By Maria Canales,
GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Any fan who has ever experienced game day at Pegula Ice Arena is familiar with the opening hype video, the blue lights that shine on the ice when the Nittany Lions are introduced and the goal horn when Penn State scores.
When the game day festivities are in full swing, there are a few obvious, and even a few not so obvious traditions that have become relatively new staples for the men's hockey program.
The Roar Zone
It's no secret that head coach Guy Gadowsky loves The Roar Zone. He proudly states that the best student section in the country cheers for the Nittany Lions. How did the more than 1,000-seat student section come to be?
It all started with a few friends a few years back when the Pegula Ice Arena facility was just breaking ground, at a time when the Nittany Lions still played in the Greenberg Ice Pavilion.
Kyle Hoke, The Roar Zone's first president, was a freshman during the 2012-13 season, and was able to witness the first games the Nittany Lions played as a Division I program. He purchased the student season ticket package that season, but come sophomore year, he wanted to become more involved in the program.
"At the involvement fair I found the Hockey Management Association table and talked to the members who were there," Hoke said. "I went to the initial meeting and didn't know anyone, but knew that with my love of hockey this was the club I needed to be in. A few meetings in to the semester I volunteered with Nick Panos and Jesse Carnegie to run and organize the new student section called The Roar Zone."
For the next two years, The Roar Zone was managed under the umbrella of the Hockey Management Association, or HMA, another student organization that helps with game day operations and promotions at Pegula Ice Arena.
Hoke said that throughout those two seasons there was a core group of about 10 fans who were consistently seating in the front, right on the glass during every game. He said most people brought their own signs, and most added to the creativity by coming up with game chants.
"After the [2014-15] season wrapped up, a few of us got together and decided now that we were established, becoming our own student organization would be beneficial to our growth and involvement," Hoke said.
Hoke put together all the necessary paperwork, including drafting a club constitution and waited through most of the summer before he got the confirmation that The Roar Zone would be its own club the following year.
Although Hoke may have been the organization's leader, he is quick to affirm that the success of the student section is based on the collective contributions of many students, all because they've bonded over their love of hockey and the Nittany Lions.
"I had Nick and Jesse to work with originally, then Sam Watson and Chris Godissart after them," Hoke said. "These guys loved hockey and loved Penn State, so as a leader they were perfect to work with. I also got to see how Eric Bress handled himself as the president of HMA, which was a huge benefit."
One of Hoke's favorite college experiences revolves around the creation of one of The Roar Zone's most famous signs. Prior to Penn State's matchup against Wisconsin Feb. 6, 2015, the student section unraveled a banner that read, "Tonight We Feast on Badger." It instantly became a huge success.
Hoke gave Sam Watson, the current vice president of The Roar Zone, the credit for initiating and seeing that project through. Since then, The Roar Zone also created a banner to welcome Notre Dame last season, which too was a success.
In addition, The Roar Zone has become notorious for their chants and being loud at almost every point during a game.
For the many that stand in the bleachers for games, The Roar Zone has created memories and friendship, defining their college experience.
"It's not just a student section," Hoke said. "It's 1,000 friends and hockey lovers that for those few hours put aside their NHL loyalties and bond together to support our school."
Hoke finished by explaining his college experience would not be the same if it weren't for The Roar Zone and the people he met along the way.
"I was so incredibly lucky to accomplish what I did [as President], and couldn't have done it without the people who surrounded me," Hoke said. "The Roar Zone has the most passionate student fans in the country and just like the team, there has nowhere to go but up."
Without a doubt the one song that gets The Roar Zone bouncing up and down and ready for puck drop is "Timber," an upbeat pop song that frequently plays throughout the arena. At some point during the 2013-14 season the song started playing in Pegula and has continued to be played throughout the season.
Mike Williamson, then a freshman defenseman, decided that since the song was played so much, he would keep track of the number of plays on his Twitter account. It quickly turned into what is now known as the "#TimberCount," as it appears on various social media platforms.
"I started keeping track because the song was played so much," Williamson said. "I just thought it would be fun."
For the past three seasons, Williamson and fans alike have been keeping track of the tune via Twitter. It has grown in popularity, with fans and student-athletes alike even using the hash tag at other arenas if they happen to play the song. It's a song fans have embraced and instantly reminds supporters of their Nittany Lions.
Last season alone, the song was played more than 70 times. Now a student coach for the hockey program, Williamson is still actively keeping track of how many times the popular tune plays at Pegula Ice Arena.
count has come a long way," Williamson said. "I hope it continues even after
If you were in Pegula Ice Arena for a game between the fall of 2013 and the spring of 2016, chances are you saw someone dressed as the superhero "Thor" in the student section. The student, Gary Engelthaler, proudly wore the costume nearly every game during his time at Penn State. He said he picked that specific superhero because he wanted a character known for being loud, and he felt Thor would be fun for other people, and the team, to see.
Engelthaler, who was born with Spina Bifidia, had to miss a year of school to have three surgeries. During that time, head coach Guy Gadowsky and the Nittany Lions reached out to Engelthaler, sending him well wishes, a care package and a card signed by the team.
"I didn't even tell them that I was having surgeries so it caught me completely off guard," Engelthaler said. "During that year I visited as many games as I could and was always welcomed back with open arms."
While recovering from his surgeries Engelthaler, a native of Long Island, was living at home. During that time, Gadowsky reached out to Engelthaler to see if he wanted to visit the team after their game at Madison Square Garden, Jan. 30, 2016.
"We went to surprise the team and I gave coach [Thor's] hammer as a gift," Engelthaler said. "He decided from then on it would go to the player who fought the hardest every night."
Since then, it has become a tradition the team honors after every game.
"Coach Gadowsky is one of the greatest people I know and has always been great to all the students," Engelthaler said. "For something I did to make any positive impact on the program is an honor."