Postcard: The Trials of "Chris the Fan"
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
-- 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.)
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
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!)
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.”
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.
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.
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.