It snowed last week, so I feel like this is probably a good time to write this. Not only did we get to see snow on the ground—if only momentarily —we also got to see the first Cobber hockey games of the year.
Well, a few people did.
The combined attendance for the women’s hockey series with Northland on Friday and Saturday was just 473 fans. That number includes about 20-30 Northland parents and supporters who watched both games from the away bleachers behind the LumberJill bench.
Those fans that did show up got to see two fantastic hockey games as the teams split the weekend series, as well as one of the best individual goaltending efforts I have seen in a college hockey game, from Northland’s Maggie Cusey, to shutout Concordia on Saturday afternoon. While the 2-0 Cobber loss on Saturday was not the result most in attendance had hoped for, the game was a tense, exciting matchup that made the atmosphere inside the rink electric.
The only thing that could have made it better, besides a Cobber victory, would have been more people there to see it live.
Now maybe I am a biased hockey fan, but after a year of watching games live at the Sports Center, I just cannot wrap my head around the fact that only 181 people showed up to watch a college hockey game on a Saturday afternoon.
Perhaps if the football team had also been at home I could understand a small attendance, but they were in Northfield to play Carleton, so there goes that excuse.
The Saturday afternoon game is not something I am fond of personally, so I can understand that some students and fans in general might not want to go and do anything at all on Saturday afternoon, or, if you’re me, what feels like early Saturday morning. But still, we really are unable to get a decent group of students to come out to watch their peers skate on tiny metal blades across frozen water while trying to hit a tiny piece of rubber past a human whose only job it is to get hit with said tiny piece of rubber?
The unspoken factor in this discussion is the fact that the hockey games last weekend had the word “women’s” before hockey. Using this as an excuse to not attend is patently ridiculous, but nevertheless it remains even after 19 seasons of women’s hockey at Concordia. The men’s team averages about 100 more fans for its games than the women do, but I am going to go ahead and ignore this issue for now because both teams should have far more fans to see them play.
The Concordia women’s hockey team is the only NCAA women’s hockey team within 100 miles now that North Dakota has canceled its program, and still nobody comes out to watch. People talk about Minnesota as the “State of Hockey,” but hockey games in Moorhead that don’t involve the Spuds simply do not have the same social value that, say, Cobber football games do. The football team routinely packs over 4000 fans into Jake Christiansen Stadium, and while Terry Horan and company only play five home games a year, these types of numbers show that there are fans out there to be had—especially when you consider the sheer number of high-quality football available within a 10-mile radius they have to choose from.
The voice of reason on my shoulder says that this was only the first hockey series of the year, and attendance—especially that of students—will pick up as the weather outside reminds my fellow millennials that hockey is a sport again, but I’m still annoyed. Obviously we have other sports on campus that don’t draw many spectators (see volleyball) but the kicker is that those sports are at the very least on campus. Hockey, especially on the women’s side, deals with relative apathy and a 10-minute drive between the dorms and the stands. Even if the stands are often empty, any random student can fairly easily stumble into a volleyball or basketball game. If you randomly stumble into a Cobber hockey game, you probably have hypothermia.
Last season, student attendance grew rapidly the few times that the teams held between-period contests like Chuck-a-Puck, so maybe the real need is for some promotion. I do not think that would hurt, but my guess is that it will take time to correct this negative trend. That being said, it shouldn’t be incumbent on the teams to devote any time to recruiting people to come watch them play. You should be doing that anyway. Even if you know anything about the sport, it is a fun time with friends that’s something you can do inside for FREE on cold wintery nights and afternoons. It costs you nothing and just an incremental increase in attendance would make for a substantial increase in energy and atmosphere.
Both Concordia hockey teams will be good this year, and they both deserve to have people in the stands to watch them play the fastest, most exciting game on the planet. So, pretty please, for the love of God—I can say that, Lutheran school and all— do your part and GO TO HOCKEY GAMES!