Kajani: Make hockey games more accessible to students

Being the fan of one of the best hockey teams in the country is pretty awesome. Being a student at Yale University is also pretty awesome. But combining the two and being a student and fan of your school’s elite Division I men’s hockey team is sublime.

Having a truly great sports team is something that Yale hasn’t had in a very long time. It’s something that made me envy my friends who attend large state schools that have large athletic departments and powerhouse teams in multiple sports. Whenever I used to go home over breaks, my friends at schools such as USC or UC Berkeley would talk about how much fun their football games were and how crazy the atmosphere was. In fact, when I showed them pictures of my first college football game, my friends scoffed and told me “nice turnout,” facetiously commenting on the ghost town that is the Yale Bowl on a Saturday afternoon. It just wasn’t the same. Sports were a big part of their college experience, and I really was jealous. But I don’t have to be anymore, and it’s all thanks to the men’s ice hockey team.

Granted, hockey isn’t one of the big three sports in the United States (football, baseball and basketball), but it is by far one of the most underrated sports. It is three 20-minute periods filled with high speeds, scoring and aggression, all on ice. Watching Yale hockey has actually turned me into an avid fan of the National Hockey League as well as Yale hockey.

Regardless, Yale hockey has everything a student could desire from their school’s sports teams: success, traditions and rituals and good fans. The success is pretty self-explanatory: The team is currently ranked second in both national polls after being ranked No. 1 in both for roughly two months. Anyone who even attends a Yale hockey game can tell that we have a good team just by watching them play — and score.

As for traditions and rituals, there are certain aspects of Yale hockey that are distinct. Captain Freedom, the guy who skates around the ice in between periods tossing T-shirts into the crowd and sporting an American flag-patterned vest, has been around since the ’80s. Another fun ritual at hockey games is the constant berating of the opposing team’s goalie, exemplified by the crowd chanting “It’s all your fault” after Yale scores a goal. There really isn’t anything quite like it, which leads me to my next point: the fans.

Especially since the recent success of the hockey team, Yale students have started to show huge support for their team. Students show up in large numbers to the games and, led by the Yale Precision Marching Band as well as some student cheer groups, the crowd provides great support for the team during the games. Even last year, as the team was making its way to the top of the rankings, the hockey games were always packed and are even more so this year. Ingalls Rink seats 3,500 people, and the last 10 hockey games have been sold out. You have to get your tickets almost a week before and arrive at least 45 minutes before the game starts to ensure that you’ll get a seat, otherwise you’ll have to try to find a spot in the standing areas around the rink.

It really is great to be a fan of Yale hockey, but at times it can be tough to try to show support and be an avid follower of the team, not because of the team, but because Yale has not done much to accommodate the surge in popularity of the team. Especially for students, finding a way to watch their own school’s team play can be tough.

As mentioned before, Ingalls Rink seats 3,500 people and according to the New Haven Register, only 700-800 seats are set aside for the students (roughly 20 percent). For an undergraduate student body of more than 5,000, that’s not a whole lot of seats for a whole lot of fans. And so while students can still do their due diligence and get their tickets early and go to the game early, not everyone who has a ticket can get a seat.

There have been many times when a friend or myself has arrived 10 minutes before the game to see the student section packed while the rest of the stadium slowly filled up. And while I understand that the rest of the seating is for people who actually pay for tickets, it’s frustrating to see more students from other schools sitting in Ingalls than Yale students. It’s also equally frustrating to see scalpers selling tickets outside of Ingalls trying to make a profit when most students just want to watch the game. I’m sure the Athletics Department really does need the money it gets from selling tickets to hockey games, but Yale really needs to expand the student section to accommodate more fans. There have been many occasions when friends of mine have gone to hockey games only to leave in the first period because they can’t see the players on the ice.

But that’s not even the worst part. For many students, going to the game is the only way to actually watch the Yale hockey team play. Besides paying to watch the game streamed online with very, very poor quality, there’s no way to watch the game outside of actually going to the game. Every once in a while a game will be broadcasted on the YES network or ESPNU, but otherwise there’s nothing. If it does not expand the student section, the least Yale can do for its expanding fan base and for its students is to broadcast the games on television. To the best of my knowledge, I have never seen anything air on YTV besides its own commercial advertising itself.

And so while it’s great that Yale has a successful hockey team, there are still some things the school can do to show appreciation for its students. After all, we are the ones who go to this school and pay tuition. C’mon, Yale, let us be fans of our own sports teams.

Raahil Kajani is a sophomore in Branford College.

Comments

  • FreddyHoneychurch

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems to me that this is the first season in a long time that (non-Harvard) student seating has been a problem at Ingalls Rink. Even last year I remember picking up student tickets on game day. There have been times in the very recent past when paying alums and locals have bought every available ticket while a stack of student passes sat unused in the register at the bookstore. Just sayin’ …

  • Yale12

    Well yeah, FreddyHoneychurch, that’s the point Mr. Kajani is making. Things are changing for Yale hockey, and the administration needs to adjust.

  • comp615

    It’s not just this past weekend that’s been a problem, (although that was the earliest I’ve ever seen tickets sell out). For the past two years or so the Hockey team has been gaining popularity. The student section has always been packed for big conference weekends, it’s just that now more students are being made to stand since the tickets are more fully selling out (if that makes any sense). In addition, I bet Yale Hockey intentionally over sells student tickets knowing that not everyone will show up. I too wish that there were more room for students, but the point is that 20% students are about the right number.

    If hockey is the big thing now, perhaps they should look at instituting some kind of organized system. Upperclassmen get seats, Freshman stand. Then going forward you could base it on previous attendance and reward those who go to every game with seats.

  • FreddyHoneychurch

    Or we just wait until Yalies start to understand that they’ll want to secure their tickets as soon as the tickets are released. Line up. Camp out. This is how it works at the big schools that Mr. Kajani admires. For comparison, Duke basketball’s student section holds 1200 (the arena holds 9000).