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Alumni Association guest column: On being seen and heard

Alumni Association guest column: On being seen and heard

Penn State men’s ice hockey color analyst Tim King has served the Penn State Alumni Association’s Greater Pittsburgh Chapter in varying leadership roles, including president and vice president.

By Tim King

Editor’s note: Penn State men’s ice hockey color analyst Tim King has served the Penn State Alumni Association’s Greater Pittsburgh Chapter in varying leadership roles, including president and vice president. The 1981 Penn State graduate works for Penn State Sports Properties within his role for the hockey squad, and he shares his insights from the team’s memorable 2016–17 season that featured the program’s first Big Ten title and NCAA tournament appearance.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. (May 8, 2017) — The last sweaty, jubilant Nittany Lion peeled away from the pack that greeted Erik Autio at the blue line following his goal at 13:33 of the second overtime to defeat Minnesota 2-1 in the Big Ten tournament semifinal game when it happened.

My phone started blowing up.

Every text had the same two questions: “How far is it to Detroit?” and “If I drive out in the morning, will there still be tickets?”

Penn Staters answered the texts the way they always do, by showing up early and loudly. By the drop of the puck the next night against Wisconsin, more than half of the paying crowd wore blue and white.

Fast forward a week to Cincinnati, Ohio, and the Nittany Lions first trip to the NCAA tournament. There are several hundred people in the Holy Grail bar across the street from US Bank Arena when about 35 members of the Blue Band arrive. One of the patrons, who owns a junior hockey team, turns to me and says, “I have never seen anything like this for a regional game.”

The reply flew out of my mouth reflexively: “We’re Penn State. This is what we do.”

Of the four teams that made their way to the shores of the Ohio River, the young Nittany Lions had the largest, loudest fan base and it wasn’t even close. After dropping their game Saturday, some of the Michigan Tech fans stuck around and sat in the midst of the blue and white crowd. Why? “We loved the passion in all of your people we met last night,” one fan said afterward. 

If you don’t think it matters what you’re wearing or how loud you are, I’ll take you rinkside during pregame warmups on the road. Watch the eyes of the players. When they have a free second, they are searching the stands not only for family and friends, but also for THEIR colors. Trust me, they see every last one of you. They appreciate every last one of you.

Coaches go out of their way to show their appreciation. In years serving as president or vice president of the Penn State Alumni Association’s Greater Pittsburgh Chapter, I lost count of the number of handwritten notes I received from coaches thanking us for the support in enemy territory. I’ve seen one of the team busses make an extra stop or a detour to drop Guy Gadowsky off at an alumni event to deliver thanks in person.

The first championship has been won, the first trophy on display in the office. While nothing is guaranteed in sports, the promise of the future of this program is bright indeed. Be part of it next year. Cross a game at Pegula Ice Arena off your bucket list, or come join us on the road. Or if we’re coming to your town, be part of it. 

Trust me, the guys in blue and white will notice.   

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