Born 25 years ago after pizza party, Northeastern’s DogHouse ready for tournament play

Husky fans pack the DogHouse at Matthews Arena. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

Long before the enthusiastic fans of the DogHouse seized control of the balcony at one end of the historic Matthews Arena, about a dozen students stood behind the bench cheering on the Northeastern men’s hockey team.

The small but boisterous crew of hard-core fans during the 1997-98 season took position close to ice level, right behind the players and coaches, at all the home games, and some road games. They cheered every goal and suffered every loss with the team.

After that regular season, and before the tournament, then-men’s hockey coach Bruce Crowder held a pizza party for the supportive students. Crowder says he wanted to thank the loyal crew for their support. In addition to the food, the students received some “coaching,” a video session “critiquing” their actions in the stands.

northeastern hockey player fist bumping his teammates
Bruce Crowder coached the Northeastern men’s hockey team for nine years, from the 1996-’97 season through the 2004-’05 season. Photo by Northeastern Athletics

“It was funny––video, that’s what you do with players, right?” Crowder recently told Northeastern Global News. “I said, ‘You could do this better!’” 

For example, Crowder pointed out that five of the seven students jumped up to cheer a play, while the other two remained seated.

“I kind of stopped the video and asked, ‘Are these two people here?’” he remembers saying. “And they both were. And so I kind of lit into them jokingly, like a coach would say, you know, ‘You gotta be quicker, you can’t be sitting down in this situation’ kinda thing.”

Crowder says he was playing with the two students.

“‘We need more outta you,’” Crowder said to them. “The normal stuff a coach would say to his players. Then it just kind of took off.”

Northeastern graduate Justin Harriman, Class of 2002, was one of the leaders of the student fans. He says the students were thrilled to be recognized by the coach.  

Crowder also suggested that the students set up in the balcony seats over the goalie and let their enthusiasm ring from the rafters.   

“He said, why don’t you guys sit in the balcony for the playoffs? So that way you’re like right above the goalie and you can hear and heckle from up there,” Harriman says. “And so it was actually his idea for us to sit where we are, where the DogHouse is now, and starting from the playoffs in the ‘97-’98 season, the DogHouse has been there ever since.”

Harriman says they took the seats in the balcony during the playoffs, enjoyed the vantage point and made it their home. 

northeastern hockey fans holding a poster that says the dog house on it
Husky fans bring the DogHouse to TD Garden. Photo by Ruby Wallau/Northeastern University

Crowder, who coached the hockey team for nine seasons, says he was happy to see the student section in the balcony grow over the years.

“I thought it was better. One, I think they’re better seats. And, two, I think it gave them a more open area to do the crazy things that college students do. And it got to the point where they started one section and next thing you know, they were taking two or three sections,” Crowder says.

At the start of the 1998-99 season Harriman and the other dedicated fans decided to call the Husky student section the “DogHouse” and made a banner. Though the banners traditionally have had a black background for many years, the first two banners had white backgrounds, Harriman says. 

Over that season and the next, fervor built and the DogHouse began to fill up with students. Harriman would use a megaphone and walk around the dorms on Thursdays to announce the hockey team schedule for the weekend. He also slid hockey team schedules under dorm-room doors. 

His dedication and support for the hockey team earned Harriman the first Northeastern University “Justin Harriman” Super Fan Award, which bears his name. There is a plaque with the names of the award winners on the wall behind the DogHouse. 

“We needed somebody like that,” Crowder says. “He had a love for it, he wanted to be there. There was probably only a nucleus of maybe 15 tops, 20 at the most, that were pretty religious getting to home games and getting to away games.”

Many Northeastern students have filled the DogHouse over the years since Harriman and others founded the fan section in Matthews Arena, earning the Husky fans a reputation as dedicated, enthusiastic and even raucous––to opponents––at times.    

“We’ve been incredibly fortunate over the years to have so many loyal supporters of our men’s and women’s ice hockey programs in the DogHouse and in the Northeastern Pep Band,” says Jim Madigan, Northeastern director of Athletics and former men’s hockey coach. “They bring a passion and energy to the building that is second to none. When we’re in a tight game, I know that our student-athletes feed off their excitement and it has been great to see the growth of the group over the years. Whether we’re at home or on the road, they show up and support our teams with a level of enthusiasm that is unmatched in college hockey.”

Mark Conti is managing editor of Northeastern Global News. Follow him on Twitter @markconti11