Should BC Bring Back Ice Jam?

In October 2010, Boston College and UGBC hosted its first ever “Ice Jam,” an event that was held to get fans excited for the upcoming men’s and women’s hockey and basketball seasons. The event, during which Conte Forum was divided into half basketball court and half ice rink, was supposed to become an annual tradition, however, it has not been held since 2011.  This raises the questions: Where has Ice Jam been the last two years, and is it possible at this point to bring it back?

Each year in mid-October, many Division 1 basketball programs host an event called “Midnight Madness.” The event is always held the night before teams are formally allowed to practice for the first time as a sort of pep rally for the upcoming season. BC is not one of the schools that hold Midnight Madness, but as Midnight Madness became more popular around the country, the void left on campus prior to each season became more and more noticeable. In 2010, UGBC and the Athletic Department tried to fill that void by hosting Ice Jam, an event that was the first of it’s kind in the country.

On a Wednesday in October a few years back, Conte Forum filled the building to usher in the new seasons. Famous NBC sportscaster Bob Costas served as the “celebrity emcee” for the Ice Jam, which featured events like a fastest shot competition for hockey, and a three-point shooting contest and dunk contest. Doug Flutie, Joe Morgan and John Meterparel were also in the building as celebrity guests, as was rapper Vanilla Ice who performed his hit song “Ice, Ice Baby."

The first Ice Jam was a hit; filled with singing and dancing by players and coaches, as well as the novelty competitions, it was so well-received that students were already calling it an annual tradition.  The event was held again in 2011, but with less success.

In 2011, SportsCenter anchor Steve Levy emceed, 1,500 free t-shirts were provided, and tickets to a luxury box for a BU hockey game and Duke Basketball game were given out. There was a costume contest that awarded a $1,000 dollar prize to the winner, and one lucky fan even got to take a half-court shot on the hockey side of the playing surface to win a semester’s scholarship (he missed the shot by inches).  Ice Jam 2011 was held on a Thursday night and suffered a hit in attendance from the year before, though it was still considered an annual fixture going forward for BC at the time.

Then, in 2012, there was no Ice Jam. A lack of interest on the part of UGBC and the lack of attendance the year before effectively ended Ice Jam as an annual tradition, at least for the time being. With the chance for a 2013 Ice Jam come and gone, the obvious question remains: Can Ice Jam return, and if so, how can people be inspired to attend three years after the last one was held?

Ice Jam can absolutely be held again if UGBC and the athletic department are willing to make the necessary space in their budgets. With so much money moving through both bodies, and especially in athletics, there is little reason why the event could not be held again. The more pressing issue would be making sure that people attend, though fortunately if it were to be held next year only the class of 2015 would hold memories of the disappointment that was Ice Jam 2011.

First and foremost, to get students to attend Ice Jam the event must be more appealing than whatever else students could be doing on that particular night. The biggest mistake made in planning the 2011 event could have very well been placing it on a Thursday night when a sizeable number of students like to begin their weekends. Having Ice Jam on a Wednesday night in 2010 was perfect; it was late enough in the week that students were not loaded with work, but early enough that they didn’t have other plans.

Next, to re-ignite interest, the event will have to be gimmicky. If another Ice Jam is ever held, four gold points for swiping in before the event should be offered, and another four for swiping out at the end of the event. Concessions should be opened up and serving food at a discounted rate. Raffles and silent auction items that the standard college student can actually afford should also be offered. The next Ice Jam must be an event such that students are missing out if they don’t go.

One final point on gimmicks: bring the $29,000-plus scholarship contest back, but in a bit of a different way. The prize, which was actually going to be given out in cash, should now be offered to five lucky, randomly chosen students who must stay for the whole event to have a chance at selection, but this time spread out in five,  $10,000 increments. Two students will shoot half-court from the basketball end, and two from hockey. Here’s the catch: The final student will get his or her choice of what shot to take, and for every shot that gets missed before him or her, that $10,000 that could have been won gets rolled over to the final shot. Thus, five students would get a chance to win, and one grand-prize winner would still have the chance to win up to $50,000. Students would be foolish not to attend.

Aside from being gimmicky, the revamped Ice Jam must be flashy. As celebrity emcee, someone like ESPN broadcaster and college hockey expert John Buccigross should be brought in, or David Portnoy, better known as “El Pres” and founder of the popular blog Barstool Sports. Ice Jam needs an emcee that is in touch with the students.

Celebrity guests will be needed as well to further draw students. Doug Flutie should be invited back, and though it may conflict with their respective seasons, BC should reach out to more recent alumni such as Matt Ryan, Reggie Jackson, Andre Williams and Nathan Gerbe.

Furthermore, there is no reason to invite Vanilla Ice back, or any celebrity singer for that matter. Let a student group sing briefly, so as to get them and their friends to attend the event also.

As for actual on-ice and court events, keep everything the same, in addition to adding a shootout contest for the hockey teams. In the past, Ice Jam was a fun event for fans and players alike, the latter of which got a chance to showcase their other talents. There is little reason to expect that athletes could not have just as much fun as they did years ago if the event were held again - just take a look at this video.

Finally, if the “BC Fiddle Kid” could make an appearence, there would certainly be no objections to that either.

Ice Jam 2014 is not out of the question, and it is certainly doable. To make it happen, there will need to be a meaningful effort made by both the UGBC and Athletics Department. To make it successful, students will have to feel like they are truly missing out on something relatively big if they do not go. While predictions made about Ice Jam being an annual event back in 2010 may have been off, there is absolutely no reason why the tradition cannot be rebooted and turned into a lasting one.

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