November 6, 2001

Starting Right

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Last week the NBA season started and all 29 professional teams took to the court within the first two days. A little over three weeks before then, all 30 professional hockey teams hit the ice almost simultaneously. Four weeks before that, all 31 NFL teams were ready to kick off the season except for the Arizona Cardinals. And way back last April, every baseball squad started its respective schedule within a two day span.

When the Cornell men’s hockey team took the ice last weekend for its season opener, however, it was in a different situation than any of the above teams. Its opponent, the University of Alabama-Huntsville, came to Lynah Rink for its seventh game of the season — not including exhibitions. It had already played half a dozen games in its regular season.

Even with the handicap, the Red was able to handle the Chargers easily. UAH is about 100 years, two national championships, and a section A and B full of anaphorics behind the Red. In other words, the difference in schedules didn’t matter too much.

Come next weekend, though, it might prove more challenging. When perennial ECAC foes Union and RPI climb East Hill, both teams will bring highly battle tested squads with them. RPI has played four games while Union has five under its belt.

Even more daunting is that RPI’s season opener loss to No. 5 Boston University came on Oct. 13. That is two days earlier than the first official Cornell hockey practice.

Union started its 2001-2002 campaign two days ahead of the Engineers, traveling to Notre Dame for a back-to-back series and carries a 3-1-1 record.

So not only do these teams have more playing experience, they have experience against squads that carry a little more prestige than the undisciplined, unmannered and unproven Alabama team.

But why wouldn’t the ECAC — to ensure a level playing field have all of its constituents begin their seasons on the same date? Every other conference has a uniform day when play starts.

The problem is the Ivy League mandates when Ivy League schools can start team practice, when they can hold exhibition games and when they can start their regular season.

This isn’t a problem in most other Ivy sports where the incentive for winning conference games is an Ivy League title. With the exception of football, other sports team who don the Ancient Eight crown get a myriad of spoils — i.e. invitations to NCAA tournaments.

But in hockey, an Ivy title don’t mean nothing! Just ask Yale which won the honor last year. No one cared. It’s the ECAC ranking that matters. And Harvard, Cornell, Dartmouth and Princeton all finished in front of the Elis last March. In fact only the abominable Brown Bears finished below Yale.

At the ECAC tournament which matters even more since the champion receives an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Only Harvard, Cornell and Dartmouth had an chance come Lake Placid time.

But despite the Ivy League’s current success, why do the League’s presidents give the remaining six ECAC teams head starts over their own university’s teams? Do they want them to lose? How can they prevent the six league schools from even starting practice on the same date that the other ECAC teams face nationally ranked teams. It’s bad enough that we aren’t allowed to hand out athletic based scholarships — both Clarkson and St. Lawrence can. Do we need another disadvantage?

Sure, the Ivy players have promising futures ahead of them with their superior education, but they shouldn’t be punished for attending academically rigorous schools. Chanting “safety school” can console only so much.

Archived article by Amanda Angel