By Brian Foisy
Near the end of the regular season for Boston University’s men’s hockey team I had a conversation with one of the most elusive figures in Terrier fandom. His name is Brian Zive, he’s likely one of the most famous people in the world of BU Hockey –– and, probably, college hockey as a whole.
But just reading his name now, or seeing him out in public you probably wouldn’t recognize him.
It isn’t until he takes his shirt off and waves around a scarlet and white BU flag, that you’ll see it’s Sasquatch.
Zive, who graduated from BU in 1994, has been playing the role of unofficial BU mascot for almost 30 years. Along the way he’s been in attendance for some of the biggest games in the program’s history and met some of the players and coaches who made that history.
In our hour-long conversation, Zive talked about a wide range of topics including how the Sasquatch ‘performances’ began, how his family feels about the character, why he’s kept up with it for all this time, his almost-retirement in 1998 and when/if he’ll retire for good.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity
Foisy: The first question is, how did this all come about? But I feel like that’s the obvious question but it is the best question to ask first, how did this all start for you? Where did the idea come from?
Zive: I don’t think the birth of it is all that exciting, or it’s not what you would expect, I guess. I was with some buddies from BU. We were at a game at BC, and BU had like an early lead, but then let’s say, BC scored like three straight goals or something. And a BC student came up and was obnoxiously putting it in our face, so to speak, that BC was doing well.
Sounds like BC
And the fellow reminded me of a punk in high school that I really did not like. I think he was a bully, also, he just looked like he might be. I didn’t have a conversation with the guy. He just visually reminded me of this guy.
And then BU came back, stormed back, and then took a two-goal lead, and I think when that happened, I just took my shirt off because I’m hairy – hairy chest, hairy back, just in a way of celebrating the excitement of beating BC. And maybe my friends thought it was funny or they said, ‘You should do that at the games,’ I don’t know. But then, going back to Walter Brown, I just started to do it.
It’s important to know that the band always used to play “Iron Man” (“Iron Man” is the song by Black Sabbath that always accompanies Sasquatch’s appearance) in their set in the third period, regardless. Right now, the band only plays Iron Man if I want to take my shirt off, but it used to be part of the band’s repertoire. Separate setlist. So that’s when I would do it.
And it just organically happened that it … I don’t know how it caught on, but it caught on. Some students or alumni…but people who sat in section eight, which was the student section, gave me the nickname Sasquatch, and they did the Sasquatch-Sieve thing. That’s how I got the name Sasquatch. And yeah, the rest is history. It’s been a long time. I started in ‘93.
So that’s 30 years at this point.
Yeah, I guess it is.
Maybe ‘94. It was the fall of ‘93, so next season, it will be 30 years.
It’s crazy that one of BU’s biggest traditions started at Conte Forum. Does that ever strike you as interesting?
Yeah, the irony is not lost on me.
Like they created it, it’s like a superhero story.
I haven’t thought about it that way, but yeah.
At what point in the early years did it catch on with people where you began to be recognized on campus or otherwise? At what point did you think it was a big thing?
I realized it was something when I think Derek Herlofsky (BU Goaltender from 1991-95) was the first player, he was a goaltender, and after a game, he said, “You know, what you do is great.” And I had no idea that the players were aware. And I think that’s when I knew.
I think, well, I don’t remember having this thought at the time, but it would make sense that I would have this thought that “Oh, if the team is getting something out of this, then I should do it,” right? If it’s giving the team inspiration or if it gives them a little bit of levity during the game, that’s what it’s about.
It was always about getting the crowd excited and energized to then pass that energy on to the team. I’m not gonna say that I have influenced any goal, but it makes my hair stand up. It gives me goosebumps when the Terriers score within a minute of a performance. It’s great.
Can we go back to your retirement performance in 1998? What did that look like, and how did it come about? Did it happen when you graduated?
I graduated from BU undergrad in ‘94, and so I might have had season tickets since ‘96 or ‘97. I just thought I had a nice three-year or whatever it was. It would’ve been 5, 6, 7 years at that point.
The only way I announced the retirement is I bought some yardsticks, and I printed out individual letters on each page, and stapled them to yardsticks, and it said ‘Sasquatch has left the building,’ and we held it up.
I don’t think that is as interesting as the reason I continued for years, for many years later, is that once I had children it was my gift to them and something they could remember their father by. Because I lost my father when I was seven years old, quite tragically. So it was important for me to leave a memory of me for my children. And now one’s in college, and one’s a junior in high school, so they’re certainly old enough to have all those memories.
But I’ve got a nephew who is eleven who has season tickets. It’s fun, it keeps me young, it keeps me young.
Besides your kids, how does your family enjoy this? What do people that know you as Brian and not as Sasquatch, what do they think of this?
Yeah, I can’t walk around Agganis Arena without someone whispering, and if they say something aloud, I give a friendly wave, a ‘How are you.’ It is fun when someone finds out, like my wife’s coworker finds out that my wife is married to Sasquatch. I always get a kick out of it, and that’s certainly happened.
Or that my brother meets someone who went to BU and ‘oh did you go to hockey games?’ I get a kick out of that.
I remember being at a bar years ago, and I think it was a UMass player who had graduated a few years earlier. I met him, and I don’t bring it up. But my buddy I was with [said], “Hey, if you played at UMass, you played at BU, you know this guy.”
How does your wife feel about this? Was there a time when she found out you were Sasquatch, or was she around at the time when you started to become Sasquatch?
Well, I was definitely around Sasquatch by the time we started dating. I don’t know what she thought of it back then. It probably amused her. I think it amused her parents.
My wife probably puts up with it because I’m such a good husband. But now she’s concerned that people are gonna be making fun of me because of how old I am, and she just doesn’t want anyone making fun of me.
Is there any point where you think you would just stop doing it? As you said earlier, you just want to enjoy a game sometimes. Is there ever going to be a point where you say, ‘It’s just not my thing anymore,’ or is this something you could picture yourself doing for how many years?
No, it’s not something I can picture doing for how many years. There is a point where I should stop. I just haven’t figured out what that is yet. But I can’t be old and gray doing this.
Yeah, like, ‘Let’s go see Grandpa do Sasquatch,’ maybe that would be the point.
I just don’t know when it will be, but I think that part of that is why I only do it a couple times a year. You know? Big games or special cases because that’s what I want to do.
Someone will always say to me, “We’re going to need you tonight, Sasquatch,” because that’s the way it used to be, but I don’t answer those calls anymore.
But it’ll just come naturally, and it’s at a point where I don’t know that people will notice. I think a lot of times people will notice, and they’ll come up and say, “How come you’re not doing it anymore” or whatever, “You haven’t done it in a while.” But I don’t think the students know.
For years when [the Daily Free Press] would do the hockey preview, my picture would be there. Like, “One of the things you have to look out for is this guy.” But people aren’t picking up FreePs the way they used to.
I think people will look back at it and say, ‘Remember when,’ and I mean definitely, that thought crosses my mind when my time on this earth ends. I would like to think they make an announcement. Growing up, I wanted to be a rock star, so this is my rock star, right. This is how I’m gonna be remembered, and it’s a good way to be remembered.
Maybe another reason not to retire is because someone could try to become Sasquatch in your place.
I mean, I think the important thing that any super fan needs is this quote that I came across a few years ago. I was reading Bob Ryan’s Sunday sports column…the article was about what makes sports so special, and it was written in the aftermath [of] a couple years ago [when] the New Orleans Saints got really hosed in a playoff game by a really really bad call late in the game.
The gist of the column was that…sports gives him something that [other things] don’t. It’s this excitement of this unknown.
He quoted [someone] who said baseball is the most important thing to me that doesn’t matter.
And so I took that quote, and I said Boston University hockey is the most important thing in my life that, at the end of the day, really doesn’t matter.
But someone said, “yeah but for you it does matter,” but because of how I’m integrated into the experience as Sasquatch, which I’ll take as a compliment. But I still have to wake up and go to work. Kids, family, other obligations, but it is part of my job, the fabric of who I am is BU hockey and I think that’s an important thing to have if there were to be another Sasquatch or really any superfan.