Taylor Chalker
Taylor Chalker
Entertainment Marketing graduate from the Toronto Film School, and first-year Arts student at UNB.
February 21, 2020

Opinion: How leaving games early affects team morale

Photo by James West/for UNB Athletics (taken on January 24th, UNB vs. DAL)

With the Reds having won the AUS Championships the last few years, and coming off a USports Championship victory last year, it’s no surprise to fans that the team is going into this year’s AUS finals on a fifteen-game winning streak. They’ve consistently proven to be the strongest team in the East, and possibly in the country. This means that as a fan, I have every right to be both proud of my university's team, and confident in their ability to win. But for many fans, this confidence is enough to justify leaving before the game even ends. 

I get it—you want to beat traffic and get home before the clock strikes midnight. As a spectator, it is easy to notice the numbers begin to dwindle as the 3rd period begins. But just because a team goes into the third with a lead, doesn’t mean it won’t take effort and drive to keep it. I’ve watched enough Habs games this season to see how easy it is to blow a lead, so I know that there can still be a lot of action going into the third.

I spoke with members of the UNB Reds Men’s hockey team to find out if they notice their fans begin to trickle away, and if they believe it affects team morale. 

Mark Simpson, a forward with the Reds and fourth year Computer Science student, doesn’t believe that fans leaving early affects resolve. However, he stressed that, “seeing fans in the crowd definitely gives you a little boost.” Just as fans do, players can also feel the palpable energy in the arena, especially in instances such as a tie-breaker, or getting the game winning goal. 

Rylan Parenteau, goalie and third year Geological Engineering student, expressed gratitude to the fans. He explained that, while players may not notice the crowd as much during a tight-knit game, he appreciates when supporters stay, “all the way through...as we strive to give it our best.”

The team’s fifteen-game winning streak didn’t just happen magically. It takes time, practice, and dedication to bring home so many wins. It seems only right that supporters honour that commitment, and stay until the last buzzer. Simpson explained that, while team morale is not necessarily hindered, “it’s definitely a lot of fun to play in front of [the] fans.” 

I am new to UNB, but I grew up playing hockey and still have a love for the sport. Now, there was no major spectatorship at my Bantam games in small-town Newfoundland but, even at that level, I appreciated the few fans that came. There is something about hearing the excitement of the crowd that really validates all the work it took to get you there and adds another layer to the experience of playing.  

Though Simpson and Parenteau disproved my hypothesis that leaving early has a negative impact on morale, they illustrated just how much the crowd means to the team. This doesn’t only apply to men’s hockey. We, as the UNB community, should be making an effort to support every team on campus, honouring the dedication of our athletes. 

On February 20th and 21st, the men’s hockey team will be playing in the AUS Semi-Finals. I encourage everyone to cheer on our team, and stay until the final buzzer sounds.

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