than 40 years. Why? The Blue Devils have a historic reputation with trophies and banners to back up that reputation.

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

Supporting and nurturing a hockey fan base is a mechanism the university can use to improve overall school spirit and provide students with another way to connect with their university community to place the proud in #ProudToBU. But this cannot be done piece by piece.

I implore current students and representatives from leading departments at BU to come together this offseason and articulate a collective multi-year 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 joint effort should include Athletics, Agganis Arena, ResLife, Dean of Students, University Marketing, Admissions, Orientation, Development and Alumni Relations.

All parties must understand the value their contribution could bring by giving students an experience that will be memorable during their time at BU, an opportunity to showcase and attract fans to the university who will appear in the student section, and become an opportunity for student-alumni to consider making a donation 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 don't expect everyone to have the same experience as they do at BU hockey games. It 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 the very least, I hope 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 the student slots at Agganis Arena and TD Garden says a lot about the community 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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