Tiger fans unite at send-off celebration

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A. Sue Weisler

RIT hockey fans showed their school spirit and support for the team at the Frozen Four Frenzy pep rally and send-off celebration April 6 at Ritter Ice Arena. Here, fans offer their well wishes to the team on a banner that will be displayed in Detroit.

Any great team would be remiss to not acknowledge its loyal fans as sources of inspiration and motivation. But, the tables have turned and nearly 600 fans of RIT men’s hockey came out to show their support at the Frozen Four Frenzy pep rally and send-off celebration April 6 at Ritter Ice Arena. The event, sponsored by RIT’s Center for Campus Life, created an opportunity for long time Tiger fans, and new followers alike, to offer well wishes to the coaches and players before the team boarded a bus to Detroit for the April 8 semifinal game of the Division I Frozen Four tournament.

As the Tiger hockey team entered the arena one-by-one to the tune of Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger, a fitting tribute to the “underdogs,” the crowd erupted, waving commemorative towels and shaking cowbells. In short, the team’s success has created an explosion of RIT school spirit.

“In my time at RIT, I have never seen anything like this,” says Carol Reed, associate director for the Center of Campus Life and a 28-year RIT employee. “Our college community and our Rochester community have truly rallied around this team. It’s amazing. In fact, there is only one other time in my life that I have witnessed this type of frenzy around an athletic team. I was an employee at Indiana State where Larry Bird played basketball. We played in the NCAA championship game against Michigan State—and Magic Johnson.”

During the pep rally, RIT President Bill Destler addressed the crowd and the team: “This is a day of real pride for RIT. This team represents us so well as individuals and as students.” In addition to Destler, the platform of speakers included Mary-Beth Cooper, vice president for student affairs; and Rochester Mayor Bob Duffy. The culmination of the event was a proclamation by Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks officially naming April 6 “RIT Tiger Hockey Day in Rochester.”

Head Coach Wayne Wilson, who spoke briefly at the podium, paid homage to a variety of advocates of RIT’s hockey program. “I would like to thank [RIT president emeritus] Albert Simone for making the move to Division I hockey. And, we have the best fans anywhere, including the Corner Crew. Our fans on campus and in the community are just outstanding.”

Although there are die-hard fans out there like the Corner Crew, a dedicated group of students, alumni, faculty, staff and locals who support RIT men's and women's hockey, there are a few who have only recently jumped on the Tiger band wagon.

“I have always been a sports fan, but now I’m really a hockey fan,” says Alvin Roberts, a graduate student in RIT’s human resource development program. “I watch ESPN’s Sports Center and I think it’s really cool that RIT is in the company of the schools that are mentioned on that show.”

In all fairness, though, not everyone has been captivated by the on-ice action. Three-year-old Izabel Sekhon attended the pep rally with her class from Margaret’s House. When asked what she liked best about the event, she replied: “I like [RITchie] the tiger.”

To see a photo gallery from the pep rally and send-off celebration, visit the RIT Hockey Facebook Fan page at www.facebook.com/RIThockey. Video highlights of the rally can be found at www.youtube.com/user/RITUniversityNews.