Hockey is huge in Pittsburgh. The city embraces the tough grinders on the ice as it matches the blue-collar mindset of the town. Last season, Pittsburgh celebrated a talented team helmed by a fairly new coach surprised everyone by taking home a league title.
But while the city fawned over their professional team with the flightless bird mascot, Duquesne’s men’s ice hockey team somewhat quietly took home an ACHA Division I title.
My freshman year happened to be the same year Dave Fryer started as the head coach of the Dukes on Ice. Fryer saw that the club needed not just an injection of fresh blood into the team, but a total program overhaul. Flyers sprouted up all over campus: “New Managers for Hockey Team Needed!” Being a sports junkie, I was enticed by the possibility of being part of a school sport without all those pesky speed bumps like practice, workouts, and the possession of athletic ability.
I signed on as the team’s DJ, playing music during the breaks and cueing up the team’s power play music (“I’m Shipping Up to Boston”). The following year, the original public address announcer quit two games into the season, so I was given that duty as well. Soon, I was also asked to do the scoresheets and operate the scoreboard–I had now assumed the role of four different people at once. But it was all worth it, because the games were so much fun. The team was winning, the attendance was rising, and I loved working with the people I did.
The Dukes went on to win the ACHA title last year (clearly inspired by the hard work of their PA announcer/DJ/scorekeeper). Though they lost to Penn State in the national tournament, the team’s rapid turnaround from nobodies to contenders in just two years was unbelievable. And word gets around quickly. For the opening weekend of the season, there were thirty managers on hand to help with game-day duties, compared to four or five from years past. With so much help on hand, it has allowed Coach Fryer to try new things to enhance and better publicize the team–in fact, I will soon be broadcasting the games live online and through local radio.
If you love hockey, Pittsburgh is the city for you. But it’s not just because of the aforementioned team of flightless birds. In a city that treats hockey better than many other areas of the country, the Duquesne hockey program is really beginning to take off. It’s been a pleasure for me to have been a (very small) part of that success. And if I, a devout Flyers fan, can survive working with two dozen Pens fans every week, anyone can.