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UND athletics department looks to improve fan behavior at hockey games

GRAND FORKS -- UND is beginning discussions with ticket holders, students and others in an effort to improve crowd behavior at home men's hockey games, Athletics Director Brian Faison told the Herald on Saturday.

He said the plans are vague because officials need to get input from students, ticket holders, fans and other community members before they will know what needs to be done.

"Basically, what we're going to do is be talking to all of those different constituencies and getting some feedback from them," he said.

Faison said it will be important that any possible changes be something "the crowd's going to buy into" in order to have a successful impact.

Part of the process will also look at what other institutions and professional teams have done in the past to address crowd behavior issues.

Why now?

This effort started Oct. 19, the Monday after a home series against the University of Minnesota Gophers. "Obviously, it was prompted by some of the events over the weekend," Faison said. "We felt like we needed to address some of the crowd behavior issues that came up."

While the majority of fans were well-behaved, he said "I think we had a few individuals that went too far." Faison pointed out that officials want to keep fans' enthusiasm up because it is a great home ice advantage.

Still, he said officials are concerned about some of the language used in chants.

These discussions could lead to changes at the Ralph Engelstad Arena during hockey games, Faison said, including new video board messages, additional signage and promotional campaigns.

But the biggest possible changes aren't yet determined and will depend on what feedback is received, he said. "I think the real issue is what we do in games and the kinds of things we have to do to make that happen in games."

There won't be another men's hockey home game until Nov. 13-14, when UND plays St. Cloud State.

Faison expected public information would be distributed Tuesday, and season ticket holders will receive e-mails that can be replied to in order to provide feedback and observations.

A series of meetings will be held on campus, possibly beginning this week, to collect more information and allow groups to provide their input.

Faison said these occasional crowd behavior problems are not unique to the Engelstad. "It happens at different campuses," he said.

He had to deal with a similar situation a few years ago while at New Mexico State, he said, and officials collected feedback and put together strategies to deal with the issues. Faison said that included getting the team's head coach involved, and the efforts "worked out."