Ben Parker / Sun Assistant Photography Editor

Head coach Mike Schafer '86 released an open letter on Twitter.

March 15, 2020

Schafer ’86: ‘Nothing Has Been More Painful’ in 34 Years of Coaching

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Head coach Mike Schafer ’86 has broken his silence following the end of Cornell men’s hockey’s season.

In an open letter posted on Twitter on Saturday, Schafer explained how his team, which achieved the No. 1 ranking and appeared poised for a postseason run, reacted to the news of the season’s end due to COVID-19 outbreak.

“Yesterday, it was very difficult to speak to our team and watch young men cry as their chance of achieving their dreams had disappeared,” Schafer wrote. “In my 34 years of coaching, nothing has been more painful than yesterday’s meeting.”

As the COVID-19 outbreak began to spread across the country, Cornell took the measure of enforcing a no-spectator policy for the ECAC quarterfinal.

Soon after, the cancellations and withdrawals snowballed. Harvard withdrew from the ECAC Tournament, and Yale followed shortly after, sending the Red to the ECAC semifinal and reseeding the tournament.

But the trip to Lake Placid never materialized as the ECAC Tournament was canceled, along with other major conference tournaments. From there, the NCAA made the decision to cancel its tournament, ending Cornell’s season before it even saw the ice for the playoffs.

“In sports, the season starts with an unknown,” Schafer wrote. “Everyone invests with all their heart and soul, without knowing what the end result will be. That result can hurt, due to the disappointing fact that there are so many uncontrollable factors in every season’s journey.”

With a star goaltender in junior goaltender Matt Galajda as well as four lines which contributed across the board, Cornell fielded one of its best teams in recent memory.

“Working for many years with different teams, you start to get a sense of which teams are destined to accomplish great things,” Schafer wrote. “This is one of those teams.”

The Red’s season ended with a bevy of accomplishments, including an Ivy League Championship, an ECAC regular-season title and its fourth straight bid to the NCAA Tournament. But with the slew of cancellations, Cornell never had the opportunity to end its Frozen Four drought or Whitelaw Cup drought, which date back to 2003 and 2010, respectively.

“Despite not being able to have this opportunity, I am very proud of what our program accomplished this season, and of the season as a whole,” Schafer wrote.