Hockey fans typically only see 60 minutes of a product that is cultivated over weeks and months by the two teams on the ice. What goes unseen is the hours of practice and time spent as a team away from the rink that forges the bond so many teams share.
At Eastern Illinois University, the staff and student body are provided with a bit more of an intimate look at their hockey team. Reason being, EIU’s players proudly bear a weekly burden that is part of a season-long competition.
For the past decade, or more, EIU hockey players have participated in a weekly shootout that determines the Bohmer. The losing shooter – or if a goal allows five goals in a row – is named Bohmer for the week and the helmet is imparted on him until the following Thursday. Punishment for the Bohmer is being forced to wear an old, sticker riddled helmet everywhere you go for the following week. To provide evidence that the helmet was sported in class, the Bohmer must provide photographic proof with their professors. As every EIU player who has worn the helmet can confirm, it is in no way, shape or form, an award.
“It’s definitely embarrassing,” junior Andrew Maronich said. “Not only embarrassing going to class and having people see you in it but the grief you take from your teammates.”
Maronich, however has been lucky enough to avoid the weekly penance for two full seasons. He lost the weekly shootout competition as a freshman and has been able to enjoy gentle ribbing of his teammates for the past three seasons.
In fact, Maronich was able to enjoy a full week with the Bohmer by his side as his housemate – and EIU goaltender – Andrew Teske became the most recent victim. Maronich and Teske both live in a house full of hockey players dubbed “The Five Hole” and spending the week at home as the Bohmer is not an ideal scenario.
“[Teske] hasn’t been taking it all that well,” Maronich said. “He would say how bad it is living with us and catching all that grief for being the Bohmer.”
Of course the tradition is nothing short of good natured fun between teammates. The players who live in “The Five Hole” share a similar bond with the members of EIU’s other hockey house “The Pro Shop”. The competition provides the team a perfect outlet for the traditional stresses that come with the ins and outs of a full season of hockey and schoolwork.
“It helps out, especially on a Thursday practice,” Maronich said. “It takes a little bit of the stress off. Doing something like that gives a little relaxation and helps the mindset during the season.”
In addition, the weekly presence of a student wearing a hockey helmet to class has helped increase the presence of the team on campus. As a tradition that is at least ten years old, professors on campus have embraced ritual and will even oblige a picture while wearing the lid themselves.
“A majority of kids on campus are well aware we have a hockey team but there are some who still just see us as a club but not a NCAA recognized team,” Maronich said. “But this kind of helps that when they see a kid wearing his hockey stuff wearing a goofy helmet around campus.
“Even the teachers love it. It has been going on long enough that a lot of the professors know they will have a kid wearing a helmet in the middle of their class.”
Maronich admits that EIU faces the same type of struggles that many ACHA clubs do regarding fans and game nights. Without a rink near campus, it makes getting fans to the games a challenge at times. However, public displays like the Bohmer makes for easy advertisements for the team.
The type of attitude exuded by the club is nothing short of light hearted and fun. While their attitude on the ice is all business, at the end of the day the EIU team is a terrific example of what a hockey team is known to be.
Whether it be nicknames that end in with “-ie” or taking pride in their flow, the bond that EIU has off the ice has permeated their campus and has created a unique atmosphere for the team. For hockey players it is really just business as usual.
“It is pretty much the general perception of a hockey team,” Maronich said. “Just a bunch of goofy kids playing a fun sport.”