“Let’s go Low-ell!”
“Fred C. Church!”
This is just a smattering of the many chants that River Hawk faithful in the student section say at hockey games. These chants are only said three times. It is a grand freshman tradition to be at a hockey game and overzealously yell “U-M-L” one too many times and have a smirking upperclassman clap you on the shoulder and say, “Three times.”
Alumni and season ticket holders enjoy the chants at hockey games but find one major problem with them: saying them only three times prevents the rest of the arena from joining in and creating a truly electric atmosphere at the Tsongas Center.
The UMass Lowell men’s hockey team is lucky enough to have some of the most passionate fans in all of college hockey. The Tsongas Center has topped Hockey East attendance lists for the past several years and that is due in large part to not only the university’s strong hockey culture filling the student section but the passion of its many season ticket holders.
Monty Rodrigues, an alum of UMass Lowell and a season ticket holder since he was a sophomore in 1993-94, has seen some of the most exciting moments in recent UMass Lowell hockey history. He remembers seeing the Old Tully Forum packed with River Hawk faithful (“saying we broke the fire code for the home game [after beating Boston University at its home rink for the first time] is being polite,” he says) cheering on their River Hawks.
He is troubled by the hardline “three chants and done” rule that only seems to include the students. Back when he was a student, Rodrigues says that the fans would repeat a chant for several minutes if other people were joining the fun.
“My frustration with the “three times” thing is that by the time that starts to spread around the stadium, the students have already stopped, and so many of the fans/alumni just quit on it,” he said. “It’s fun to keep it going, it’s fun to make the stadium loud, and let the guys on the ice know that we’re fully backing them.”
Tony Patronick is an alum of UMass Lowell and a former reporter for The Connector. As a faithful River Hawk fan, he remembers 2006-07 as the time when students really started to fill the student section at the Tsongas Center. As he recalls, the “three times” rule started then.
“Three times was about how long you could get a chant to go with a good participation rate, it just kinda stuck. As more student brought more of their friends, that’s how they observed and learned,” he said.
Patronick said that the “three times” rule is fine when a fan is embroiled in the student section, but for anyone outside of the immediate zone it is almost pathetic.
“It’s silly now with how big it’s become. It leaves the rest of the arena with no time to join in. Do whatever you can to get them to keep it going. Hint, suggest, threaten, shame; whatever it takes. It’s one of the only blemishes on a great student section,” he said.
An anonymous source reached out to The Connector with some more recent intel, stating that two students circulated a list of rules regarding chants starting in 2011. The list is fascinating in its thoroughness. It lists what chants to say during specific moments in the game.
According to “The Unofficial Official UMass Lowell River Hawk Chants,” some of the chants were not meant to be said only three times. The “U-M-L” chant was meant to be done “4-5 times,” and the list told students that “you’ll learn when to stop.” “Fred C. Church” was meant to be said four times, and there was an extended ribbing of the visiting goalie after they let in a goal.
“If nothing else,” the list says, “we want the UMass Lowell student section to be a source of pride for our players.”
The anonymous source said that as a recent alumnus at the time, even four times was not enough to involve fans outside of the student section.
“It was quite frustrating as the place was really starting to buzz after years of being empty,” he said. “As a continued River Hawk hockey supporter, I want that arena rocking at all times.”
Robert Flanders, a season ticket holder, does not find that the arena is rocking. He finds that the issue is more centralized in the lack of interesting chants that the student section has to offer. The most memorable chant that he remembers came from a Boston College vs. Northeastern game at the Boston Garden, where BC students were “giving it to the ‘Dog House.’”
“Out of nowhere the NU students come out at their loudest all night and chant, “You like fish sticks!’” Flanders remembers the game falling on a Good Friday, making the chant more targeted towards the Jesuit university. It had an instant effect on the Boston College students.
He finds that recent UMass Lowell chants just are not the same.
“I’ve been disappointed for years by the lack of chant[s] or [an] uninteresting chant,” he said. “Every fall I hope there’s an incoming freshman that will take the reins… We need someone to educate and motivate.”
Joey McKean might be the one to take the reins. McKean is a high school-age season ticket holder who runs Hockey Night in Lowell, a Twitter account that celebrates UMass Lowell hockey. He said that he loves having the student section at games since they bring a special uptick in energy.
“While you guys where on break we had 3 home games. I (and probably most other season ticket holders) really missed having you there. The vibe of the game and the whole atmosphere was just different,” he said. “It is quite obvious how much the players feed off the energy you guys bring.”
However, as someone that has traveled around the Hockey East conference for games, McKean finds that the Tsongas Center could be better in terms of fan atmosphere. He thinks that involving the entire arena in chants could very well make that happen.
“Please chant things more than 3 times. I know there are many of us who would chant right along with it if we got the chance. If we could get most of the arena chanting student section chants that would be fantastic. The Tsongas Center definitely has the potential to become one of the most hostile environments in college hockey, so let’s become one,” he said.