Wednesday, March 3, 2010


This week's Brockport Stylus looks at the Eagles Nest....

More than 3,400 birds in the hand is worth a SUNYAC title in the bush
Mike Thayer

Did you attend a Golden Eagle hockey game at all this year? If you did, did you sit in the Eagle's Nest student section? Even if your answer to both of those questions was no, you are probably aware by now that there is such a thing at every home hockey game.

In fact, if you happen to be in the west side of Tuttle North around the time a game is going on in the rink, you probably couldn't help but hear the sounds of this student section.

The thing is, it wasn't always like this. Sure, there was a good student turnout, but this year has been greatly different than seasons past.

From coins in a bottle, to trumpets and trombones, this year saw a tremendous growth to the student section of the Tuttle North Ice Arena.

The Eagle's Nest, a concept first delivered by Brockport students, has spawned into the name of a BTV show and has engulfed the very concept of student support for Brockport hockey. It has become an intimidating part of Brockport home-ice advantage.

The question is, why now? What makes the turnout we've witnessed this year more successful than recent years? Well, aside from being the second consecutive year Brockport made it to the playoffs, the Golden Eagles may have two students in particular to thank for the increased student attendance.

You see, Otto Isenberg, a first year senior at The College at Brockport, and roommate Brian Bowe, are committed the to getting the word out about the Eagle's Nest.

It was the high expectations of Isenberg that, when they weren't fulfilled during his first season as a Brockport fan, drove him to get to work.

"We came here hoping for the college atmosphere that you hear about, and it just didn't exist," Isenberg said.

The Whitesboro High School graduate played for a state championship hockey team, so he has an understanding for how the crowd can impact a game.

"We had a big community presence and drew probably about 500 a game," he said. "Even though that number doesn't seem very high, Isenberg reminded us his high school played in a much smaller arena.

"The 100 or so students who showed up and cheered really made a difference," he said.

How much of an impact does the home crowd have on a team? Well, it seems obvious when you watch how players react, but there are facts that back up our inferences. To exemplify one of those figures, you can turn to the play-by-play voice of this season's Golden Eagles hockey, Gary Efthemis.

"Just look at the Oswego games, they lose 10-1 on the road in front of a 3,000 plus student filled arena," argues Efthemis. "Then they only lose 4-2 when they play them at home in front of 1,700 of their own fans." Granted, it doesn't turn a loss into a win, it certainly shows how it can impact play.

Let's not forget hockey, more than any sport, is where you will find players salute their home crowd at the end of games; especially that season-ender.

For those of us who have played in front of a home crowd, whatever the sport may be, you can't ignore what they do. Efthemis concurs, due to his observations this season.

"No player will ever admit that a crowd will get in their head," he said. "But it's easy to see on the ice that some guys squeeze the sticks a little tighter when the crowd gets on them."

This can work to both sides of the game. It depends on whether the crowd is showing their support, or wishing the worst of fortunes against you.

What's in store for next season? Well, for Isenberg, he'll be back to keep his project alive.

"A few of us are thinking about trying to get an official 'fan club' through Brockport Student Government next year."

Isenberg and Bowe hope that they can find ways to fundraise for fan buses and other promotions to keep the Brockport crowd involved with Golden Eagle success.

So students, get your trumpets tuned, and rehearse your taunts and cheers. After all, the puck drop for the 2010-11 season is only eight months away.