September 1, 2009

Intramural Hockey Axed in Budget Cut

Print More

Anyone who picked up the Daily Sun yesterday would have had a tough time missing the quartet of headlines on the front page warning of the impending doom facing Cornell as a result of the nation’s recent economic downturn. Inexplicably missing from yesterday’s outcry — the cancellation of intramural ice hockey.
It is undeniable that the latest casualty to campus-wide budget cuts — intramural ice hockey — is the headliner of a long list of “things-administrators-have-decided-are-less-important-than-other-things-and-will-no-longer-be-funded.” And yet, I only found out about this a couple of days ago.
The crushing news came via the following note at the bottom of the intramural calendar. “INTRAMURAL ICE HOCKEY: Due to several cutbacks across the entire Athletic Department, we are not able to offer ice hockey this year. We have explored many strategies to continue to offer this extremely popular activity, but unfortunately the operation costs and staffing needs are simply too high at this time. If you’d like to add your name to a list of participants who would like to have this sport added in the future, please send us an email.”
Outraged, I sent that email. Then I decided it was also necessary to deem the cancellation of intramural ice hockey a “Backcourt Violation” (I never thought I’d actually say that in a column) and investigate why Cornell can no longer afford to play hockey.
The retirement of 424 employees last year as part of the university’s Staff Retirement Incentive package didn’t help. Heading up that list was Dave Nulle, A.K.A Zamboni Dave, the night manager at Lynah. Also gone is former Director of Intramural Sports, Todd Jackson.
“In the spring, we were able to keep ice hockey on the list of 09-10 sports by cutting back on some of our other operational costs,” Jackson said in an email. “Ice hockey is one of the most expensive programs to run but we felt that it’s popularity among our participants and student staff justified keeping it in our budget. Unfortunately, the operational costs and recent staffing restrictions (my resignation and the retirement of the evening manager at Lynah) have made it unrealistic to run ice hockey.”
Jeremy Pickard, the Interim Director for Intramural Sports, confirmed that the costs of finding a sheet of ice in Ithaca during the winter were simply too high.
“The number one reason that it was cut is the simple fact of budget cuts going on across campus right now,” Pickard said. “With [Dave Nulle’s] retirement and hiring freezes going on across Cornell, it was just a simple matter of not having a night manager [at Lynah] for the time we play until — 1:30 in the morning.”
Trying to cope with the fact that I wouldn’t be on the ice this year unless I find a magical pair of Wayne Gretzky’s old skates, pull a Lil’ Bow Wow (a la the classic “Like Mike”) and start at center for the Red, the news only got worse when I asked Pickard what he foresaw happening in the future.
“There are a lot of things up in the air,” he said. “Do I see it happening in the near future? No.”
No more intramural ice hockey? And no more Zamboni Dave!? If all hiring is frozen, how come we can’t just play ice hockey on that?
I am struggling to cope with the fact that we can afford disc golf doubles and squash, but we — Cornell University — can’t afford hockey. Just as the bluebird is the state bird of New York, hockey is the sport of Cornell. No other sport commands the audience, maintains the traditions, or has as many Canadian athletes as does C.U. hockey.
When I chose Cornell, the main reason was that it was a big school with endless opportunities. In my first two years here, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that those opportunities extended as far as being able to play hockey in Lynah Rink on the same ice as our beloved Red.
I had never played a game of ice hockey before coming to Cornell, so when I scored my first career goal last semester on my co-rec team, I created a memory that will be one of the fondest from my time in Ithaca — and perhaps my last from the ice.
It is unfortunate that money has to come between the students and recreational sports at a time when Cornell refuses to take money from such “lesser” things as housing, food, and education. As administrators begin “Reimagining Cornell,” I’d like them to consider how I’ve re-imagined it without intramural hockey.
I suppose all good things must come to an end, but when it ends prematurely, you can’t help but be left with a sense of wanting more. Unfortunately, it looks like my feeling of unfulfillment might stay with me and the rest of the student body through graduation. When I asked Pickard one final question – as a junior, will I ever get to play ice hockey in Lynah Rink again? – I received the following response; “Honestly, probably not.”