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Northeastern’s ice hockey fans happily return to the DogHouse

Photo by Ruby Wallau/Northeastern University

For Northeastern’s most devoted ice hockey fans, it’s good to be back in the DogHouse.

Members of the raucous fanbase, who serve up a fiery mix of home-team cheers and salty opponent put-downs from the upper-level student section in Matthews Arena, are thrilled to attend the game in-person Friday as the men’s team faces off against the University of Massachusetts at Lowell. 

“I’m beside myself. I’m really excited,” says Henry Burtis, a fifth-year computer science major and loyal DogHouse member. “I’m probably the most excited I’ve been about pretty much anything in a long time.”

The return comes after Northeastern athletics officials announced on Dec. 18 that they would hold home games without spectators in an effort to prevent the spread of omicron, a particularly contagious strain of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Spectators are allowed at games as of Jan. 24.

DogHouse members tried to show their Husky pride during remote events and boost team spirit through social media, but attending the games is a unique experience that’s hard to replicate, says Sam Klein, a fourth-year design major.

“It’s a massive difference. We tried to have a watch party, but it’s nowhere near the same thing as being able to go and actually cheer on the team and attend the game physically,” says Klein. ”I think that shows with the performances of the team this year. We’ve had three at-home losses, and two of those home losses have been when there’s been no fans. I think us being there does make an impact on the team and performance.”

As students returned for the spring semester, the DogHouse’s 57-member social media sites stayed busy, says Klein. Devoted supporters began to list the lengths they’d go to see the Huskies in person. 

One popular meme shows a picture of a guy wearing a schlubby sweatshirt and pajama bottoms captioned, “my sister’s wedding.” The picture next to it is the same guy dressed in a sharp suit that reads, “the next game we are allowed in matthews.”

The meme is so popular that many DogHouse members will attend the Jan. 28 game in formal wear, with some fans donning suits over their Husky jerseys and others planning to wear black or red dresses.

“The DogHouse is going formal,” says Burtis, who didn’t officially join the DogHouse until last fall. Burtis said the experience has been rewarding and even healing in the midst of a chaotic and long-lasting pandemic.

“A lot of my friends have graduated and moved on, and the pandemic has made me very socially withdrawn. So part of my decision to get into the game attendance thing was because I didn’t really feel like I was connected with the Northeastern community,” says Burtis.

Those who wish to attend women’s or men’s ice hockey games at Matthews Arena must show proof of full vaccination for COVID-19, including a booster shot, along with matching photo identification. Unvaccinated people may attend if they show proof of a negative COVID test administered by a health-care professional. The test must be taken within 72 hours of the event. Rapid result tests taken at-home are not sufficient. Current students, faculty, and staff can use their Husky Card. Everyone over the age of 2 must wear a mask while in the arena.

The mask, adds Burtis, could never muffle his team spirit or the cheers of his fellow howling Huskies.

“It’s a lot of fun, and it’s somewhat cathartic to stand in the DogHouse and scream along with the chants and heckle the [opposing] goalie,” says Burtis.

“It feels like a worthwhile use of time, because whether you win or lose, you feel very connected to the other students and you feel very connected to the school. It makes me proud to be a Husky.”

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