Jerry York paced back and forth in the Boston College locker room, a bright light shining on the head men’s hockey coach as he rehearsed lines for a video on sportsmanship. There was a slight strain on his face, and his hands began to clench and release. He wanted to nail his next take.
“Just how Obama does it, right?” York asked the video crew, and the room let out a chuckle.
After hearing from his wife, family, assistant coaches, and fans about some of the profanity used in Conte Forum recently, York, along with the athletic department, decided to produce a video on the topic. He delivered an earnest message, which BC fans should see soon, on camera yesterday afternoon.
Some of the team’s veterans-Brendan Silk, Teddy Doherty, Cam Spiro, Destry Straight, Peter McMullen, and Patrick Brown-were there for the shoot, and they had their eyes locked on the coach throughout his speech.
York even made sure he had his patented blue notebook on hand, letting sports information director Mark Majewski run to grab it from his office after the first take felt wrong without it.
“We’ve got to do something about this,” York said, taking a quick break while the camera crew rearranged the setup.
York hadn’t heard any of the explicit cheers from the student sections, including the use of “f-” and other profanities, since he stays concentrated on the game, but enough people have told him about it that he thought the issue needed to be addressed.
“We’re among the world’s finest universities, so we’ve got to display that as far as how we treat other people and how we support our teams,” York said after the video shoot wrapped up. “I don’t think it needs to get to that junior high level, where you’re just dropping F-bombs.
“There’s got to be some more creativity to it.”
The use of profanity at games is not just a problem at BC, York noted. He hears some of the chants when the Eagles play away from Conte, and he knows how rough they can be, especially for one of the nation’s top teams-but he wants BC to be different.
“Some of the chants have been embarrassing, and I think some of our students feel the same way,” York said. “It’s not like we’re at East Podunk University. We’re at Boston College and we should represent this school, whether it’s at the rink or on the campus in any social activity, with a lot of class and a lot of dignity.”
York said the fan base should strive to reach the same goals as the schools’ teams.
“‘Ever to excel’ is our motto, and I think we can reach for the loftiest goals as teams, whether it’s football or basketball or hockey or whatever, but our fan base should be the same way,” he said. “They should be very supportive, loud, creative, and very supportive of our home Eagles.”
Although the students are the loudest and most prevalent part of the arena crowd during games, York said they have to be aware of the rest of the audience as well. He referenced the small children, their parents, and the alumni in attendance, who don’t want to hear explicit cheers.
“They’re not going to be as loud or boisterous,” York said. “But they’re coming to every game and supporting our Eagles.”
That doesn’t mean he’s against a few jabs at the visitors, though, especially the traditional sieve chant. He’s more concerned with the profanity than anything else.
“I love the sieve chant,” York said. “I think that’s a great chant. We’ve played at a lot of college hockey venues that have funny chants, you know, but they’re not all derogatory statements toward us. Now certainly some do, but I’d like us to display the type of education that we’re gaining right now.”
Conte Forum has been packed for the Eagles’ first home games this season, breaking the student attendance record in the opener against Wisconsin. York remembers when the crowds were a decent size, but not nearly as energetic as they are now, after four national championships since 2001.
“It’s been unbelievable,” York said. “For years we had a pretty good crowd that sat on its hands. Now we’ve got a very responsive, very knowledgeable crowd. They know penalty kills, they know power plays, they know good hits, good defensive plays. We’re a knowledgeable fan base, so now I’d like to see us be a little more supportive rather than derogatory.”
Before he left the locker room, York, holding a water bottle in one hand and a Dunkin Donuts coffee in the other, started to ask what things are like at Bruins, Celtics, and Patriots games. He asked what else he, his team, and the department can do. He kept searching for answers.
“The peer group has to handle this,” York said. “The peer group is the most important. The administration, certainly, and the coaching staffs and our sports information office are all reaching out, but ultimately it’s going to be the peer group that puts us in which direction it puts us. So I guess we’re just appealing to the students to represent ourselves in a classy manner-but we certainly like loud boisterous crowds.”