The ACHA's Toughest Barns: Death Valley


photo by Jim Zsenyuk

Saginaw Valley State has had their rink dubbed "Death Valley" due to the raucous atmosphere created by the fans they pack into the rink each game.

Death Valley is a term that gets tossed around plenty between September and December when Clemson and LSU are dispatching opponents on their home turf. However, there is a colder, more confined version of Death Valley that serves as the intimidating home rink for Saginaw Valley State.

The Saginaw Bay Ice Arena has been dubbed Death Valley as the small confines help to amplify the sound of the nearly 1,000 fans that SVSU averages on a game-to-game basis. That number rises fro rivalry games – particularly against Hope College – to over 1,500 people packed into a small arena.
The effect is quite deafening as the student section is nestled behind the visiting goal and the students and fans all study up on the nightly opponents in order to tailor their chants appropriately. The student section is so rowdy that an opposing goaltender once shot the puck into the stands after allowing a goal a few years ago.

What attributes to the atmosphere is the small confines that the fans must fit into. Unlike larger arenas with more seating, SVSU fans are squeezing into a small arena with low cielings. That basically amplifies the sound that reverberates throughout the arena as a crowd of 1,000 can easily sound as loud as a crowd three times that size due to the way the sound plays wihting the rink.
Assistant captain Steve Hamilton attributes the difference at Death Valley to the rowdy fans who routinely support their school. Not only are fans known to tailgate prior to games, but they’re consistently loud and supportive throughout each game. Hamilton notes that he and SVSU play in plenty of crowded arenas, but none have the impact on him that the raucous crowd in Death Valley does