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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Relentless on the Road

After attending collegiate athletic events for four years and rooting for just about every sport played at this level, I thought I’d seen it all. Close games, upsets, blowouts, brawls and silly halftime promotions. But on Saturday, March 1, I experienced a new first: The University of Massachusetts Boston paid for a bus to take me to the hockey playoff game at Babson College.

Well, not just me. There were 55 other Beacon-crazed hooligans riding along, creating quite an experience for everybody involved. The fever pitch was simmering for so long on the bus that by the time we reached the arena, the Shriekin’ Beacon fanatics exploded for two hours of constant noise that undoubtedly had an impact on the hockey team’s first road playoff victory in 19 years.

But talking about entering the arena is skipping half the fun of the entire event. At 6 p.m., various athletes and students loaded onto a sturdy-looking charter bus headed for Babson College. As I settled into my seat, I couldn’t help but notice how enthusiastic the bus was, in particular the rear. I’m not accusing anyone in particular of using performance-enhancing drinks for the journey, but let’s just say that the crowd was spirited.

Sure, the bus’ televisions stayed off, the air conditioning vents didn’t cooperate and the bus shut down at least three times on the journey, adding an element of danger to the quest for playoff hockey. But all of those were minor inconveniences, and certainly did not deter from the singing and chanting of such road trip classics like “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall” and “Babson Sucks!”

Almost everybody was decked out in some form of Beacon gear, with some going to the extreme of painting their faces blue and white. The sweat and stress of a hockey playoff game took a toll on their face paint, because afterwards the colors looked like they were applied by a drunk makeup artist on the set of Braveheart. But the key was the passion that these students showed, in appearance and attitude.

Upon arriving at the arena, the students stampeded into the rink, bypassing a check-in counter. These people needed hockey, and they needed it right then. Equipped with noise-making thunder sticks, unrelenting vocal power and a deep-seated dislike for the Babson Beaver mascot, the fans were in the game from the drop of the puck to the final whistle.

We cheered when Babson’s first goal was waved off, and hollered for vengeance when the same happened to us minutes later. You didn’t even need to see the action if you were sitting in the student section, because you could feel it pulsating through the crowd.

We got on the board in the second period, and when the lead was spread to 2-0, we became more brazen and confident. Being up 3-1 in the third felt comfortable, but when we scored an empty-netter to seal the deal, Babson probably regretted not fortifying the entrance to keep us out. Some fans gave the obligatory “choke” sign to the Babson bench, while others started chanting, “It’s all over!”

Babson goaltender Sklar Nipps undoubtedly heard the crowd, as whenever the puck was in his zone, he was serenaded with a rousing chant of “Skylar-Skylar!” and when the game was out of hand, he received “It’s all your fault!” I suppose he got off easy, however, as no one was aware in the student section that his last name was Nipps. I’m sure that crowd would have come up with something both hilarious and offensive to harass him with.

Any way you slice it, our noise, enthusiasm and presence were felt in the arena that night. We may have crossed the line, but that happens when you’re pushing the envelope for something you’re passionate about. For everybody on that bus, we were pumped because it was like our own playoff game: we had to step up and help each other out.

Upon loading the bus, Vice Chancellor Charlie Titus thanked us for helping the hockey team to victory with excellent fan support. For this, he was loudly and happily cheered. He then cautioned against drinking and partying in a celebratory manner. For this, he was lustily and mercilessly booed.

The drive back was similar to the way up, only this time we celebrated a victory instead of predicting one. People recapped the game, others planned their next step of the evening, while others yet slept, undoubtedly exhausted. In addition, the bus shut down again, only this time on the middle of Interstate 93. At this point, it didn’t phase us, because we had a feeling of invincibility that a rickety bus couldn’t shake.

Men’s hockey coach Pete Belisle wanted to thank baseball coach Brendan Eygabroat for chaperoning the event, and for coordinating it along with Titus and Chancellor J. Keith Motley. Eygabroat also wished to thank Paul Braude (tennis), Ryan Norton (cross-country) and John Ruiz (lacrosse) for offering student support and getting the word out to their fellow athletes.

Without a doubt, the hockey team is also grateful for everyone who attended. But we don’t need thanks, because we got something out of the night besides just hockey. Some laughs, a lot of unity and a great playoff win. We didn’t just do it for them; we did it for us, too.