NCAA hockey student cheering sections are, by and large, awesome. From the various traditions of the crowds — sieve chants to flying fish — to the more targeted mockery like the recent Ohio State "bike theft" shirts, they're usually more entertaining than the games on the ice.
Like any passionate fans, sometimes they're unsure of where the line's drawn. Such is the case for University of Minnesota Duluth men's hockey team student season-ticket holders, who were recently reprimanded by the school's athletic director for chants "that certainly would have been considered inappropriate."
Their target? The North Dakota Fighting Sioux mascot. From a letter to the Duluth New Tribune from Chad Czmowski, a North Dakota fan:
The UMD student section made dozens of racist chants involving Native American content that was topped off by a chant about smallpox blankets. From where I was sitting, it did not seem as if the student section was told to stop these chants. It was the most derogatory display of sportsmanship I have seen at a hockey game.
The "blankets" reference was harkens back to a plan by Lord Jeffrey Amherst — commander of British forces in North America during the French and Indian War — to send blankets laced with smallpox to infect and kill tribes. More on that from The Straight Dope and Robert Lindsay.
Czmowski told the paper that there were "other racist phrases and actions directed at the university's mascot" as well. Leave Plushie alone!
In fairness, a UMD season-ticket holder tells the Duluth News Tribune that he didn't hear any offensive chants during the Feb. 10 game. But AD Bob Nielsen still sent a strong warning to students in the form of a letter, according to Christa Lawler of the News Tribune:
"At the UMD hockey games this past weekend versus North Dakota, there were several inappropriate and offensive chants that originated from the student section. These chants used language and phrases that were both hostile and racist."
The letter said that game personnel and university police officers will be strictly enforcing the rules and that people who violate the conduct code could be removed from a game.
Further, Nielsen said the students could lose their season tickets. The school is not looking to punish anyone from the previous game against UND; just going forward.
Aaron Rupar of City Pages notes the racially insensitive chants came days after UND "readopted" the Fighting Sioux name, which is under fire for being racially insensitive.
So, in summary: Let's just call every team the Panthers or Lions, shall we?
(Canine Lobby: "We take offense to that.")