When you go to a Northern Michigan University hockey game, fans know making some noise for the Wildcats is the best way to show your support for the team.
Some people, like the students affectionately known as puck-heads, participate as part of a larger crowd. Others bring homemade noisemakers to shake. Still others may grab a cowbell to let the team know they are there.
But there is one fan that can be heard throughout the arena. Art Pickering.
When Art rings "his" bell, there is a message that is understood by everyone: the Cats are hitting the ice. That is because Art's bell is a 16 pounder and is very loud.
He has been cheering on the team like this for a long time--13 years--ever since the Berry Events Center opened. That's thousands and thousand of rings. Art rings the bell before the game starts, every time the Wildcats score, and at the start of every period.
Now, a 16-pound school bell is not something that everyone has just laying around the house. So, how did Art get this bell and begin his self-appointed duties?
"My parents were antique collectors," explains Art, "and I happened to be at their house one day and saw the bell there. I started messing around with it, and the next thing I know, I brought it up to Marquette and started ringing the bell here."
When Art cannot be at the game, his wife, Paulette, brings the bell along, and hands it over to someone who has a little more swinging muscle, Matt Heinzel. Matt and his wife sit right in front of the Pickerings.
Art is committed and braced to carry out his assignment. He has a great view of the Wildcat's entrance, sitting in the same seats year after year.
To get the view of the team coming out from the lockers means having seats near the opposing team's bench. That also means sitting in the midst of fans that may not be as thrilled to hear the massive bell.
Art told us, "I think there was one time when we got swung at by a hockey stick from another team, and got water thrown at us."
Despite that, Art has his supporters.
Paulette Pickering says, "I'm very proud, especially when we score!"
"Ring the bell if it makes you happy!" says his mother, Ruth Pickering.
So for fans of NMU Wildcat hockey, one of things that you can expect, along with the great game, the chuck-a-puck, kids mini racing, and other intermission entertainment, is a dedicated fan with a very big bell, standing watch to let you know the 'Cats are coming.
If you want to catch the NMU Hockey 'Cats at the Berry Events Center, the next home series is coming up on February 3 and 4, when they host Ferris State. Game time is 7:30 p.m. both nights.