September 15, 2003

Thousands Wait in Line for Hockey Tickets

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One of the most highly anticipated events of the Cornell year was again marred with controversy this past weekend, as over 2,000 students lined up for the chance to purchase hockey season tickets Friday afternoon. This line, originating on Alumni Field, was the longest in history, according to Gene Nighman ’81, director of athletic tickets and events.

Despite an official announcement last week that the line would not begin until 4:45 Friday afternoon by Nighman, students began waiting as early as Wednesday evening in anticipation of the distribution.

“It’s definitely gone smoother than ever in terms of time it started until now,” Nighman said Saturday night.

There appeared to be a different opinion among those waiting in line though.

“I believe that it was a little more organized last year. I don’t understand why there’s not a police officer here when it’s only an hour and a half before the actual line starts,” said Dan Schudroff ’05.

Around 4 p.m. Friday, several students began to rope off a section along the fence of Alumni Field adjacent to the Biotechnology Building. These students, led by Gabe Heafitz grad, did so in an attempt to control the traffic at the front portion of the line. Heafitz drew notoriety among the crowd with an impromptu speech he delivered urging students to join together in preventing others from entering the front of the line late in the day.

“Now that we have the rope up, if anyone crosses that rope,” he said. “I don’t care if its your friend, I don’t care if it’s my mother. If she crosses this rope, I want you to look her right in the eye, and say, ‘Simone, not on my watch.'”

In addition, students near the front of the line loudly berated perceived intruders as the unofficial line began to lengthen to the far side of Alumni Field.

For the most part, students seemed willing to cooperate with self-appointed line leaders such as Heafitz. There was, however, a fair amount of dissension to these same individuals.

As the number of students in line increased Friday, some fans began to compile an unofficial list of those waiting in line. This attempt failed early Friday afternoon, as an unidentified student, pretending to add his name to the list, took the list and ran to a car waiting on Tower Road. The student was pursued by at least three line waiters.

Other students expressed tremendous frustration at the fact that those who arrived closer to the pre-announced start time of 4:45 were turned away.

The students controlling the line were also met with some resistance from others on the line.

“I don’t understand who these grad students are who are going through here trying to police it,” Schudroff said.

At 4:45, the front of the line shifted to the door behind the Ramin Room, and line numbers were distributed by the Cornell University Police Department to any student who was able to squeeze into a single-file line around the fence, This distribution was done regardless of the order in which the students arrived at the line.

Line numbers were given to the first 800 people on the line, after which students were turned away.

“We gave out a card holding a spot in line, and that prevented anyone from budging the line,” explained Nighman. “It was a little token that if you didn’t have this, we wouldn’t give you a line number.”

Each line number entitled the holder to purchase up to two tickets, which left those beyond the 800 student cutoff to case the line looking for students who planned to only purchase a single ticket.

Throughout the remainder of Friday evening, ticket office employees shifted students waiting outside at Alumni Field to inside the Ramin Room, where they would spend the night.

Once inside, many students spread out chairs and coolers, while others laid out blankets and pillows to relax. Within an hour of the Ramin Room opening, a handful of living room couches and futons were sprinkled around the room. Even more televisions and stereos were powered by long extension cords throughout the room.

Some televisions were connected to VCRs, others to DVD players and the rest to video game systems. A hockey theme pervaded many of the televisions, with The Mighty Ducks playing on one television and hockey video games on several others. Many students opted for popular movies, such as Gladiator or Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

After the first line check, approximately 7:00 p.m., groups of students seemed to settle into their own routines. Lots of dinner deliveries were made, which left a large pile of pizza boxes and take-out containers around garbage cans placed around the Ramin Room.

“We probably delivered 30 orders to the fieldhouse the first night alone,” said Tim Carman, a D.P. Dough employee.

Cornell hockey fans seem to have a preference, “I’d say the Buffalo Zone was the most popular with that crowd,” Carman added.

A Sports Illustrated photographer circled the room, occasionally snapping photos of students for an upcoming issue.

Simultaneously, a band that featured a saxophone player and some acoustic guitars opened their set with a rendition of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition.” The band played most of the time before the second line check at 9:00 p.m.

After the third line check at 11:00 p.m., the crowd was allowed to leave before the checks resumed at 8:00 a.m. the next morning. Some students chose to spend the night instead of rising early to return the Ramin Room.

The first line check on Saturday occurred just after 8:00 a.m. Ian Wang ’04 had the early shift for his group of friends, “it was actually pretty nice in there early in the morning. It was really quiet since there wasn’t as much action as the night before.”

Saturday unfolded much as Friday evening ended, with students settling into routines of watching various movies and playing card, board and video games. For much of the day, a bake sale was run along the side of the Ramin Room by Cornell cheerleaders. Members of the women’s hockey team also circulated throughout the room selling hockey t-shirts to raise money for their team.

Line checks continued roughly every two hours throughout the day.

Around 2:30 in the afternoon, the men’s hockey team performed a skating demonstration on special treadmills for the crowd. Senior captains Ryan Vesce and Ben Wallace were introduced to an appreciative audience by head coach Mike Schafer ’86. The captains, in turn, introduced the rest of the team, which then dispersed to shake hands and pose for pictures with the crowd.

The displeasure that permeated the line on Friday had largely abated by this point, and the crowd waiting in the Ramin Room was marked by decorum and calm.

“From everything I’ve heard, the kids here have been pretty pleased with the process,” said Nighman.

The greatest issue that arose from the weekend was how to manage the large number of people who arrived earlier than the pre-announced official start time.

“Cornell Police is not willing or authorized to disband any student gathering that is basically peaceful in nature. For the most part it was peaceful, and it was a large gathering,” said Nighman. “The people who were getting in the line at [approximately] 4:30 [and] 4:45 were in effect causing a disruption in the student gathering. They were the people that the police would have had to take action against. It’s a real complex situation.”

Many students, however, felt that the best way to solve the problem of the crowd was to just arrive early.

Andrew Keisner ’05 was
the first person on line for the second consecutive year. He arrived at Alumni Field at 6:00 p.m. Wednesday, and was asked to leave Thursday morning.

“People were complaining that it didn’t happen the way that Cornell publicized it. If they would have had faith and stuck it out, they would have not have been stuck at the back of the line,” he said.

Archived article by Owen Bochner