Interview w/ Matt Wikstrom, Leader Of The NU Doghouse
Photo Credit: Justine Newman Photography
You've landed in the doghouse today with an interview featuring my good buddy Matt Wikstrom, leader of the Northeastern University fan section called The Doghouse. If you had been at Matthews Arena like I have over the last couple of years at men's hockey games, you might have noticed these loud, brash, and loyal fans yelling and shouting at opposing goalies yelling "Sieve you suck!" amongst other things, and showering praise over our own goalie while applauding over every move their Huskies make. Matt took some time out of his busy college schedule to talk about his role at The Doghouse, a brief oral history, game day preparation and what goes into making the signs you see at Matthews, how big of a role music plays in the game day atmosphere, why The Doghouse atmosphere is so exciting for fans and hell for opponents, why the Fountains of Wayne hit "Stacy's Mom" is so cherished, beloved, and played at NU hockey games, and his most memorable moment as part of The Doghouse as he graduates this year. So without further ado, here is my interview with our fearless leader:
Give us your name and how long you've been the leader and part of The Doghouse?
My name is Matthew Wikstrom and I’ve been in the Doghouse for 4 years.
How were you approached about becoming part of The Doghouse? Was it something you were clamoring for and how big of a hockey fan are you in general? My story in The Doghouse wasn’t nearly as formal as people tend to think it is, actually. We don’t have an E-Board or anything, and we don’t really “approach” anyone to join. At my freshman orientation I talked with Mike Davis, who led the house at the time. I got his email and we talked and became friends over the summer, then when fall rolled around he asked if I wanted to help him with some flyers. By the time he got me to a game in Matthews, it was pretty much all I wanted to do.
As for being a hockey fan, I was a Rangers fan in High School, but I definitely became much more of a hockey fan in general at NU. You learn a lot about the game doing this stuff haha!
Talk a little about the history of The Doghouse and some of your responsibilities as the leader? So, The Doghouse was founded in 1997 by Justin Harriman, who made the first banner and donned the rest of the getup that people now associate with us; the War Paint, the Vuvuzela and of course a black hockey jersey.
The organization has actually grown quite a bit since then, however. It has become so much more then just a gang of guys screaming at Matthews. Beyond growing in size and diversity, we have become a really integral part of athletics at NU. We help create promotions for games, help run and collect data on Social Media and have been very honored to be a part of creating the Athletics rebranding. All that on top of the usual things you see us do in Matthews for the crowd and the atmosphere.
Describe what a typical gameday is like and what goes into the preparation of all the signs we see at Matthews?
By the time most people are just waking up, The Doghouse team has already gone to work on social media. Whether we are posting about the game or Clayton is starting a chirp war on Twitter, we are already making fans aware of what’s happening in Historic Matthews Arena.
After that, the team usually shows up around 5:30 to set everything up. We always check the lines for both teams first, then we hang the signs and banners. We also have someone putting chant sheets, little cheat sheets for what you hear us screaming during the game, on every seat in the upper bowl. How big of a role does music play in the game day atmosphere and how passionate are you about music in general? Music is arguably the most essential part of what we do. There are chants like “Let’s Go Huskies” and “’Goalie’, you suck” that are pretty monotone, but I think it’s the music-based chants that really make the Doghouse special. It can be as simple as one note on the vuvu for “Sieve You Suck” and “Go NU”, to as complicated as getting the crowd to sing “Every Time We Touch” or “I Know a Song that gets on Every Goalie’s Nerves”. And of COURSE, we have “Stacy’s Mom”, which speaks for itself if you’ve ever been to a game in Matthews. Personally, music is what I want to do for the rest of my life. I’m a Music Industry major at Northeastern, I’ve worked for Island Records and SESAC on Co-op, and I’m also a songwriter/performer. I actually just wrapped up something new for Orson & The Rosebuds, which is how you and I met in the first place! That is coming out early 2019, follow @OrsonRosebuds to keep up to date.
What is it about The Doghouse that makes it so electric and exciting for Husky fans and so nerve wracking for opposing teams? For the fans, I think its that sense of unity. Northeastern is a melting pot of nationalities, ideologies and careers. But when you put on that red and black and get out of your seat in Matthews you become part of something bigger. It’s the best hockey atmosphere I’ve ever been to…and I’m used to Madison Square Garden!
As for opposing players, we don’t hold back. We’ve sent world class goalies to the bench and made some of the best players in the league mess up in Matthews because we make it our job to get in their heads. The noise and energy is constant, and I think teams know they are coming to a hostile environment when they step foot in the barn. We try to switch things up, though, so that the players who have been there before never feel too comfortable. We call it “The Doghouse Effect”, and it means our noise and energy becomes that extra skater on the ice for the huskies.
Talk about the origin of "Stacy's Mom" as NU's anthem in general and how big of a tune that is we hear at home games? So Justin, who founded the Doghouse, was at a game after he graduated in 2013. He had left his seat, and when he came back his friend told him the band had just played the pop-rock classic Stacy’s Mom by Fountains of Wayne. He then stood up and demanded that the band play it again. The Doghouse thought it was funny and joined him in nagging the pep band. And ever since then, it has become part of the Northeastern Tradition. My personal connection to the song is actually pretty hilarious. I mentioned I had worked at Island Records back in 2017. I worked directly under the very talented Steve Yegelwel who is the A&R (Artists and Repertoire) agent that discovered Fountains of Wayne! During my last week in NYC, he invited me into his office to chat for a bit and I got to talk to him about the origins of Stacy’s Mom. He’s not really a hockey fan, but he was happy with what we’ve done with the tune.
While at Matthews, we sometimes see you and other members running laps around the balcony level, how did that tradition come about? That tradition I’m not sure I’ve ever gotten a straight answer on. I always just assumed it was Justin, but honestly I’m not sure. The music that plays during a time out is the Benny Hill Theme, which is pretty synonymous with slapstick comedy. So I guess watching a 21 year old in skinny jeans sprint at full speed through Historic Matthews is just pretty entertaining to the crowd. I know that at some point, two people used to run in opposite directions and “run into each other” at the other side of the arena. I like the footrace version a lot better, but honestly I’m just happy the security guys still let us do it every game.
Another tradition we see at NU hockey games is that during OT, most of The Doghouse takes their shirts off, what's the story behind that?
Oh jees, No Tee OT. That one also goes all the way back to the 90’s, I’m pretty sure. The more interesting variation of that is “One Shoe OT”. A doghouse leader named Pat Gilbert was frustrated because the team had never won in OT in Matthews that season. So, in an odd protest, he took one shoe off instead. The huskies scored and won, and “One Shoe Pat” was born. If you see some of the older guys with one shoe in the air during Overtime, that’s why.
What has been your most memorable moment as part of The Doghouse? I mean, it’s gotta be the Beanpot. Between the win in TD, Gaudette’s Hat Trick, parading through the streets with the Pep Band and everything that went with it, it is a night I will never forget. I was on Co-op in NYC that day, actually. I took a 4:30 flight out of JFK, landed in Boston right before the game started, and flew out at 6:00am the next morning.
On a personal note, that was the last game I had with my old Doghouse team. Ashley, Jaime, Sam, Cole, and a few others all graduated that year. They left and then Clayton, Ashley (we have 2) and I took over the house when I came back. Lot of emotions that night, all of them worth it.
Also, seriously follow @OrsonRosebuds on Instagram, you’re not going to want to miss the new music that’s on the way.
Lastly, what does The Doghouse mean to you personally and what memories will it leave with you? The Doghouse means a lot to me. Beyond just what I do with my weekends, it really became a part of a family in Matthews. Mike Davis and Zach Gordon were amazing mentors to me and still remain two of my good friends. From long blizzard road trips to New Hampshire to tossing back a Gansett or two at Punts, there’s a lot of love to go around in 44A. I’ve found lifelong friends in the Doghouse and I think so many other people do the same. Whether they are there at 5:30 setting up with me or they bring the noise at TD right as the puck drops, they are all The Doghouse just as much as I am.
I’m really proud of how far we have come and even more excited about how far we can go. We’re pushing hard for bigger attendance at women’s games, yes because they are a National Title contending team, but even more so because they are our Huskies just as much as the Men’s team is. They deserve a packed house on Friday nights just as much as the Men’s team. I hope that sometime soon we can do “North-Eastern” on both sides of the arena, they’ve earned it. But honestly, the sky is the limit, especially with all the changes coming to Matthews in 2019. I hope people get as much joy out of gameday as I do, and I can’t wait to see what the huskies have in store for the rest of the season. Thanks for talking with me, Pete. Go Huskies!
Thank you Matt for everything you've done for The Doghouse over the years. As a men's hockey season ticket holder, I see firsthand the joy and passion you bring to the game, and for me personally all the happiness you've brought into my life which has made me so proud to be a Husky supporter forever! For more on The Doghouse, please follow them at all the aforementioned social media links above.