This past Saturday, October 11, the Marist Hockey team held their annual pink game, which is held each year during breast cancer awareness month to raise money. The pink game is an event that should have brought in a strong fan base, but like most Marist hockey games, the stands were vastly lacking in school spirit. The lack of fan support has nothing to do with the teams skill or their lack of Division 1 recognition, but that Marist fails to promote their club sports to the student body.
In a survey taken randomly by Marist students, 90 percent of students said they are aware that Marist has a hockey team but the majority never attended a game. When asked why, more than 50 percent said they do not know when the games are due to lack of promotion or advertisement of the schedule. Two other major reasons seen were lack of other students attending and lack of transportation to the games.
Marist does not have an ice rink on campus so the team practices and plays their games at the Mid Hudson Civic Center in Poughkeepsie. The rink is not far from campus but if you are a student wanting to attend a game the only way to get there is to drive. Lack of transportation plays a major factor because students without cars have no way to get to games even if they wanted to, and most students said in the survey that if Marist provided a free shuttle to the Civic Center, like they do to the mall, they would likely attend games. Marist runs a shuttle from one end of campus to the other during basketball games so fans don’t have to walk. They should be able to run one to another facility.
The Marist hockey team is classified as a club team so they receive less money from Marist than other sport teams here. Financially, Marist is very supportive of the hockey team. They give the team a budget each year to help pay for ice time for practice and games because Marist does not have the facilities they need to practice. They are given a lot more financial support then other club sports at Marist, but they also have to put in a lot more of their own money each year to pay for equipment and other expenses. Each player contributes $1700 for various expenses, which is significantly higher than all other club teams.
The season spans from September to March. During the course of that time the team practices at least three times a week and plays about 30 games. That is roughly two games a week and they travel for about half of them. They also come back to campus for a few practices over summer and winter breaks. They compete against other club teams and Division 2 teams in the Northeast region.
Though Marist helps support club sports financially, they do little to help the team get recognition. Also the booster club does not offer points for attending club games, which is a major factor that gets students to go to other sporting events on campus. The hockey team has to do most of their promotions on their own via social media and word of mouth. “Marist hasn’t done much recently, but they did post on the Marist twitter account about our first home game this year,” said, Tom McGuire, a senior on the team. The home opener was seen to have one of the best fan turnouts at a game in a while, making it obvious that with some promotion from the school they could help raise the teams fan base.
“The vast majority of the fan base consists of friends of players on the team, significant others of those on the team and families of those on the team. Unfortunately, if someone does not have one of those connections they are unlikely to attend the games or even know about the games,” said Melissa Saxe a Marist student. Saxe attends games regularly because her boyfriend and several of her friends are on the team.
Marist sophomore, Janie Pierson, handles all the promotional work for the team. Pierson is the team manager. She administers the teams social media outlets and the website. “We get minimal support from Marist in regard to promotion and marketing. The school grants us a budget each year that helps pay for ice time but other than that the team is on its own,” said Pierson.
“It’s extremely competitive, especially the league Marist plays in and that’s what people don’t understand about club hockey,” said Steven Milanesi, a former member of the Marist hockey team. Club hockey is significantly more demanding than other club sports. You cannot miss practice or a game without a valid and acceptable excuse, and with all the time and money players put into being a part of the team no one wants to.
It’s hard to put in so much time, money and dedication for such little recognition. You really have to do it just because you love the sport. “I stopped playing for a few reasons. I didn’t have the desire to play anymore. It’s almost as if hockey is a job while you’re at school and I didn’t want my last year of school to be like that, and I thought it would be a good idea to focus on my studies and not have to worry about hockey five days a week,” said Milanesi.
Though some members of the team said they would still play if the team was Division 1, they generally seemed content with just being a club sport, as well as understanding that becoming a Division 1 team is unrealistic for reasons other than the teams skill. They don’t mind only being recognized as a club, they just would like a little more recognition and a few more people to come and watch the games.
“Anything more requires a lot more money, more commitment and playing better competition. We like being able to balance academics, sports, and social life. The higher levels take over your life. We would also require an ice hockey rink on campus,” said senior team captain Cameron Rosata.
Marist puts so much into promoting their Division 1 teams and almost nothing into their club teams. Though club teams may not have to practice as often and devote as much of their lives to their sport they still deserve more recognition and appreciation for their efforts and dedication. They deserve more than a handful of friends attending their games, which seems like something they can’t get without the help of Marist.