Note: The following does not represent this blog at large. It is only the opinion of the article’s author, and does not mean to represent the opinion of LakerHockeyBlog, LSSU, or any media partners.
I have admittedly not followed Laker hockey as long as most. The “glory years” when Lake Superior State assembled world-beating teams are something I bore no witness to. Nevertheless, so many traditions of the program have made a profound impression on me. From the ringing of the Victory Bell to competing for the Father Cappo Cup to hearing Bill Crawford call the away games, so many of the traditions fans see and hear are what make Laker Hockey special.
This coming weekend will see another longstanding tradition – Senior Night.
Four seniors – J.T. Henke, Kyle Chatham, assistant captain Ryan Renz and captain Aiden Wright – will take one final lap around the Taffy Abel Arena, while fans cheer and applaud the achievements of each individual.
Last year saw a change to the festivities that will carry over to this year as well – the senior recognition will take place before the game as opposed to after.
Many things came together to make the postgame Senior Night celebration special. Each senior coming down the tunnel one by one, skating to the north goal line, where the rest of the team stood, skating along the other side, past the visitor’s bench (which usually had fans in it) to the south goal line, where parents and other loved ones stood. Throughout this, the achievements of each player were read to those in attendance. The lights were turned off and spotlights followed the players while they made their final lap.
Traditionally the event has been held after the conclusion of the game for many reasons. Logistically, there is little time between pregame warm-ups and the start of the hockey game. Large senior classes would have an exceptionally difficult time getting everybody to have his moment.
The 2013-14 Lakers had eight seniors to celebrate. Eight. Imagine trying to squeeze them all in to a pregame ceremony while keeping it special as Lake State has done for so long.
I stood on the visitor’s bench a few times, taking pictures. The emotion on the players’ faces said it all – the end of their Laker careers was upon them.
Following the ceremony, some players can skate right to the dressing room. Others take more time. A few have laid down with their backs on the ice, trying to take it all in.
I have seen senior night at other places – specifically Northern Michigan. The recognition took place before the game and was a quick listing of the seniors’ names with the players standing on the blue line. I recall it not being a particularly inspiring or moving ceremony.
What we have here at Lake Superior State is a very special event. I feel as though moving the ceremony to before the game takes away from what makes it so special.