Hockey attracts fan loyalty

Fans come from across the state of Vermont to Gutterson Fieldhouse, Patrick Gym and Virtue Field to watch the Catamounts compete each year.

George Vernon, a Colchester native, has been watching the UVM men’s hockey team for 20 years.

“They’re our professional hockey team here in Vermont.” Vernon said.

Williston native Tom Willard agreed.

“Many states have pro, semi-pro or other top Division I teams to relate to, but here in Vermont, the UVM Catamounts are the pride of most of the hockey fans,” Willard said.

Willard said he is as dedicated to the teams as any current student.

“We carpool up to Gutterson from Montpelier for every home game. I would guess I have been attending UVM hockey games since the early ‘60s when I was in high school,” Willard said.

Willard said he and others yearn for more Catamount coverage outside the Burlington area.

“I am always disappointed that radio broadcasts and press stories are so difficult to find outside of the Chittenden area,” Willard said.

The hockey team has also hosted a number of teams with professional prospects.

This includes Northeastern University’s Kevin Roy, who has been drafted by the Anaheim Ducks.

Potential NHL draft picks  like Jack Eichel, of Boston University and Tyler Kelleher, of the University of New Hampshire, who are believed to be top drafts picks in the 2015 draft, according to ESPN.

UVM men’s hockey has NHL draft picks of their own from seniors Mike Paliotta and Nick Luukko.

Paliotta was drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks in 2011 and Luukko by the Philadelphia Flyers in 2010 according to UVM athletics.

Jim Schaefer, a resident of Burlington, said he feels a particular connection to the hockey team after continuing to play for his men’s league at Gutterson Fieldhouse until he hung up the skates at 80 years old.

While working at a local golf club over a decade ago, Schaefer was approached by alumnus Martin St. Louis, a professional hockey player for the New York Rangers, to play a round of golf and the two established a lasting connection.

A 1997 graduate, St. Louis was teammates with other NHL players and UVM alumni Tim Thomas and Eric Perrin.

“I see him every year when he comes back to play the alumni game,” Schaefer said.

Fans of the Catamounts not only range in towns across Vermont, but also in age.

They are also supported by young fans like six-year old Colchester native Boden Gamage.

“I like watching the games very much,” Gamage said.  “They play fast and strong and I want to do that too.”