The Roar Zone: An Opponent’s Nightmare
Behind the away team’s net in Pegula Ice Arena stands the Roar Zone, Penn State Hockey’s appropriately named student section. Its steep bleachers and soul-crushing chants make Pegula a hostile environment for anyone not wearing blue and white.
College hockey is full of rooted traditions, the same schools dominating play while the same student sections recycle the same chants. The Roar Zone, similar to the young Penn State Hockey team, is looking to shake things up.
“The first thing that comes to mind is the physical construction. [The bleachers] are built to be the steepest allowed by code,” said Kyle Hoke, President of the Roar Zone. “We’re a wall of 1,000 students hovering over the opposing goalie for two periods. Hockey fans at Penn State are excited to have a Division-1 program here, and the noise they make during the games shows that.”
As President, Hoke and his staff organize game day activities and coordinate other Roar Zone-related events. The group holds fundraisers in order to keep things running smoothly and to maximize props in the student section. In addition, they pick which chants will be in the Roar Zone’s repertoire prior to the season. While some chants (“It’s all your fault!” or “Ahhhh see ya!”) are college hockey staples and some are Penn State classics (“We Are Penn State,” “Seven Nation Army,” and “Zombie Nation”), the best are born from spontaneity.
“One of the best chants of the year last season came at the end of our 4-0 win against Michigan. Someone began chanting ‘Just like football!’ and soon the entire Roar Zone was chanting along,” recalled Hoke.
Early last season (the team’s first season in the Big Ten), the Roar Zone was ranked as the third best college hockey student section, and for good reason: The group is known for wreaking havoc on the opposing goalie. Penn State’s team attacks towards the student section in the first and third periods, so they have ample time to give the other team’s netminder hell.
Just ask UConn netminder Rob Nichols. In the second game of the season, Penn State destroyed the Huskies and forced their coach to put in their backup goalie.
“We’re told that our chants and our noise makes the team play better. As far as chasing Rob Nichols from the net, we start off by making sure all 1,000 students know the opposing goalie’s name,” said Hoke. “We start off by just chanting his name to let him know that we’re there. After every goal we chant ‘It’s all your fault!’ and then break out into our modified version of ‘Hey Baby’. When the whole student section is singing along, it really gets under the goalie’s skin. If we’re singing and dancing and chanting at the goalie, our team feeds off of it and that’s what led to Robbie getting pulled.”
Besides the already imposing “We Are,” “Seven Nation Army,” “Rock and Roll,” and cowbell chants, the student section has made its own variations on other sporting event favorites. Whether its chanting “It’s all your fault!” after every goal, sarcastically singing the goalie’s name, or performing their hilarious remix of Penn State fan-favorite “Hey Baby,” they make sure Pegula Ice Arena is not a place where opponents want to play.
The incredible support isn’t lost on the team, either. After Penn State’s opening night tie against UConn, starting goalie Matt Skoff (affectionately recreated in student section posters as “Matthew Hasselskoff”) had one word to describe the game’s atmosphere: “Sick.”
Forward David Goodwin, who scored the game-tying goal with 48 seconds left in the game, also took notice of the Roar Zone in the game, saying, “‘We Are Penn State’ gave me chills.” Head coach Guy Gadowsky gave credit to the student section, saying, “The student body was awesome tonight. They had a lot to do with us tying it up late.”
This year’s student section season tickets sold out in just three minutes, so the Roar Zone expects to be packed every game. While the quantity will always be there, Hoke is always accepting suggestions on how to make the experience better.
“We know not everyone can make it to every game, so we want to stress to students that can’t make it to get on the ticket exchange and sell their ticket,” he said. “If anyone wants to help us out as far as making signs posters, banners, flags, or coming up with new chants and songs feel free to contact us on our Twitter. We’re always looking for new, creative ideas to help make the Roar Zone even better!”