EAST LANSING, Mich. – The final whistle blows and the team promptly exits the pool, runs to the locker room to change, before piling into cars parked in the front of IM Circle. It’s Thursday night, and tradition lives on with underwater hockey.
The destination is 535 Forest Street. The underwater hockey house, commonly referred to as the HoHo, is home to club president Dominique Felice, vice president Grand Nagrant and members Kate Dunkle and Dustin Banooni.
The four-bedroom, two-bathroom house located in the historical district of East Lansing is lined with plaster walls and wooden wall fixtures, holding just as much character as the people who gather in it.
“We have a bright yellow kitchen and a really awesome couch,” said Felice. “Whenever anyone comes over, they walk in the house, and it’s directly to the left. They see it, and the first thing they say is always, ‘Oh, that is a cool couch!’”
The couch, previously owned by the Nagrant family, is a $12,000 designer couch wrapped in a screaming 90s fabric and serves as a home base among roommates.
“The couch is so big that no matter what any of us are doing, we’re probably in the living room on the couch,” said Nagrant. “Someone is always on that couch.”
The hockey house is a tradition that was started when the club was founded in 2007, and while the address changes year to year, the purpose of the house never does.
“There has always been an attempt to have a hockey house, just so people would always have a place to come over,” said Banooni. “This is the first time in two years that it’s been all hockey people that live in the hockey house, so that’s a good thing.”
Thursday night gatherings are a given among club members, but the idea of an open door is something that resonates among the group.
“I want them to all feel welcome at our house and feel comfortable there,” said Dunkle. “There is a sense of a home base where anyone can go and there will be hockey people there. We want to leave a welcoming legacy.”
The club gathers each year, at the traveling HoHo, for a fall welcome barbeque, a glove-making opportunity, a sign-making event and a Halloween party.
But the biggest event rings in during the New Year.
“A bunch of alumni come back and it’s a three-day party that everyone is encouraged to bring family and friends to,” said Banooni. “There are just all kinds of people there. It’s great to have everyone back.”
The four roommates pay rent each month, but they assure that 535 Forest Street is more than just their living space..
“It’s everyone on the team’s home,” said Banooni. “We have people all the time who just show up because they want to hang out. There are a lot of people who don’t enjoy being where they are, and they prefer hanging out with us.”
The house has been re-signed for the 2016-17 school year, and will continue to house one of the most unique organizations on campus.
“As the four of us know with renting the hockey house, this is what we are getting into and we are O.K. with this,” said Felice. “We are going to do that in order to have this place.“
The bond within the underwater hockey club is admired by peers and absorbed by members and, with a place to call home, the unique relationships will continue to flourish.
“Family is very important with, I think, a lot of college kids,” said Felice. “Developing a friend group that you can call a family away from your own blood is important. To have a place to go to with those people and see them regularly is a really good thing.”