December 2, 2003

A Time-Honored Red Hockey Tradition

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Two images stick out in my mind from last November’s Harvard-Cornell game at Lynah: Noah Welch falling down at the Harvard blue line, giving up a 2-on-0 breakaway and a Cornell goal; and my friend sneaking a huge bell fish into the rink by taping it to his leg. The amount of discomfort he endured was quite high, but it was all worth it (maybe he’d argue otherwise) when he finally tossed the mammoth fish onto the ice.

Throwing fish before the Harvard game is a time-honored tradition and this year marks the 30th anniversary of the custom’s creation. The whole thing began after Cornell upset top-ranked Harvard at Watson Rink in January 1973. During the game, a clever Harvard student tossed a dead chicken at Cornell goalie Doug Elenbas ’73, mocking Cornell’s Ag school. This didn’t sit too well with the Lynah Faithful, who responded by hurling fish at the Crimson during the Cornell-Harvard contest the following month at Lynah Rink, making fun of Boston’s fishing industry. A live chicken was also tied to the Harvard net, and while that tradition is gone, the fish-throwing lives on.

Last year, the University tried to kill this tradition. Mary Beth Grant, the Judicial Administrator, wrote in The Sun last November that fish throwing would no longer be allowed, after a Harvard player was struck in the face mask during the national anthem before the Red’s 6-3 drubbing of the Crimson on Feb. 1, 2002. Grant asked everyone to leave the fish at home, and her request, of course, was not followed.

When the Harvard players skated onto the ice last November, they were greeted with the customary fanfare of fish. Clearly, the students were not intimidated by Grant’s attempt to squash tradition, and I hope the administration has learned its lesson. What does it say about our school when it wants to put a damper on the biggest campus sporting event of the year?

Our annual tossing of fish was the second-ranked fan-thrown projectile in all of college sports in a recent issue of Sports Illustrated on Campus, and is something to be proud of. You can bet that Harvard coach Mark Mazzoleni wishes that his team had half the support that the Red has.

While throwing fish at the beginning of the game is strongly encouraged, do not attempt to throw more fish before the start of the second and third periods. The refs will be all too happy to give Cornell a bench minor penalty, which happened two years ago after someone tossed a lobster among other seafood onto the ice before the second period. Of the past four Cornell-Harvard games, all but one has been decided by one goal, so you don’t want to be the idiot that could cost the Red the game.

Of course, the fish throwing won’t be the sole focus of the evening. The Red looks to gain some momentum going into the heart of its conference schedule, and what better way to start that string than by beating two of the top teams in the conference.

If you told me at the beginning of the season that the Red would still be winless at Lynah at this point of the year, I would have laughed. Hopefully, the team will take care of business against a very good Brown team on Friday night, and come into Saturday with the home-win monkey off its back. There’s no understating the importance of Saturday’s game. Last season, the only difference between the Crimson and the Red in the ECAC standings was Cornell’s two wins over Harvard.

While Cornell has avenged its previous losses to Harvard with a big win at home, this time, it will be the Crimson out for revenge. Not a single Harvard player has forgotten the team’s 0-3 showing against Cornell last year, including the overtime loss in the ECAC championship game. Noah Welch certainly hasn’t forgotten his “defensive miscue.” On a lighter note, I would like to personally thank Mr. Welch for one of the most amusing moments I have ever seen at a sporting event. Not only did his poor skating skills lead to the game-winning goal, but it also got the entire crowd back in the game.

If you want your choice of the best seafood in Ithaca for the game, you’d better head down to Wegman’s as soon as possible before they sell out. Also, be sure to hide it effectively, as the ushers will be checking you before you enter the rink.

Archived article by Jonathan Auerbach