Although most of the hype surrounding college ice hockey follows the season, a new spirit group is ensuring support for UT’s team lasts year-round.
Texas Ice Beauties formed in February 2019 to support the Texas Ice Hockey club team. Stephanie Lutz, a human development and family sciences sophomore, said she founded the organization because of her love for the sport. While the East Coast — where Lutz grew up — has a large hockey fan base, she said she wants to help grow and foster appreciation for the sport at UT.
“For people that were born in Texas and grew up in Texas, they didn’t even think about ever playing at all because it’s just not something that’s a big deal as it would be somewhere like the East Coast,” Lutz said.
To accomplish this, Lutz said the Ice Beauties will do fund-raising, sell merchandise and serve in the community. She said they hope to pair each group member with a player to specifically support and cheer for during the season. This desire to support the team and players came from attending games and noticing small crowds, Lutz said.
“We want to get to know them and be there for them if they need us to help with anything,” Lutz said. “(We want to) show them that they have a group of people supporting them and will be there for them.”
Matthew Bowers, assistant professor of instruction in kinesiology and health education, said the Ice Beauties can help increase brand awareness and promote engagement between the team and community.
“We don’t typically think of Texas as a hotbed for hockey, so having an organization like this can provide more consistent attendance, engagement and support and be potentially that critical mass that’s required to draw in more people,” Bowers said.
When more fans are drawn in, Bowers said the fans can see that they are able to create a motivating environment for the team and impact home games.
“The idea is that the more raucous and wild the environment, the more that advantages us, the home team,” Bowers said.
Nicolas Samadian, psychology junior and hockey team vice president, said while they gain more exposure each year and attendance at games can range from 50 to 400 people, they are still trying to build a bigger fan base.
“The bigger the crowd, the better we play,” Samadian said. “We’re always going to come out and play to the best of our ability, but when you have the crowd behind you it does feel better. It makes you want to work harder and impress the people that are there.”
Lutz said she has recruited members by bringing friends to games and posting in Facebook groups and hopes to grow the organization for next season. By the time the season starts in the fall, they will formally recruit and require membership fees.
“Hopefully they can get the word of Texas Hockey out there a little bit more around campus,” Samadian said. “Not everybody on our team has the ability to do that with time schedules and whatnot, so it’s good to have a club that’s designated to doing that for us. We’re really grateful for that.”