Wildcat hockey is huge at UNH and throughout the state. Friday and Saturday night games typically draw thousands from campus and the surrounding communities to the Whittemore Center Arena, where UNH fans are famous for making things…well…very uncomfortable for visiting teams.
This is especially true of the loud and vocal UNH student section that has perfected a dozen or so chants over the years that are mercilessly directed at opposing players who have received penalties and at opposing goalies.
Goalies get it especially bad. In fact, the most cherished tradition takes place after UNH scores its first goal. A fish is thrown on the ice just in front of the opposing goalie’s net.
The passage of time has obscured the exact meaning of this gesture. Some say it means “yeah, that’s right. Go fish the puck out of the net.” Others reference the 1970s, when legendary coach Charlie Holt led the Wildcats over a Division 2 team and a student tossed out a small fish, as if to say, “that’s what you get for daring to swim in our big pond!”
But, really, who cares how it got started? The tradition endures and it also delivers a supreme moment of bonding for thousands during the chilly months of winter.
“The fish thrower has always been a member of Zeta Chi fraternity,” explains senior business major Mike Albert, who grew up as a “football guy” in Attleboro, Massachusetts, and plays rugby at UNH. “We own the tradition because Head Coach Dick Umile was also a Zeta guy.” Albert attended Bishop Feehan High School and “inherited” the fish tossing from a Zeta brother who also graduated from Bishop Feehan.
“I guess that means I get to pick my successor, huh?” Albert muses.
Whoever the next tosser is, s/he will need better aim than Albert had in his first time around. “We were playing Michigan. It was breast cancer awareness week and the players were wearing pink patches on their jerseys, so I tied a pink ribbon around the fish. That was a nice touch. The problem was that the fish came up short and almost cleared UNH winger Kevin Goumas into the boards.”
Heavy rests the crown on he who throws the fish.