Gabby Kovachich didn’t know why the pep band was so essential until she played in it at Miami University’s hockey opener on Oct. 6.
She quickly found out.
“I’ve always been told that the pep band makes the hockey games fun, and now I see why everybody says that,” she said. “I feel popular, cool and almighty.”
Kovachich had never been to any hockey game, much less a Miami game, before three weeks ago. She loved the experience of watching the intense action on the ice and leading the cheers in the stands.
“I actually felt like a cool kid,” Kovachich said.
Kovachich, a first year geology major and Spanish minor, has been playing the alto saxophone since the sixth grade. She joined Miami’s pep band to keep her passion for music alive without having to fully commit to being a music major.
Before the game, Kovachich was homesick and stressed. Her dad brought her cat from home in Dayton to help her feel better, and then she rode a Lime scooter to the Goggin Ice Center.
“I cried and limed,” she said. “My dad brought my kitten, Jello, down to visit because I was sad, and then I limed my way into Goggin because I was late. I underestimated how long it would take me to get from McFarland (Hall) to Goggin.”
She also decided to look at the pictures of the hockey team online to pump herself up for the big opener.
The pep band arrives about 40 minutes prior to the start of the game to warm up. The members have breaks in between periods, but they have to buy their own food at the concession stands.
Kovachich wanted the experience of playing in a college pep band, but she didn’t realize the importance of it.
Aside from playing songs like “Livin’ On A Prayer” by Bon Jovi and “Iron Man” by Black Sabbath that students can sing and dance along to, the pep band is known for leading the fun, and sometimes inappropriate chants and cheers throughout the game.
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Kovachich didn’t know any of these chants before the game, but she started to pick them up about halfway through.
“They repeated them a lot,” she said. “Especially every time the other team had a player who slipped and fell on the ice, the girl behind me would scream, ‘Ice is slippery!’”
Her favorite chant was the spelling of “dildo” followed by “stick it in” when Miami needed to put a goal in the net, and her favorite song to play is “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond.
“Students have much more freedom in chants in college than they do in high school,” she said. At first I was like, ‘Oh my God, they can’t say that,’ but when everybody was laughing, I was like, ‘Oh, yes they can. This is college, and we’re adults.’ It was also funny to hear every student and even some [non-student Miami fans] scream, ‘Sweet Caroline, BUM, BUM, BUM.’”
She also enjoyed the back-and-forth cheering and booing, as the big screen switched from coverage of a Miami service dog to the opposing team’s players.
“The energy of the students saying, ‘yay’ and ‘boo’ around me was very contagious,” she said. “I couldn’t help but join in, and it was awesome.”
She thought the slamming of the players against the boards was highly entertaining, and she enjoyed cheering for her school.
She also was surprised that the students and fans can insult the other team’s players and boo all they want without getting thrown out of the arena.
“I really like watching the game itself because I can cheer for somebody,” she said. “And it’s very violent, which is entertaining. Normally I don’t find that entertaining, but slamming people against the board was very exciting.”
Kovachich describes Miami’s hockey culture as enthusiastic and wild, and she loves how invested the students are from the opening buzzer to the last.
“Hockey is cool,” she said.