The capacity of Lynah rink is 4,267. A Cornell men’s hockey sellout is not in itself an unusual occurrence, but each scholastic year features one game in particular where the sellout crowd just seems larger than in all the others.
And this past Saturday, in that annual occurrence, junior defenseman Alec McCrea’s game-winning goal with just over two seconds remaining capped off an exhilarating comeback victory for the Red over its archrival Harvard. Those 4,267 fans, and dozens more packed around the glass, certainly got their money’s worth.
As I wrote last week, the Harvard game is one of the most special days of the year for the Cornell community. On that day, we agree to put aside the notion that Cornell isn’t an institution built around its athletic programs or that school spirit is characteristically low, and we show up to support the men’s hockey team and put on a spectacle that rivals any other in the world of collegiate sports.
We agree to do all that. But only on one day.
We won’t agree to do that, for instance, this coming weekend, which will see the Red take on conference opponents St. Lawrence and No. 8 Clarkson, the latter matchup with perhaps the best team in the conference. But we should.
Standing at 6-0, following a huge victory over its biggest rival, this Cornell men’s hockey team has earned the highest level of attendance and esteem from the Lynah Faithful. They have met every challenge with poise, and in the toughest, most demanding moments of this young season, the team has delivered with all its might.
The Cornell players are representing this institution with heart and soul, and we owe them heart and soul in return. The only remaining undefeated team in the country should not be struggling to fill its arena, period. If you ask me, they deserve the level of enthusiasm and energy that the Faithful gave them on Saturday every single weekend.
Head coach Mike Schafer ’86 previously expressed his concern that fans were arriving late at games, a noteworthy problem as players cherish the moment their names are called while the crowd showers them with praise as they skate from the goalline to the blue line.
“That time when the player comes down, that’s the exciting time. When you skate on the ice and you’re welcomed by the Lynah Faithful,” Schafer said before the Harvard game. “That was what I came to Cornell for [as a player] … I would love [for] our fans on a regular basis to welcome our team to the ice. They’re excited to see our fans.”
Schafer’s request is far from unreasonable. The intensity from the other side of the glass has a positive effect on the team’s morale and performance on the ice. Watch a post-game press conference or a pre-game media day on YouTube. The coaches and players express their love for the Faithful with every chance they get.
This isn’t lip service for these guys. They really care to see the building ripe with emotion as they battle it out.
Lynah Rink has a reputation around the ECAC and the entire country as a building synonymous with character and spirit. I am sick and tired of hearing that Cornell isn’t a sports school. Cornell is a hockey school, whether you like it or not. And it’s time we started to not only live up to that expectation, but exceed it.
Clarkson is not Harvard, and I get that. The Harvard rivalry is built, in part, on an inferiority complex. There is no such air of superiority associated with Clarkson. Most of you probably don’t even know where it is. But if the building looks and feels against Clarkson even half as animated as it did against Harvard, the team’s chances of winning will be so much greater.
Cornell received four first place votes in the most recent USCHO poll and five in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine. This team is getting a ton of national respect, and a victory this coming Saturday against another top-10 opponent would put this team one step closer to being a true national contender.
The Lynah Faithful can join this team on a journey to excellence. But only if we decide to magnify the intensity more than once a year.