For the past two years, I have been at a number of the women's games, and I was STUNNED to find out that despite all of their success, they've only managed ONE full capacity crowd. During the Friday night game against Chatham, the corner crew was so short the band had to do the starting cheer. We didn't have the letter signs either.
Most of you have NO clue what these women have gone through to just to play, and I want to relate a story about the REAL first capacity crowd they played to — in 1981
In their second season at RIT, I found out by accident that my RA was one of the goalies on the team. I was appalled by the fact I didn't know it, and I felt bad for not supporting her, so I went to the next game. You would have thought that they had declared a ban on the game itself. There were maybe 50 RIT fans there, and the corner crew and pep band were a long way from being around. They also had to fight just to get alternating practices as ice time was at a premium due to the Genesee Figure Skating club calling the shots on ice time and late night practices were many and often.
They weren't as good as the men's team, but they really played hard and they tried. In one of the last games that season, they were tied 5-5 at the end of the third period. In one of the most blatant anti-woman moments I've ever witnessed anywhere, the ref (back then there was one ref and 2 linesman) went over to the scorer’s table and attempted to end the game because "the men's team had a game to play". Oh really, and what were the women out there doing? Playing hooky? The roughly 50-100 RIT fans immediately started to protest (thank you fans!) and started an "Overtime overtime: We want overtime,” chant. I personally went to the glass and yelled at the ref that if he called the game I was calling the NCAA for a Title IX violation. I almost got thrown out for that one.
What happened while all the arguing and talking was that a sellout crowd filed in and found out what was going on and quickly joined in on the chants. Soon the entire rink was filled, and LOUD — back then the rink had hanging baffles and they were swaying to the loud cheering and foot stomping. It was as loud as I've ever heard it there.
The ref finally relented and let the women play their five-minute overtime period to a sellout crowd. The women's team did not disappoint, they were totally energized by the crowd, and I don't think the puck ever got out of the other team's end as RIT scored with about 1:34 left in overtime to win it when one of our players stuffed in a rebound. I don't even remember who scored it, but I believe she also lived on my floor as well. If you were there, you'd remember this.
The looks on their faces after the game said it all — they had never played to a crowd that large. I was happy for them that after all that time they finally got a capacity crowd.
But what has been BUGGING the heck out of me the last two years was to find out that their first official sellout was only after begging the fans to show up last year. You do know the games are free, don't you? It's not like you need any money to show up.
So here's my challenge to all of you so-called hockey fans at RIT: support the women's team and show up for the games; show up for a home game, just because they have free pizza for a men's game in the sportszone doesn't mean you show up there. The rink wasn't even half filled for the Friday Chatham contest and you missed a heck of a game for RIT: 15-0. It was so bad I honestly think our goalies could have taken the entire night off and still won 15-6. RIT called off the dogs with over 10 minutes left in the third period and only tried to score again after a few Chatham blatant penalties and a scary injury to one of their players who looked to me like she tried to run one of our players into the boards.
Many of you may also not have noticed that the women are playing a very unbalanced schedule this year with 11 home games and 19 road games. If they go undefeated in that, can you say that you showed up and supported them? Can you say you were part of the corner crew and waved the flag and sang the national anthems? Can you say you said, "Make me a sandwich?"
This team deserves a lot better support than what they've been getting, and frankly I'm disappointed in many of you fans who show up and sell out the men's games. Make the effort and support both teams — they both deserve it.