October 17, 2006

Students Do Time in Line for Men’s Hockey Season Tickets

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On Sunday afternoon, the Ramin Room in Bartels Hall looked like the living quarters of most students across campus.

Pizza boxes, takeout bags and miscellaneous boxes overflowed from the trash cans; pillows and blankets were thrown every which way; and extension cords snaked across the artificial turf from outlets to laptop computers and a single TV, where a group played Madden. For 20 hours — from 10 p.m. Saturday night to 6 p.m. Sunday evening — over 1,200 Cornell students called the Ramin Room home, sleeping, eating, and living in “The Line” for the chance to buy season’s tickets for men’s hockey games.

“It makes you wonder: are you a true fan?” said sophomore C.J. Slicklen. “It’s good. It’s a tradition, and lots of schools don’t have that anymore, [so it] is awesome that they keep that here.”

This year, like every other, the ritual of doing time in The Line brought together fans of all stripes — from senior Ari Baum, who has only missed five games total in the his four years as a Cornell student, to freshman Kevin Ballentine, whose first love was football.

“I’m from the Midwest, and the only hockey out there is roller hockey,” Ballentine said. “But I’m used to extremely rowdy football games, and this is the only way to get that here.”

Ballentine’s attitude was echoed by many students in line who pointed out that the men’s hockey games are the only sporting events with sold-out crowds.

“The cheering section is like nothing else,” said senior Christine Tschiderer. “I think it’s the only sport at Cornell where you can feel like you’re at a big sports school.”

Even for Cornellians who didn’t plan to become fans, the lure of Lynah Rink proved irresistible.

“I didn’t really expect or want sports to be a big part of my college experience, but if you want to see competitive Division I sports, this is it,” said sophomore Tom Sosnowski.

Sosnowski was seated with classmate Jenny Murray in mesh-and-metal folding chairs, and the pair took a break from studying for a differential equations exam and an organic chemistry prelim, respectively, to reflect on how they arrived in this year’s Line.

“She went to a few games with us [last year], and we got her hooked on it,” Sosnowski said.

“I had no idea what it was going to be like [in The Line],” Murray said. “Sleeping here sucked, but other than that, it’s been pretty fun.”

The sleeping conditions were a common complaint, as sleeping bags and extra blankets were the only buffer from the scratchy turf for most. Some found comfort by hauling in air mattresses or inflatable chairs, but one group that tried to move in with a futon was told furniture was against the rules.

With the less than optimal conditions, students helped each other to stay fed and rested. Many students split shifts waiting in line amongst a group of friends, and food wrappers littered the room by Sunday afternoon.

“I’ve had a lot of food delivered to me,” said sophomore Laura Kuebler as she snacked on a small dish of vanilla Tasti Delight brought to her by a friend who had left The Line briefly. “I think it’s worth it. I love hockey, they’re great games. … It’s good that we have school spirit in at least one sport.”

Popular opinion was divided on how having the line on Homecoming embodied school spirit. Slicklen said he felt like there was a stronger school pride vibe in the line than at the football game Saturday afternoon, but Tschiderer reported that many people had given up line numbers Saturday night rather than miss out on Homecoming events to wait in line.

“People were like, ‘I have a number, but I just don’t feel like doing it,’” Tschiderer said. “That and the ticket prices went up. … If I weren’t a senior, I wouldn’t have done it.”

Tschiderer is a veteran of the line, as she waited in Barton Hall overnight in 2004 as a sophomore.

“It’s shorter [this year], which is nice, but it feels like it’s not as much of a rite of passage,” she said. “With this year, it’s weird with the lottery, so people who really, really care aren’t necessarily guaranteed better seats than anyone else. It’s better because you didn’t have to hurt yourself for the line number.”

Tschiderer was referring to the stampede at the doors of Lynah Rink last fall, a melee that prompted the computerized sign-up system and lottery system for choosing which line number would receive tickets this year. Another change for the 2006 edition was locking the doors of Bartels Hall at midnight to prevent late-night arrivals such as a friend of Baum’s who joined the line at 2 a.m. last year with a 30-pack of beer. According to ticket usher Dennis Griffin, this year’s line was very quiet and went smoothly, with ushers periodically selecting random intervals of line numbers for sign-in throughout the night and day.

Baum, who grew up in Ithaca, N.Y., spent the first 18 years of his life watching the Red across the ice from Section B and waiting for his chance to join the rowdy student section. He has waited in line for the past four years in order to realize his dream, and has become well-known among the Lynah Faithful for leading cheers with his cowbell at every game.

“It’s always special,” Baum said of the line. “My favorite part of it is that I never have to do it again. The most stressful part of my time at Cornell University has been the two weeks leading up to the season ticket process each of my four years here. Far and away my most stressful time, because I just got to be in B.”

For Baum, and everyone else in line, the wait will always be worthwhile, all for a chance to be in Section B.