The Notre Dame Football experience is hard to fully capture in words. There are unique traditions like touchdown pushups and The Shirt, the storied legacies of coaches and players past, tailgates with friends, an amazing band – it’s an affair that’s hard to top. As the song goes, “There’s a magic in the sound of their name.” Football weekends truly are full of magic and tradition for the Fighting Irish.
But, contrary to popular opinion, other sports at Notre Dame are just as fun as football games! Here are my arguments for why you should attend other sporting events, and why they can be just as hype as – or dare I say more than? – football.
Notre Dame Football players have golden helmets, and so do our hockey players.
But, does the football team have a golden Zamboni? Watching young kids enjoy a ride around the rink on the Zamboni is enough to warm anyone’s heart, despite the cold arena.
The walk to Compton Family Ice Arena is a bit lengthy, but it’s definitely worth it to see a hockey game! Since the rink is much smaller than a football stadium, the action feels so much closer. Trying to watch where the puck goes is a game of its own, and power plays can get INTENSE. For people who didn’t grow up in sports families (myself included), it’s easier to understand what’s going on, since the hockey team has fewer players to keep track of than the football team. Also, you can hear the band SO much better than during football games, because they’re much closer to the student section!
Some of my favorite things about hockey games are all our unique and obnoxious cheers. For example, when there’s exactly one minute left of the period, the student section shouts together, “HOW MANY MINUTES ARE LEFT IN THE PERIOD?” The announcer responds, “There is one minute remaining in the period,” and we all yell back, “THANK YOU!” At other points in the game, we all follow the movements of Matt Merton, director of the hockey band, for something that vaguely resembles Simon Says. When he puts his hands on his head, the student section yells, “We’re in your head” (directed at the other team’s goalie). When he waves his left hand, we shout “Hi,” and when he waves his right hand, we say “Hi [last name of goalie].” The sequence of these chants varies, and they’re all in quick succession, making for quite the distraction for the opposing team.
There are often opportunities for audience participation at hockey games! They usually have a shootout contest with chosen students, and sometimes they even have a game of broomball in which the players wear giant inflatable bumper balls. Watching people fall on the ice is more amusing than I’d like to admit, especially when you can rest assured that their fall is cushioned by the inflatable ball.
My friends and I have also developed our own informal tradition after hockey games. Since Compton Family Ice Arena is close to Eddy Street, we walk over and get food there to celebrate an Irish victory – or eat our feelings when we lose.
Basketball games, both men’s and women’s, are also really fun! Since the Joyce Center is smaller than the football stadium, it’s easier to be spotted by the cameras on the jumbotron dance cam – a definite perk in my book.
There’s almost always some kind of free “swag” waiting in the chairs for students, from green pom poms to rally towels. The games begin with a clip on the jumbotron highlighting the different aspects of Notre Dame – academics, community, tradition, faith, and athletics. The student section shouts each of these words as they appear on the screen. (It sounds weird – and it is, I know.) There are newspapers on seats in the student section, and once our team makes a basket, we tear up the newspapers and toss all the pieces in the air for make-shift confetti.
One of the biggest pros of basketball games is that they take place in a COMFORTABLE environment. For football, you’re outdoors and exposed to the elements, and the hockey arena is always cold because of the ice. But, at a basketball game, the regulated indoor temperature is just right for maximum comfort. And just like hockey, there are opportunities for student participation in shootouts during breaks!
Basketball and hockey games are a shorter time commitment than football, so it’s not as big of a sacrifice to your schoolwork to attend. Football game days can be a bit exhausting, from tailgates early in the morning to the four-hour game itself. Another huge pro for basketball and hockey: the tickets are FREE – every college student’s dream! The football student season tickets are worth every pretty penny, but the feeling of attending a Division I sports game for free is an unexplainable high.
While football is still my favorite sport to watch at Notre Dame, our other athletic events have their own unique traditions that make them just as fun. No matter what sport it is, I’ll be enthusiastically cheering on the Irish