The "Section O Old Guys" graduated from Cornell in 1981 and were members of the pep band.

Boris Tsang / Sun Photography Editor

The "Section O Old Guys" graduated from Cornell in 1981 and were members of the pep band.

November 24, 2019

Making Annual Return to Ithaca, Class of ’81 ‘Old Guys’ Earn Celebrity Status at Lynah Rink

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Corrections appended.

If you come to Ithaca every year, call yourselves the “Old Guys” and engage in enough tomfoolery at Lynah Rink, it turns out you can become local celebrities.

Gary Thompson ’81 and his three college pals were in a restaurant on Saturday when an excited fan approached their table.

“‘Are you the old guys?!,’” Thompson recalled the stranger saying. “‘We’ve been working up the courage to come say hi.’”

The “Section O Old Guys” made their annual trip to Lynah Rink this weekend to watch their beloved Cornell men’s hockey team, support the Big Red Pep Band and reminisce about their days on The Hill.

The four pep band alumni and members of the class of 1981 have been coming to Ithaca for a weekend — usually the weekend before Thanksgiving — for 22 years. They’re easily recognizable from their spot in Section O across from the band’s section. And they’ve formed a special camaraderie with the band over the years. The four come prepared with signs giving the band song requests. And Saturday’s game ended with a “thank you Old Guys” chant from the group’s friends across the arena.

Gary Thompson '81, second from right, was the leader of the band and is now the leader of the "Old Guys."

Raphy Gendler / Sun Sports Editor

Gary Thompson ’81, second from right, was the leader of the band and is now the leader of the “Old Guys.”

Thompson is the leader of the group and now helps organize his friends’ annual trip. The team even has customized “Section O Old Guys” shirts to help them stand out.

Thompson, David Dilzell ’81, Mark George ’81 and Dan Metsa ’81 (the conductor of the band back in the day) come from all over the country — two from New Jersey, one from Virginia and one from Chicago — but make sure to come together every year to cheer on the Red. It was a good weekend for the group, which watched the Cornell football team blow out Columbia and saw wins over Quinnipiac and Princeton at Lynah.

“We wanted to be able to reconnect [and] enjoy the fun of being on campus and of being at Lynah,” Thompson said.

The alumni cause a little bit of trouble, but say they’re mostly well-behaved. They come prepared with signs encouraging Cornell to “Kill, Red, Kill” when down a skater and telling the team to “ram it down their throats.” They were especially proud of their  “Quinnipiac suQkes” poster.

A lot has changed in the almost four decades since the “Old Guys” graduated — two have had children graduate from Cornell — but the joy of being at Lynah has stayed the same.

The group lamented that there were empty seats despite Cornell being the top team in the PairWise Rankings. But the “core traditions” — from the band’s repertoire to throwing newspapers on the ice to verbally harassing opponents and referees — have remained the same.

This post has been updated to state that the Old Guys’ “Quinnipiac SuQkes” sign was in fact not confiscated and to clarify that Dan Metsa ’81 was the conductor of the Big Red Pep Band.