Spark behind the flame

ONE+OF+NATION%E2%80%99S+BEST%E2%80%94The+Puckheads+were+loud+when+the+Wildcats+traveled+up+to+Michigan+Tech+on+Friday%2C+Nov.+22.+The+NCAA+cited+this+game+as+a+reason+why+the+fans+are+some+of+the+best+in+the+nation.+Photo+courtesy+of+Puckheads

ONE OF NATION’S BEST—The Puckheads were loud when the Wildcats traveled up to Michigan Tech on Friday, Nov. 22. The NCAA cited this game as a reason why the fans are some of the best in the nation. Photo courtesy of Puckheads

Travis Nelson

NMU Hockey is rolling as of late; the program is filled with energy and confidence. Not just on the ice, but in the stands. The Puckheads made an emphatic return in 2019 to make visiting college hockey teams’ lives miserable when they play at the Berry Events Center.

Not only do the Puckheads create a hostile environment for opponents, it has been rocking all season long with fun and passion. In fact, last week the NCAA named the Puckheads one of the nine best fan sections in Division I hockey. Not only do the Puckheads make its support for the team well-known, the students constantly get support from the NMU Athletic Department and the hockey team itself.

“It’s been really cool, we have a lot of support from athletics and the team to get such a good start this season,” senior Puckheads leader Noah Roberts said. “[We get] a lot of great student support as well, because we’ve been so persistent on promotion of all the events that we’ve been doing with the team. It’s been really great.”

The recognition from the highest governing body of college athletics in the United States has given the section a new edge at games, with the latest example coming with last weekend’s games against Ferris State on Friday, Jan. 31, and Saturday, Feb. 1. The crowd was electric for the series, which resulted in two NMU wins. Head Coach Grant Potulny even sent his thanks on Twitter to the Puckheads, the national award was felt to be a boost for an already rowdy fan section.

“I think that’s part of it, it was a combination of it being the first home series that was fully during the semester,” Roberts said. “We also had a really fun theme this weekend with athletics posting a lot about it. Of course the team has been doing great this year, so that also helps.”

A thing to remember is that this fan section was created right before this season began, and they’ve already been voted a top fan section in the nation. The sky is the limit for the future of the Puckheads.

“Since we’ve gotten that accomplishment, I feel like even the support we’ve even gotten just from students showing up to the games has been larger,” senior Puckheads member Morgan Osborn said. “So I feel like next year will be even better.”

The Puckheads encourage all NMU students to join, and promote the theme for each game on its social media pages. On Snapchat, the students have around 1,000 followers, and have nearly 600 followers on Instagram. Robert said that they post polls on Instagram asking followers what theme they want for the weekend. Social media has been ridiculed for its negatives, but it brings the NMU student-body together with its love for Wildcat hockey.

“I think most important is the communication that we have. We have strong communication with everybody on our social media that never existed before,” Roberts said.

The Puckheads are always looking for opinions, and looking at what the students want. This organization did exist in the past at NMU, but this new era of ‘Cats hockey has been embraced with a revamped Puckheads as well.

“I think it’s really cool because the Puckheads in the past were definitely a thing,” junior Puckheads member Anna Watson said. “So to be a part of the resurgence of the Puckheads, it’s definitely becoming a thing that’ll be a tradition for now on and be a bigger group than in the past.”

The Wildcat Hockey team is not the only team involved in this the university as a whole has teamed up to create a rockous environment at the Berry Events Center on gamedays.

“Having the team’s support, the players are promoting our stuff, they’re excited about what we’re doing,” Roberts said. “Obviously we’re excited about what they’re doing on the ice, it’s all a team effort.”

The Wildcats are back home in two weeks against Bemidji State on Friday, Feb. 14, and Saturday, Feb. 15. Friday’s game is on Valentine’s Day, and the theme for the game is a ‘pink out’ with the Puckheads wearing pink. On Saturday, since Bemidji State wears green, the plan is for the fans to wear gold for a ‘gold out’. NMU trails Bemidji in the WCHA standings, and as playoffs are near, all students are needed to get the Berry rocking.

“Bemidji is definitely a tough series because they’re No. 2 (in the WCHA),” Watson said. “So it’s important for our students to come support our boys.”

Not only do the Puckheads make it hard for other teams, the energy in the building elevates the play of the Wildcats.

“The boys thrive off of that, I see them in the hallway all the time, and they’re always like, ‘you guys are doing great’,” senior Puckheads member Olivia Helka said. “They play so much better when they know that they have fan support.”

To become a member of the Puckheads, or to be a part of deciding themes for games, follow nmupuckheads on both Snapchat and Instagram.