Big Rapids, Mich. - The Ferris State University men's ice hockey program and some of the Bulldogs' biggest fans recently had an opportunity to "give back to the community", which helped lead to a sellout crowd for FSU's recent home game against the Michigan State Spartans on Jan. 5 at the Ewigleben Ice Arena.
The contest, which was played over the holiday break for Ferris State students, represented the first of two meetings between the Bulldogs and the Spartans in Big Rapids this season. The second matchup takes place this Saturday, Jan. 19, at 7:05 p.m.
During the first game, nearly 100 members of the "Dawg Pound" student section, many of whom were home over the semester and holiday break, donated their tickets back to the hockey program. Those tickets were then in turn distributed to various local non-profit groups throughout the community such as Eagle Village, WISE, Angels in Action and the Salvation Army.
Thanks to the efforts of the students who returned tickets, FSU was able to sellout the game in Big Rapids as 2,490 fans were in the building. A record 600 Ferris State student section season tickets were sold for this season, which meant many of the young fans who attended sat in the same seats normally occupied by one of the most vocal student sections in all of college hockey.
"We appreciate the support of the college students who could not attend, but still wanted to support the hockey program by donating their tickets back," said FSU head coach Bob Daniels. "Due to their efforts, we were able to give those tickets to some fans who were able to come to a game for the first time.
"We're thankful for all the community and student support we receive throughout the season and it was certainly evident how important that is for the game against Michigan State in our rink. It was outstanding to have a sellout over the holiday break," he added.
The Bulldog Hockey program regularly gives back to the community and takes part in various community service initiatives such as helping perform work at Playscape, taking part in middle school activity nights, working with the special olympics and more. Each year, the Bulldogs also hold a "Teddy Bear Toss" during a December home game and help provide stuffed animals to children in need over the holidays. This year, more than 300 stuffed animals were donated to the Salvation Army following the Dec. 1 home game versus Michigan.
For some of the youth who received donated tickets for the Michigan State contest, it may have been their first time inside the Ewigleben Ice Arena.
"These experiences and chances for these young adults are so important," said Angels of Action founder Joni Thompson. "They don't always get to do fun things like this with friends and family. Being able to connect with the community and being shown people care about them is very important.
"I want to thank Ferris for always giving us the opportunity to provide experiences like these for these students," she added. "They are always so excited when we have a chance for them to attend any event at Ferris. It's a great working relationship and we continue it in the future."
One of the groups who attended the Jan. 5 matchup came from Eagle Village, a 683-acre facility that serves thousands of children annually and offers programs and counseling for abused, neglected and troubled children.
"We thank Ferris State Hockey and the college students so much for the tickets to the game," said Rosanne Raglin of Eagle Village. "All the youth that attended had a great time."
Raglin noted that many of the kids in the Eagle Village group noted it was an awesome experience to be able to watch the Bulldogs on the ice in person. Several of the staff members were also able to share their love of hockey with the kids for the first time.
While many of the donated tickets went to youth, others were also distributed to volunteer-based organizations like the Salvation Army, whihc was able to provide local bell ringers and families with a night out.
"We were honored to have the opportunity to provide our bell ringers with a night out and they had a really great time," said Chris Vallette of the Salvation Army. "One of our ringers had never attended a game before and was extremely grateful for the chance to be there."
Over the years, the Bulldogs have developed one of the nation's top collegiate atmospheres inside the Ewigleben Ice Arena thanks to both the local community support and the renowed "Dawg Pound" student section. Ferris State sold out five of its final six regular-season home games en route to the program's first-ever NCAA Frozen Four appearance a year ago and currently has drawn more than 2,000 fans for each of its last five home contests this season.
"There's a really unique bond between the community, the students and the hockey program," Daniels said. "I don't know that you would get that anywhere else in the country."
The Bulldogs will be back in action this weekend (Jan. 18-19) as they take on Michigan State again in a league home-and-home series. Friday's contest will take place at Munn Ice Arena in East Lansing and be televised live on Fox Sports Detroit with opening faceoff set for 7:35 p.m. (ET).
Meanwhile, the two teams will travel back to Big Rapids for Saturday's game at the Ewigleben Ice Arena, which begins at 7:05 p.m. (ET). It will represent the fourth and final meeting between the two schools this season and the last trip to Big Rapids for the Spartans in league regular-season play before FSU departs for the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) and MSU moves to the Big Ten Conference next season.
Tickets for Saturday's home contest can be purchased thru the FSU Athletics Ticket Office, which is open Monday thru Friday from 9 a.m. (ET) to 5 p.m. (ET) with extended hours on Wednesday until 7 p.m. (ET). In addition, tickets can also be bought online at StarTickets.com or by calling 1-800-585-3737. For more information, please call (231) 591-2888 or visit FerrisStateBulldogs.com.