When an opposing hockey player gets whistled for a penalty and makes the trip to the penalty box, the student section greets him with a series of obscene names. The chant — known as the “see-ya chant” — has become a tradition for Michigan hockey fans, and the fans add a new word to the end of the chant each season. But it is a tradition that the athletic department would like to end.
Yesterday, the Michigan Student Assembly organized a meeting between Executive Associate Director of Athletics Michael Stevenson and the student season ticket holders.
The goal, Stevenson said, was to open up some sort of discussion between the students and the athletic department.
“It’s become impossible for a family with young children to bring their family to a Michigan hockey game,” Stevenson said.
The few dozen students who attended the meeting seemed very receptive to changing the chant but said that by agreeing to change the cheer, they should be accommodated by the administration for some of their concerns. They cited the rising season ticket prices, the student section being split into two separate groups, more expensive seats blocking the view of students and the band being moved away as reasons they were upset.
“If they start appealing more toward the students … then maybe the students would be a little more willing to work with the athletic department than feel like it’s us versus them,” LSA senior Josh Goldman said.
The consensus of the people at the meeting was that the cheer needs to be toned down by removing or replacing some of the more offensive words. Other alternatives were suggested, including kicking out the students who said the offensive words and revoking tickets. But Stevenson said he was hesitant to do anything that drastic just yet.
“That would be premature,” Stevenson said earlier in the year.
In the past, the athletic department has tried announcements from Athletic Director Bill Martin, hockey coach Red Berenson and team captains in the hope that they would have some influence over the fans. This season’s captain, Eric Nystrom, said that the cheer never bothered him or his family, but Berenson argued that it reflected poorly on the University’s student body.
“I would hope that our Michigan students would represent themselves as well as they can and represent our program as well as they can,” Berenson said earlier this week. “They give us a great boost by their presence and their enthusiasm and the fact that they’re into their game, and that’s a great home-ice advantage.”
Some of the students at yesterday’s meeting suggested creating an organized student group that has a good relationship with the athletic department, like the basketball team’s Maize Rage. They said a free T-shirt with a suggested cheer written on the back might be an incentive for fans. But others were skeptical that drastic changes would be successful.
“It’s got to be done subtly,” Engineering senior Brian Kornfeld said. “Any quick, sudden movements by the athletic department are really going to scare the students.”
In addition to the offensive nature of the cheer, Stevenson also cited Michigan’s inability to host an NCAA Regional as a reason to stop or change the cheer. In the 2002 NCAA Regional, Michigan upset No. 2 Denver at Yost Ice Arena, 5-3. Stevenson said that, after the game, Michigan was fined. And Michigan has not hosted a Regional at Yost since then.
A media spokesman for Tom Jacobs, the NCAA Director of Championships, said that the reason the Regionals have not been at Yost has less to do with the offensive language than the fact that having the game at Yost gives Michigan an unfair competitive advantage.