March 28, 2011

Seniors Each Leave Lasting Mark at Lynah

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Like any book or story, each hockey season has an ending. Unfortunately for the Red, that ending came last weekend in Atlantic City, N.J. after another disappointing loss to the Yale Bulldogs.

As coach Mike Schafer ’86 ushered his team off the ice at Boardwalk Hall, senior co-captain Joe Devin gave the crowd one last reluctant look. It seemed Devin wanted more out of his last season at Cornell — that it would not be just another one for the record books.

Unbeknownst to Devin, his wish came true already. The men’s team went far beyond expectations this year and fought its way to a third consecutive ECAC championship appearance when most of us did not give them much of a chance. For me, it was an unforgettable rollercoaster with a resilient group that refused to give up in its dimmest days.

Senior defenseman Mike Devin, whose shots from the point are some of the most powerful on the team, earned six goals and 16 points this season — a career-high record for him at Cornell.

Senior forward Tyler Roeszler improved the most this year, finishing with 25 points and 12 goals — more points and goals than his previous three seasons combined.

Senior co-captain and forward Patrick Kennedy mustered a total of 49 points during his tenure at Cornell — following in the footsteps of his older brother Michael, who was also co-captain of the team during the 2008-09 season.

Joe Devin impressed fans the most: earning a total of six game-wining goals, three of which were in overtime, finishing off with a career-high of 26 points and 17 goals.

Last, but not least, is senior forward Dan Nicholls, a favorite of the Lynah Faithful and a feared enforcer among league foes. Nicholls hit harder than ever this season — battling two epileptic seizures on game night and earning a career-high six assists — he will be sorely missed come October.

As we send off another group of seniors with best wishes for their future success, it is also time for us to reexamine the future of Cornell’s hockey program. Like most post-seasons, fan chatter is mainly dedicated to identifying this season’s problems and coming up with suggestions for future improvement; however, I want to use the rest of this column to discuss something more pressing.

Student enthusiasm for men’s hockey games has experienced a downward trend in the past few years and there seems to be no initiative to stop it. Although I would not qualify these times as “dark ages” for the Lynah Faithful, we have certainly fallen leaps and bounds from the peaks of years past.

Many alumni cherished the sense of camaraderie and creative chants that Lynah Rink produced on Friday and Saturday nights because they were some of their best memories on East Hill. Nowadays, it is common for student sections to be half empty during some games, even though season ticket holders reserved all the seats.

And herein lies the problem: the unreasonable cost for season tickets, which was $262 this year for undergraduates, had the most negative impact on the atmosphere at home hockey games. Prices have increased to a level where only those who can afford them will attend, not those who are the most school-spirited or interested in the sport. Eight years ago, the tickets were around $100 for students, which means prices have increased by 12.8 percent annually, while inflation was averaging less than 2.5 percent per year.

This was also the second year in a row that student season tickets were not sold out on “the line.” Even with a more efficient web-based distribution system this year, the athletics ticket office had to send e-mails one week into the regular season asking Big Red Sports Pass holders to buy some unreserved seats.

Discretionary spending of $262 is a hefty price for any college student, even if he or she can afford Cornell’s tuition. These rising costs are mainly caused by the decrease in Student Assembly by-line funding in the past few years, which only subsidized $5 per student ticket per hockey game this season.

S.A. Resolution 37 asks the University to charge each undergrad $216 in activity fees next year, with only $10 per student allotted to athletics. Considering that 1,350 undergrads attend 20 hockey games per season (not counting the other athletic events that are free via Big Red Sports Pass), more people utilize these $10 on the activity fee budget than most other items listed on the budget.

Additionally, consider the past contributions that alumni athletes and loyal fans have made to the University though their involvement in Cornell sports. Shouldn’t we contribute more than just 10 bucks to this integral part of campus life?

I will admit, college hockey has a niche market that will never bring as much income or attention as basketball or football on the national stage; however, the increasing cost of attendane for student is shrinking the already small community of fans, parents and players who are very closely knit.

Being a Lynah Faithful — along with trudging up Libe Slope and pulling all-nighters in Olin or Uris — is an experience that brings generations of Cornellians together. I cannot count the times when alumni, with whom I have nothing else in common, connected with me over hockey — it identifies us. Hopefully, that is worth more than just $10 to you.

Original Author: Andrew Hu