Each time a friend from home asks to come visit for Slope Day, I give him the same advice. Slope Day is overrated. Come for the Harvard game. Nothing shows the character and spirit of Cornell students like the atmosphere in Lynah Rink when the Crimson come to town.
The Lynah Faithful is getting a fall semester treat this year; the Red has typically played Harvard at home in the spring. Regardless of its place on the calendar, this Saturday’s contest represents an opportunity for Cornell fans to flock to Lynah and show their true colors.
The building will be loud, and upwards of 4,000 students, faculty and townies will line the bleachers at Lynah, donning sweaters, scarves and bomber hats that light up the building in the carnelian and white. Most of the chants that echo through the rafters will be the same ones that always do. But for those of us who spend our weekends at Lynah from October until March, there will be a little more passion, and a little more volume in the words as they emanate from the seats this Saturday night.
In recent decades, Harvard has been Cornell’s biggest hockey rival. This is common knowledge among the student body, even those who know little about the school’s athletic programs. The teams meet twice each year in the regular season, but given each program’s status as a conference powerhouse, postseason meetings have also been frequent. Most recently, the Crimson bested the Red in the ECAC championship game last year.
While that may add fuel to the fire of this year’s matchup, head coach Mike Schafer ’86 does not exactly have retribution on his mind.
“Losing the championship game was disappointing,” Schafer said, “[but] the motivation of wanting to win is so much greater than revenge.”
Revenge might not be on Schafer’s mind, but it is certainly on mine and the rest of the fans who traveled to Lake Placid for the conference final last season. A rivalry with postseason history is one that is by nature intense all year round, and hockey is the ultimate spectator sport. These two inescapable facts are what combine to make the Harvard game one of the most special days of the year on this campus.
The Harvard game represents something special for the players, too. Playing a tough rival is always a challenge athletes are keen to undertake. But doing so in front of the beloved home fans is what makes all the difference.
“The Lynah Faithful, they’re our seventh skater,” said senior forward and co-captain Alex Rauter. “Especially in a big game like Harvard, that’s going to be our extra momentum.”
The Harvard game is a crazy atmosphere, and the Faithful will be there on Saturday to show their support in what is sure to be an arena teaming with energy and cacophony.
But Lynah will be full of something else, too: fish. Hundreds of fans will sneak fish in their pant legs, sweatshirt pockets and jacket sleeves, and hurl them onto the ice.
This is certainly a fun tradition, but it is one that comes with expectations from the players and coaches.
“It’s a great tradition,” said Schafer, who, as a former player for Cornell, knows how enjoyable it can be to watch those in the crimson and white get pelted by deceased sea-dwelling creatures. “But I don’t like when the fans throw goldfish or Swedish Fish or tuna cans.”
It’s important for the Faithful to heed Schafer’s advice. The Harvard game is a great event for us to celebrate as students and fans together, but the excitement should never be such that it interferes with our beloved team’s chance of success on the ice.
Thus, be sure not to throw any Swedish Fish, tuna cans or any other fish-like item that could damage the ice or potentially harm a player. And despite the Red’s nearly-perfect penalty kill, resist the temptation to throw fish during the actual game, something that could put the team at risk of a delay of game penalty.
Above all, don’t lose sight of what makes the Harvard game so special. In some ways, though we might not like to admit it, Cornell is inferior to Harvard. This is something that many of us have accepted and in some cases embraced.
But the ice is the ultimate equalizer. This is the one day a year where Harvard comes to our house, on our terms. For 60 minutes, six Harvard students at a time have no choice but to hear it from us without reprieve, regardless of what the scoreboard, or any other objective measure, has to say about it.