Amidst the flying fish and the storied acrimonious rivalry, who would have thought that family values could emerge? But for junior Aron Kominos-Smith, tomorrow evening's epic meeting with Harvard is just as much about father-son bonding as it is athletic entertainment at its finest.
The N.J. native has always been a devout hockey fan, and upon arriving on the Hill he quickly became a part of the famed Lynah Faithful. Kominos-Smith developed such a passion for the carnelian and white icers that he invited his father to make the journey to Lake Placid for the ECAC tournament last year.
It didn't take long for the elder Kominos-Smith to understand his son's quasi-obsession with Cornell hockey. It also helped that father Elliot's first game came against Harvard in the playoffs -- a vintage college hockey game that ended 5-2 in Cornell's favor. So naturally, when Aron invited his father to Ithaca for tomorrow night's engagement, he jumped at the chance.
"My dad's so excited he has already packed, and he's been ready to come since yesterday," Kominos-Smith said.
An architecture buff throughout high school, the now-junior said he never applied to the Cornell of Cambridge. Rather, he traces his bitter distaste from his first trip to Lynah East a.k.a. Bright Hockey Center.
"There was this old senile guy who sat in front of us," he recalled. "He kept calling Cornell a second-rate school and heckled us about how we could get in. Finally, one of my friends turned around and said something like 'because sir, we studied your era. How was it during the Civil War anyhow?'"
From that caustic exchange, the mere word Harvard began to conjure virulent states for Kominos-Smith.
"After the sweep in North Country -- which was awesome by the way -- I haven't been able to fall asleep thinking about Harvard," he said, noting that he spends his sleepless moments trying to devise witty jeers to direct at the Crimson players.
"I told my dad the latest he could get here is 5:30. He's all excited about going down to Wegman's to get the fish. I told him they were having fish specials," the avid fan said, noting that he would be leaving a class early on Friday to 'prepare' for the game.
Elliot, a graduate of City College of New York, had long shared stories of the fabled days of the school's basketball team and its rowdy fans -- including one particular hot dog seller who was so vociferous that he had a technical foul called against the home team due to his behavior. Naturally, the elder and junior Kominos-Smith began to share stories of fan fervor, and Elliot's first game in Lake Placid was the icing on the cake. Before he ended his story, Kominos-Smith made sure he added a few choice words for everyone's favorite argyle-wearing boys from Bean Town.
"I hope they really enjoyed that win because it's not going to last long.
"That pile-up, or whatever it was, they were doing at the end of the game at Harvard -- well they better have gotten it all out there because that will be the last time they get the chance to do that."
Revenge isn't only on the minds of the players. Some of the Lynah Faithful who were caught attempting to "smuggle" fish into last year's game have illusions of grandeur this year. Take one of the most flamboyant fans the Red has -- senior Brian Herman -- a long time season ticket holder.
"I tried to get a fish in last year. I had it down my pants but it was too big, and it looked like a brain tumor growing from my leg," he noted.
Herman made his first road trip to Harvard's Bright Hockey Center this past November, and like the hordes of others that endured the five and a half hour journey to Cambridge, he left with a bitter taste in his mouth.
"I was angry after the last game. It was a travesty that we lost at Harvard, but I really think tomorrow's game will be the best college hockey game of my career. This game is really big because we finally cracked the Top-10 again," Herman added.
So just how does Herman plan to evade the always stringent Lynah security and ensure a safe entrance for his guppy?
"I was thinking of hiding the fish in Lynah the night before. I even considered hiding it in the toilet bowl," he said, adding that he personally found the whole fish-flinging tradition to be revolting.
"I can't stand the smell of raw fish," Herman reasoned. But the senior has a mission that he hasn't been able to accomplish previously.
"I can't wait to try to hit one of their players," he said.
For some fans the enjoyment of the Cornell-Harvard hockey hate fest is generational. Just ask junior Marc J. Seibald, whose father Benny attended every Red-Crimson battle during his days on the Hill.
Seibald, a government major, is currently studying at the Cornell-in-Washington program. But 300 miles and four states could not separate the Larchmont, N.Y. native from his favorite ice hockey club.
Before he even departed for the Capital, Benny offered to use his frequent flyer mileage so his son could travel to Ithaca for tomorrow's game.
"My plane leaves tomorrow at 12:55 and I should be there by 4:30, with just enough time to get ready," the younger Seibald said. "I'm coming to Ithaca for the express purpose of attending the Harvard game. I will be at Brown, too."
Seibald says the root of his disgust for the Crimson comes from his encounter with now famed former Harvard Crimson sports columnist Mike Volonino, who wrote a scathing piece about Cornell and its fans.
"I have my jersey all laid out already and I'll be wearing it tomorrow all day. When I get back I'll probably listen to some Gary Glitter," he said, adding that he is still in the works of planning "concerted efforts to smuggle fish into Lynah."
Just what does Seibald have up his sleeve?
"I was thinking of putting the fish down my crotch but since I have no more room there, I am thinking of tying them to the middle part of my leg."
The fish smuggling isn't the only advance planning Seibald has done.
"I've been resting my voice the last few days. It was pretty sore, but I will be ready to let it out tomorrow night."
Archived article by Gary Schueller