January 25, 2007

Lynah Rink: Revised Rules of Engagement

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By the first period of Cornell versus Yale this past weekend, it was gone. Just like that — Poof. Bam. Puff of smoke. Disappeared.

Bulldog junior forward Will Engasser was sent to the box for tripping and in a single moment, the athletic department’s years of hard work finally came to fruition. Hands were waving, Engasser’s head was bowed in shame and the sin bin’s door was slammed shut. Every one of these steps followed the path of normalcy inside the storied confines of Lynah Rink, yet what immediately ensued was a far cry from anything the Lynah faithful would consider ordinary.

“Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, see you ___________. You goon!”

Oh, the painful misery of the awkward silence — right between the you’s: crickets. Swearing was annihilated. Chants and tradition, ironically, dishonored.

Here’s where the debate surrounding cursing and fan behavior gets tricky. At first, we feel outrage. We know that here, on East Hill, ice hockey is big business. It is football at Notre Dame and basketball at UNC. Lynah brews our college sports fan experience and we see our established tradition as being “the rowdy and somewhat free spirited maniacal fan” slipping away.

We hate this, because for once, we are scared. As Cornell hockey fans, we’ve been trained to never be scared: Lynah is our turf and every player in opposition to the carnelian and white deserves to suffer the consequences. We have to pay almost double the price for season tickets in comparison to last year and yet we are afraid of being kicked out for our tradition’s sake. We want to carry the torch but watching our fallen martyrs stand up and get their season tickets revoked is too much to handle. We feel as if we are letting our alumni faithful down. We declare Shenanigans.

Jumping on the other side of the fence, I’ll be the first to admit that there is nothing funny or creative about cursing or accusing other teams of “sucking.” From the outside, we look like Colgate fans, except Colgate fans cuss and we curse. If anything, it’s sad. We’re an Ivy League institution and yet, we’ve cultured a tradition that centers on how Brown goalie Dan Rosen’s “mother called and she said ‘you suck.’” But then again, it’s our tradition.

But what if we could rewrite our tradition? The old adage states that in an ideal world, “We don’t root against Harvard (or any opposing team), we root for the Red.” Obviously, being the college fan, there is always a special place in the heart for heckling the opposition. I, for one, like to think that sentiment comes naturally with competition. And with competition, it comes natural with sport.

However, it must be noticed that we are a member of the Ivy League. Regardless of what we want to say because of two decades of tradition, we know that we hold ourselves to a higher standard — something that we might be getting away from as of late. That’s ultimately why we are here. We are smart, creative and should have higher expectations for ourselves regarding our behavior.

When I went to my first game inside Lynah during the 2004-05 season, chants were brilliant — Harvard goalie Dov Grumet-Morris’ girlfriend’s phone number swirled amongst the crowd. Before second period, immediately after the 617 zip code, the Lynah faithful was in his head. It was that same game where I heard the chant “Ironic, we invented the Heimlich: YOU choked.” It came after Harvard surrendered a three-goal lead to Maine at the previous year’s NCAA tournament. Remember, physician Henry Heimlich was a Cornell grad.

For some reason, this season, we seem to have become too ordinary while trying to differentiate ourselves from college hockey. Our creativity has been replaced with a sense of despair stemming from ushers throwing out members of our raucous Cornell family. I’m not saying all chants are bad — screaming the names of those who score after goals and assists is brilliant. “Safety school:” brilliant. All I’m saying is that everyone knows “poop is Brown” — even toddlers. However, what four year olds don’t know is that graduates of Brown are called “Brunonians:” for those of you up to date on American popular culture, take notice that Sasha Baron-Cohen is currently in the midst of making another alter-ego movie in the same mold as Borat and Ali G.

Come next November, Cornell and Boston University will renew an old rivalry when the two former ECAC rivals from the 1960s and 70s meet inside Madison Square Garden. Finally, the Lynah chant “Screw B.U., Harvard, (insert any opposing team) too,” will have some relevancy. What still won’t have any business being a part of the chant, however, is the three lines after that, which back in the innocent days used to be “rough em’ up, rough em’ up, go C.U.” Instead of viewing the abolishment of swearing inside Lynah as negative, we should applaud it for adhering to higher standards. If anything, this gives us an opportunity as fans to be creative, smart and most importantly — reestablish Lynah rink as the most feared place to play in collegiate hockey. But this time for all the right reasons.

Tim Kuhls is a Sun Assistant Sports Editor. That’s Kuhls Baby will appear every other Thursday this semester.