Thomas Bradley / Campus editor
Sitting in the penalty box during a hockey game can be one of the loneliest places in the sports world. Save for if a fellow teammate commits a foul with or shortly after you, it’s just you and about 40 square feet of encasing glass.
That is, unless you are an opponent of the Ohio State men’s ice hockey team.
Since Nov. 11, a group of four OSU students, outfitted in red morph suits, greet penalized opponents with jeers, taunts and dances at Buckeye home games. They call themselves the OSU “Red Men.”
“We sit behind the penalty box, usually on both sides, two on each side and we make fun of the (opposing) people in the penalty box, basically,” said Brian Gartner, a first-year in actuarial science.
Gartner, along with fellow first-years James Meyer, Nick Strah and Connor Daugherty, based the idea of the “Red Men” off of the “Green Men,” a group of Vancouver Canucks super-fans who perform similar antics and gained national notoriety during the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Whether it’s heckling opposing players, taking pictures with kids or doing an “O-H-I-O” chant with the Block-O student section, the “Red Men” try their best to make their presence felt at games.
“We just dance and try and make the atmosphere more fun,” Gartner said.
Strah, who is in business, said that being behind a full-body suit makes it easier to let loose and act a little out of the ordinary.
“Whenever we dance, I like it when people laugh at us because they think it’s funny … it’s like you’re a different person and you don’t really care,” he said.
“It’s kind of funny because we kind of keep a disguise,” Gartner said. “Not many people around campus know the person in the suit.”
The people in the suits are a group of friends that had never met before coming to college this autumn, but quickly developed a friendship from living on the same floor of their dormitory. They all admit that none of them were avid hockey fans prior to forming the “Red Men,” but that the group chose the sport out of a desire to find their own niche among the vast amounts of football and basketball fans around campus.
“We just thought it would be really funny to make fun of the people in the penalty box and think of all these crazy ideas,” Gartner said.
For example, the group brought bike locks to a November game against Northern Michigan, who at the time had five players facing a trial for alleged bike thefts.
“We should have brought bike helmets too,” Gartner said. “It was ridiculous.”
Strah said that he has become a bigger fan of the sport ever since he began to don his red jumpsuit for games.
“I’m starting to like (hockey) more now that we are doing this and actually going to games,” Strah said.
Meyer, however, said it can sometimes be difficult to follow the game when looking through the suits.
“It’s kind of hard to see the clear actions when you’re watching the game,” said Meyer, who is in pre-business. “It’s like you can see the guys skating in the general direction, but the farther you get away the more unclear it is. You can see people going in a general direction but not necessarily the puck all the time, so when they score, you can just see them the near the net.”
“We cheer when everyone else cheers,” Strah said.
The “Red Men” will be in attendance and cheering Sunday when the No. 2-ranked Buckeyes take on No. 15 Michigan in the Frozen Diamond Faceoff at Progressive Field in Cleveland, Ohio.
Gartner said that there is a chance that the group might be featured on some of the Snow Days winter festival attractions inside the stadium, such as the sled hill that comes down from the bleachers of the stadium.
While the “Red Men” vow to attend the remaining OSU home games, the group is unsure whether or not they will continue to do so in the coming years. Either way, they want to see the “Red Men” tradition upheld.
“Whether it’s us or not, we would like to see it continue, to see it become something that sticks with the program and stays around,” said Daugherty, an exercise science education major. Gartner agreed.
“It would be kind of cool to say you left Ohio State and you did that,” Gartner said. “Like you started that, you left your input and footprint.”