The champions of the ice
The champions of the ice
Phil Masturzo (’86)

The Falcon Fanatics of 1984- some of the best fans in the sport

One of the defining features of Bowling Green hockey is the fanbase. Many enjoy the Slater Family Ice Arena for the atmosphere of the games, and one of the main recruiting factors for incoming players is the culture of BG hockey. 

 

For fans, the experiences at Bowling Green are never forgotten, more so when the outcome of an incredible season and an incredible team is a national championship. BG Hockey fans in 1983-84 were lucky enough to witness one of the greatest seasons in the history of Falcon athletics and vividly remember that season 40 years later. 

Wade Vantrease (Spring 83’-Fall 87’) 

“I took a late entry to go to Bowling Green and I came to BG in January of 1983,” BG graduate Wade Vantrease told me. “I came into a phenomenal basketball season when they won the conference, and we would go to all basketball games.  

“One of my hallmates played hockey and began taking me to BG hockey games immediately after the basketball games, a sport that I knew nothing about except it was on ice.”

So here I am watching a great hockey team in the 82-83 season, learning the game. This was the first time in my life that I had ever rooted against Ohio State when I was at a Bowling Green hockey game.” 

From knowing nothing about hockey to being a huge BG hockey fan, Vantrease’s journey is truly a unique perspective in the world of sports fans. 

“The games were phenomenal and intense and physical. The whole tradition of the arena with the BG News on the seats in the student section, and the ‘Who’s he? NOBODY!’ every time they introduced an opposing player made me fall in love with the whole environment. How could you not? It was electric.” 

One of the main points Vantrease expresses is his admiration for the players and the respect that he has for their pedigree. 

“As a freshman and sophomore, my respect for collegiate athletes was off the charts. Growing up watching college football and basketball and being able to now see these hockey athletes in person was amazing. I began to learn about them personally and their backgrounds especially the Canadian hockey traditions.” 

He attended BG at an extraordinary time in which hockey was beginning to become the sport of the campus and the sport of the town. The word of the orange and brown was getting around the nation. 

“Their status began to grow and as they began to win, the identity of Bowling Green hockey began to travel throughout the country. When BG would play Ohio State, we would go find the Columbus newspaper and see what everyone was saying about our team.” 

As one of the most dedicated fans at the time, Vantrease and his friends took their viewership to away games, a true Falcon Fanatic in the name of Bowling Green. 

“We drove down to Columbus for the Ohio State game in their small arena, which probably held less than 1,200 people so you were sitting right on the glass. So I and some of the other guys I’m with got really intense cheering for Bowling Green and against Ohio State, to the point that we were asked to leave the arena. We deserved it, but it was all in support of our team.“ 

Getting kicked out of the Ohio State game didn’t stop the group of Falcons. Most notably, they took road trips to Lansing for the Michigan State series and Joe Louis Arena in Detroit for two CCHA playoff games. 

As a fan, the most notable part of that year was the national championship game. However, because students were on spring break, and because the media was not yet prevalent, fans had no way to keep in-time contact with the happenings of the team in Lake Placid. 

Dan Kane taking in the moment (Phil Masturzo (’86))

In one of the best stories Vantrease tells, the only BG national championship was spoiled by the delay of media in 1984. 

“The championship was going to be covered by ESPN but played on delayed broadcast. So our local Akron newspaper spoiled the outcome of the game for me because the paper with the score came out before the delayed broadcast was aired.”

“We all went to my buddy’s house to watch the game on ESPN, and unfortunately, I had seen the score of the game in the newspaper before I got to his house. I had to watch the entire game not saying a word about the outcome of the game, but knowing in the end that they would win.” 

“Even still, when on the screen they finally won, I was just as excited as I would have been not knowing the score beforehand. It was so exciting. The first national championship win for the school, and the biggest adrenaline rush of my life” 

Coming back for football, basketball, and hockey games, Vantrease has not had enough of cheering for the orange and brown. 

“In all the years I have come back for games as an alumnus, this year’s Toledo football game (2023) was the largest student section I have seen since I was a student at Bowling Green. I was completely entertained by the student section in addition to the actual game. It was great to see what we did back in the day doesn’t die out.” 

Jeff Weiss (Fall 83’- Spring 87’) 

Unlike Vantrease, Jeff Weiss had a relationship with Bowling Green and the BG hockey program before going to school on campus.  

“My parents moved to BG in 1973 when I was in third grade,” Weiss said. “My dad was a big sports fan, and he was working in the alumni office, so we went to football, basketball, and hockey games all the time when I was young.” 

But his connection doesn’t stop there. Weiss worked in the sports information department for basketball, and football before even applying to Bowling Green for college. 

“By the time I got to BG in the fall of 83’, I knew everybody and had worked both basketball and football press boxes, and that fall worked men’s soccer, and gymnastics as well. I don’t think I did every home game that year, but I did the shot chart for most hockey home games. There were a few times I worked women’s basketball in Anderson Arena, then worked hockey games later that same night.” 

When he wasn’t working the shot chart for the team, Weiss had his group of friends that he watched the game with, not participating in the student culture, but using it as side entertainment for an already great hockey game. 

“There was a group in section ‘A’ that was the student section leaders called the Bleacher Creatures. That was where the marching band was, and the students, SICSIC, and Freddy Falcon. Those of us who grew up in town sat in section ‘H’ just to listen to the Bleacher Creatures because they made going to the games so fun. As good as the team was, those guys added fun and excitement to a game.” 

WHO’S HE? A champion. (Phil Masturzo (’86))

Like many Falcon fans, two of the fan’s favorite players were Gino Cavallini and Gary Kruzich. 

“Gino’s open ice hits were cool. An unbelievably physical player and you know hockey fans love that. The other favorite was goaltender Gary Kruzich. Because I did the shot chart, I took the stats down to the locker room, and one game Gary asked,  

‘How many saves did you give me?’  

I said ’25.’ 

He said, ‘No way, I had 30.’ 

I responded, ‘How did you get that number?’ 

‘I was counting.’ 

‘Maybe it would have been if you hadn’t let five goals in,’ I said. 

Then he began jokingly chasing me with his big goalie stick. That was just the character of Kruzich. A little off-center, but very fun.” 

The fan commitment from Weiss and the section ‘H’ group was unrivaled, one of the few students that attended the final Bowling Green games of the 1983-84’ season. During spring break. 

“I was supposed to go to Florida in the spring of 84’ but when they made the tournament, I cashed in my plane ticket myself and five other people drove up to Boston (University) for the quarterfinals, then back to Bowling Green, and then to Lake Placid for the semifinals and final. That was my spring break and it was amazing.” 

The national championship game was one of the most exciting for both the Falcon skaters, and the Falcon fans, and an emotional roller-coaster for Weiss. 

“At the end of regulation, it was ‘Come on guys you can come back. You’ve done it before.’ After they scored the goal to tie, we were ecstatic and excited. Then in overtime, both teams had powerplays and that was nerve-racking. Then the final goal by Gino was electric, and the players were more tired than us, but we weren’t much less than them.” 

This experience was not the only time the group had traveled with the team, just the most notable. All year the group had traveled the Midwest for away BG games.

Why? 

“That’s just what we did. We were hockey fanatics and loved the orange and brown. We did twice the homework during the week, so we could go to hockey games on the weekends. We loved the team. Absolutely loved the team.” 

For more stories related to BGSU Athletics, follow Falcon Media Sports Network on X (@bg_fmsn).

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