October 13, 2002
Postcard: The Trials of "Chris the Fan"

Minnesota-Duluth last hosted a playoff game in 1998. The Bulldogs have gone a decade without a WCHA title, and their last appearance in the Frozen Four came in 1985, when Brett Hull was a freshman at the school.

The team plays in the WCHA’s oldest rink, the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center. The DECC opened in 1966, and is located five miles from campus. The Bulldogs are coming off 10th- and 9th-place finishes in the league.

So one would think that if there was trouble with student Bulldog fans, the biggest problem would be finding any. Instead, long-time season ticket holders at the DECC are up in arms because those darn kids are making too much racket.

Senior finance major Chris Orlett leads a raucous group of students (in the past they’ve gone by the nickname “The Dog Pound,” which, of course, is the NCAA-required nickname of a student fan group at any school with a canine mascot). They have simple goals: having fun, making noise, supporting their team and making the DECC an uncomfortable place for opponents to visit. Instead, it’s Chris and company who sometimes feel unwelcome.

“It seems to be a matter of the adults not wanting students at the rink,” said Orlett. “We kind of look at the adults as guests at our games. They don’t seem to understand that if we didn’t pay tuition, there wouldn’t be a hockey program here.”

Orlett -- who is known variously as “Super” (short for “Super Fan”), “DHG” (short for “Drunk Hockey Guy”) and the stunningly-inventive “Chris The Fan” -- and several of his colleagues have taken to making a lap of the rink along the arena’s inner concourse, waving a Bulldog flag, cheering and doling out high-fives, whenever the home team scores. (They haven’t made a lot of laps in recent years, but that’s an on-ice issue to be discussed later.)

Older season ticket holders have lodged complaints with UMD administration in the past about students using foul language making too much noise. Orlett admits that profanity was a problem in the past, but boasts that the fans have generally cleaned up their act (“sucks” is about the strongest word they chant anymore, as in "Spehar sucks").

So you can imagine their surprise upon filing into the DECC on Friday for the season opener versus Notre Dame. They were informed by campus police that a decree had been issued from the university higher-ups, that the in-rink laps must stop. The reasons given
were complaints from older fans, and a few near-altercations. The worst moments came during a home loss to the hated Gophers last year, when a group of Minnesota fans decided to do a lap of their own after a Gopher goal, and nearly came to blows with
numerous Bulldog fans. (Warning to Gopher fans: There’s NOTHING more despised in Northern Minnesota than an uppity Twin Citian!)

“There have been a lot of words exchanged, but there have never been any real physical altercations,” said Orlett, speaking in a rough near-whisper after having yelled his voice out over the weekend. “I find it ironic that the adults say we’re immature for wanting to run a lap around the rink, but then some of them stick out their feet and try to trip us as we go by.”

Now, anyone who knows anything about college students knows that telling them not to do something is almost the perfect way to ensure that something will happen. So when the Bulldogs scored their first home goal of the season, it wasn’t surprising to see half the
student section take a lap of the rink. So many students circled the half-empty arena that the Irish had tied the score before the students were all seated again.

The DECC laps went on all weekend with little trouble, although Orlett admits that the group did shove past a disgruntled Notre Dame fan who refused to move his feet from their path.

So with 19 more home dates on the Bulldogs' schedule, perhaps an uneasy truce has been reached between the students, the adults, the police and the administration. Or perhaps the DECC is a veritable “Berkeley in ’67”-style powder keg, ready to blow when
the Bulldogs host Colorado College on Oct. 25. Stay tuned.

– Jess Myers

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