When did the hockey program at Cornell University take its first steps toward greatness? Many will tell you that it was in 1963 when Athletic Director Robert Kane hired Ned Harkness away from RPI. Some may argue that it was in 1995 with the hiring of legendary alumnus Mike Schafer in the hopes of returning Cornell hockey to greatness. A daring few may contend that it was in 1900 when Cornell began sponsoring varsity hockey. Or, perhaps 1957, when the University resurrected an abandoned hockey program from a decade of non-existence. All are likely partially or wholly insufficient suggestions.
The greatness that is Cornell hockey began on Beebe Lake. It began not in the program's first season of existence, even though greatness was likely on the minds of the first skaters to don carnelian-and-white sweaters, but between 1909 and 1911. The stories of that era have been all but forgotten to modern fans. Some dispense with the entire era as "a footnote." A more devoted enclave of the Lynah Faithful recall it as another year of trivia to be memorized and appreciated. However, the epoch is far from trivial. It is the bedrock that underlies a culture that demands greatness from Cornell fans and teams alike.
College hockey emerged in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. The placement of Cornell University in Upstate New York and the cultural diffusion between Ontario and Upstate New York during the development of hockey exposed Cornellians early to the emerging new sport. The first recorded hockey game occurred in March 1875 in Montreal. As early as the late 1880s and 1890s, The Cornell Daily Sun reported that Cornellians had tremendous interest in building a rink and starting a team. The emergence of Cornell hockey seemed all but inevitable.
Several false starts and uncooperative weather in Central New York delayed the creation of such a team. The desire and passion never waned. Cornellians would pine for the time when their peers or they would represent their University on the ice each Winter. It would arrive soon enough, but Yale became the first hockey program in the United States in 1896.
Cornell began its hockey program in 1900. It took the ice for its first competition in 1901. Several collegiate hockey programs emerged between Yale's exhibition game in 1896 and 1901. The emergence of many programs demanded the creation of an overseeing athletic body that would regulate competition. The extant collegiate programs formed the Intercollegiate Hockey Association in 1899. The first Stanley Cup was awarded only seven years before the IHA began crowning its intercollegiate champion.
The Bulldogs of Yale won the first three IHA national championships in 1900, 1901, and 1902. The program on East Hill tried to find sure footing. Cornell was not a member of the IHA in its first season of competition. The Big Red earned a 3-1-0 record over its first two season. The lone loss occurred at St. Nicholas Rink in New York, NY. The opponent for that contest was eventual national champion Yale. The Elis throttled the Central New Yorkers, 5-0. Cornell was competitive, but not yet elite.
The hockey program at Cornell along with that of Dartmouth applied for admission into the IHA on November 30, 1906. The application of Dartmouth was accepted. The application from Ithaca was denied. The Cornell squad was disappointed. Its members endeavored to improve the stature of their program through competitive schedules against programs not yet admitted into the IHA. The Big Red went 6-0-0 over the two seasons immediately following its rejection by the IHA.
An undefeated record over two seasons was impressive. What was astounding was the fact that Cornell skaters outscored their opponents 32 goals to no goals. Defense had found a home in Central New York. The Big Red held opponents scoreless through two entire seasons. The IHA no longer could deny the quality of Cornell hockey or the University's commitment to the sport. Cornell was admitted to the IHA in 1908.
Harvard had won four consecutive national titles after Yale and Princeton won its first in 1907. Cornell was uncoached, as it had been since its second season, in its first season in the IHA. The Cornell skaters registered a 2-0-1 record against the University of Pennsylvania to open its first season in the IHA. However, the Big Red quickly imploded losing its next four contests including a 6-3 loss to Yale and a one-goal loss to Dartmouth. Mediocrity was not tolerated at Cornell. The University would not abide the embarrassment of a popularly supported program at the hands of other great universities. Cornell needed to correct course.
The University knew that it wanted to hire a full-time coach for the hockey program during the 1909-10 season. The midpoint of the year arrived without the University's finalizing a contract with any such coach. The team conducted its Beebe-Lake practices on December 21, 1909 as its last preparation before a trip to Cleveland, OH in late December. The Cornell squad departed for Cleveland from Central New York. The University completed negotiations with a coach to lead Cornell's team while the team was in transit.
Cornell University hired Talbot Hunter of Ontario to lead the University's hockey program. Hunter was a well regarded figure among the professional hockey ranks. Hunter before his hiring as head coach of Cornell hockey was a professional player and coach who contributed to some of the most successful Canadian teams of the era. Legends in the margins of the annals of Cornell hockey history surmise that Talbot Hunter was accepted as Cornell's hockey coach when the University mailed him a train ticket from Toronto to Cleveland to join his new team. Hunter would join his team mid-season at Elysium Rink.
Talbot Hunter intercepted his team on New Year's Eve in Cleveland. His first day of practice with his team showed little promise in the next day's result. Yale defeated Cornell, 5-3, on New Year's Day. Two days later, the Elis downed Ezra's boys by the same margin again. A faint glimmer of hope may have been apparent in the third meeting between the teams of the third-oldest university in the United States and New York's land-grant institution. Cornell won the third contest three goals scored to one goal allowed. It was Cornell's first victory over the three-time national champions in six attempts.
Hunter's magic and strategies may have begun to take root in a brief stint with his new team. A deplorable schedule of travel that had the Big Red skaters traveling from Cleveland to Manhattan, back to Ithaca, and then back to Manhattan all within four days's time took its toll on an improving Cornell team.
Talbot Hunter coached his first contest at St. Nicholas Rink on January 5, 1910. Princeton won the one-goal affair. A return trip to Ithaca followed. Hunter led the carnelian and white against future archrival the Crimson for the first time in either program's history on January 8, 1910. This game again occurred at St. Nicholas Rink. The Harvard hockey program decimated the team from the aspiring great American university.
The season was not for naught. Talbot Hunter managed to improve the team markedly with just under a month's rest between contests. He placed an extreme emphasis on conditioning. His players were required to run from the Gymnasium, four years before ground broke for Barton Hall, to Beebe Lake as a warm-up and cool-down from practices. He began building the success of his second season with recruiting then-freshmen to begin training for the upcoming 1910-11 season. Hunter hosted practices for individual assessments of shooting and fundamentals in the early morning and team-based practices in the evening.
Cornell returned to New York City in early February for a rematch with Yale and late February for a first-time meeting with Columbia. Hunter's skaters controlled both affairs. The Big Red defeated the Bulldogs and the Lions by a margin of five to one. Poor early season performances against IHA competition stunted the heights to which Cornell could climb later in the season. Nonetheless, in a mere two months, Talbot Hunter carried his team to a third-place finish in the IHA. Princeton, a team that Cornell played very closely, was the eventual national champion of 1910.
The 1910-11 hockey season began early for the era at Cornell. After a third-place finish, expectations were high. Many wondered what great things Talbot Hunter could achieve with his group of Cornellians if given an entire year and the sound foundation that he built just months prior. Hunter announced the first outdoor practice of the season on December 5, 1910.
Outdoor practices were well attended events. The allure and centrality of hockey to Cornell students was obvious. Throngs of fans bundled in layers of outerwear would line the banks of Beebe Lake to watch a glimpse of the spectacle that was their skaters racing down the ice. One must remember that the donation that endowed the creation of Risley Hall would not be given for several months. Hockey was the sole reason Cornellians trekked to the northern limits of campus.
Talbot Hunter oversaw 40 would-be players at the first outdoor practice who hoped to make the final cut for the 1910-11 team. Hunter ran his dedicated icers through two hours of drills. The weather was not yet cooperating. The next few days would witness the construction of a small, temporary structure that would serve as a locker room for the hockey team on the banks of the Lake. The construction of low-rising boards to frame out the playing surface waited until the ice was more solid.
Good news came in the form of meteorological forecasts that predicted that the 1910-11 Winter would be consistently cold. This would preserve the team's ability to practice Cornell's beloved sport. Other good omens appeared in early December. The play of seniors F. H. Crassweller, F. A. Haist, N. M. Jameson, E. B. Magner, and M. F. Warner, and sophomores G. L. Choran, A. L. Dean, E. L. Douglas, E. M. Scheu, J. D. Vincent, and W. C. Wilson impressed spectators and Talbot Hunter alike. Junior goal guard M. D. Vail drew much attention with his first performance on ice against shooters in months.
Hunter who organized most of his hockey activities from Barnes Hall addressed a crowd later in December. The second-year coach responded to the palpable interest in hockey at Cornell and sought to channel it into a competitive advantage. Talbot Hunter reached out to leadership and membership for a freshman squad. This move brought Cornell hockey in line with the practices of other competitive programs. Furthermore, Hunter emphasized the communal purpose of Beebe Lake when he stated "it is my purpose to have three rinks laid out on Beebe Lake, one for varsity, one for scrub, and one for freshman practice. If only two rinks are available, I will assign certain hours in which you may do your practicing."
Cornell's season began on December 30, 1910. The Big Red would compete in its first contest in Chicago, IL. The varsity squad squared off with the freshman squad in a well attended scrimmage on Beebe Lake before the varsity squad departed for Illinois. The varsity squad defeated the freshmen 14 goals scored to two goals allowed. Crassweller with noteworthy speed and finesse played brilliantly. His break-out rushes were joined with Evans, Magner, and Vincent. Cornell seemed ready.
The team departed for the Midwest with only nine players. The arrival of the team's competitive sweaters beat its departure by one day. Cornell on this one trip would play five contests. Three were against Yale at the Ice Palace Rink in Chicago. Cornell would confront the teams of the Case School and Western Reserve University at Elysium Ice Palace in Cleveland, OH on its return trip to Ithaca.
Hunter-coached teams continued their winning ways against Yale at the Ice Palace Rink. The Ithacans downed the New-Haven natives in three contests in four days. Cornell's success did not end there. Even though the teams of the Case School and Western Reserve University were neither admitted into the IHA nor did they play with the level of play prerequisite for admission, the Big Red's skill in utterly dismantling both teams in Cleveland was reassuring for Cornell's ambitions.
National media began to take notice of Cornell hockey as an institution with which to be reckoned. A thorough dismantling of Yale in three contests, nearly doubling the Bulldogs's offensive output, made hockey critics take notice of the team and program that hailed from Beebe Lake in Central New York. Something more impressive began to happen.
During the Christmas Break, Cornell undergraduates trained from their homes to Chicago to watch their beloved team square off against that of A. D. White's alma mater. Perhaps more shockingly was the way the Cornell alumni in the Chicago area flocked to witness the contests. Current students joined alumni of the young university in the Ice Palace Rink and Elysium Ice Palace to support the program of their common alma mater. Both venues were filled to capacity. "In both Chicago and Cleveland the team was warmly received by alumni and undergraduates, who packed the houses at each contest" remarked The Cornell Daily Sun. The Cornell community was galvanized, across time and region, by its hockey program.
Hunter's men outskated their first five opponents with considerable ease. The skills of Crassweller and Magner individually and in concert gave opponents little hope of victory. Reports indicated that "[t]he Ithacans were wonderfully fast." The Big Red appeared to put on a skills demonstration in both contests in Cleveland. An 18-1 drubbing of its opponents over two contests in Ohio proved Cornell was more than ready for its IHA season that could end in a national championship. Cornell hockey was ready to step out from the shadows cast by the programs of Harvard and Yale.
The expectations of the hockey season began to merit Cornell hockey's unassailable and enviable perch atop The Cornell Daily Sun above the fold. The Cornell campus waited with quiet anticipation for the Red's first IHA contest of the 1910-11 season. Ever a program for easy schedules, Cornell would begin its campaign for its first national championship against the defending national champions. Senior center Magner would lead Cornell as captain during the season.
Misfortune befell Cornell before the skaters departed Ithaca. The nine that brought Cornell so much early season glory in the Midwest needed to be supplemented. L. B. Smith fell ill and was admitted to the University's infirmary. Talbot Hunter tabbed Haist to replace him. Haist was known as a physical presence with a knack for open-ice body checks, but his speed was not equal to that of Smith in the defensive zone. This posed a challenge against the very fast and very talented Princeton team. Additionally, weather did not cooperate. Cornell was unable to practice before it left for New York City.
The attitude of the institutions of Cornell University and Cornell hockey were manifested in the opening seconds of Cornell hockey's first drive for a championship. Moments after the puck was dropped, carnelian sweaters darted into Princeton's half of the ice. Right wing Vincent rushed in on Princeton's Kalbfleisch and put Cornell up by one goal. The scoring drive came but 75 seconds into the contest at St. Nicholas Arena in Manhattan. Before Princeton could establish any form of its smooth-passing game, Magner blasted a shot that put the Upstate New Yorkers up by a two-goal margin.
Princeton began to establish its game and pressed into Cornell's end of the ice. The Tigers would be demoralized soon. Every time that Princeton penetrated the Big Red's zone, the physicality of players like Haist and Warner repelled the orange-and-black skaters. Frustrations boiled over for the Tigers as the first half lingered.
Kalbfleisch, the Tigers's goal guard, slashed Crassweller when he was about to tip another Cornell goal into Princeton's net. The penalty was called. Kalbfleisch was forced to serve it. Princeton replaced him with Blair while he served the penalty. Cornell's third and fourth goals were tallied in quick sequence after the slashing call. Magner and Vincent both notched their second goals of the contest for those tallies.
The last half of the game closed with few incidences. Cornell spent most of the final frame playing down one or two players because the officials began penalizing the Big Red for its physical play. Vail between Cornell's pipes stood tall and kept Princeton from scoring for most of the contest. The Tigers would break the deadlock off of an assist from Kay in the closing minutes of the contest.
This display of skill on 66th Street in New York City drew attention to what was rising from the frozen waters of Ithaca. The New York Press reported that "[t]he Ithaca forwards skated rings around the Tigers, and the Cornell cage men put up an air-tight defense...Princeton players were bewildered by the speed and elusiveness of Magner, Crassweller, and Vincent. The Cornell defense fully measured up to its attack, and so gloriously did Vail defend his net." After the first contests on the IHA schedule, Cornell remained the only team that had played that had not lost.
Cornell's next victory in the season would arrive again at St. Nicholas Rink. Talbot Hunter's penchants for beating the Elis would pay off again as Cornell put four goals against Yale as it had against Princeton a week prior. The Bulldogs would fare one goal better scoring two on the often indomitable Vail. Cornell went through the game with no penalties and no claims of roughing against it.
Skillful passing and strategic examination of the ice led the New-York Tribune to note that "the Ithacans seemed to have mastered [good team play]." The Tribune might have become the first periodical to characterize Cornell hockey as working with "machine-like precision" that evening in January 1911.
The headlines on Tuesday January 23, 1911 did not boast of the victory over Yale. It was apparent what Cornellians wanted. It was obvious what they expected. And, it was even clearer from whom they wanted to exact it. The front page of The Cornell Daily Sun pronounced in bold, exaggerated typeface that the "Harvard Game May Decide Championship."
Cornell and Harvard had met only once. It occurred during the previous season. The Crimson eviscerated the Big Red by a five goal-to-nothing margin. Cornell was an institution founded in contradistinction to the values and practices of the older establishment. It was its hockey team's opportunity to bring its influences to bear on the skaters of Harvard.
Cornell and Harvard advanced through the IHA schedule with two victories and no losses. The common opponent that both teams defeated was Princeton. The Crimson downed the Tigers by one goal more than had the carnelian and white. Harvard's other victory came against Columbia. Cornell and Harvard implemented similar styles of play. Harvard dominated possession and territorial play in all of its early IHA outings.
The advantage that Cornell possessed? Goaltending. No goal guard in the IHA had proven as durable or skillful as Malcolm Vail. The campus on East Hill began to place palpable weight on the importance of Vail's play to ultimate victory over the Crimson. Cornell returned all of its starters from its first trip through the Midwest just before the Harvard contest.
The game that likely would decide the national championship of the 1910-11 season was played at Matthews Arena, then Boston Arena. Cornell would travel nearly 350 miles for the weighty contest while Harvard would grapple in its home rink. Harvard played the deciding game on the ice on which its skaters practiced.
The home-ice advantage on Boston's artificial ice surface did little to hold off the Cornellians. Vail held off a bevvy of challenges from the Cantabs. The two future rivals exchanged goals. The two halves of regulation would not be enough to decide the contest of national relevance. Cornell and Harvard were tied at two apiece.
Cornell proved that despite the advantages that tilted in Harvard's favor, Cornell was the equal or better of the Crimson. The overtime stanza began. The minutes drudged by as each team exchanged chances. Harvard, accustomed to dominating territoriality with its "stick artists," was reduced to equality against the precise machinations of Cornell hockey. Ten minutes elapsed in the additional frame. Cornell's Vincent pounced on an opportunity and buried the puck into Harvard's cage. The sophomore scored what the Cornell team and fans assembled knew was likely the marker that would make Cornell national champions.
Cornell had two tests remaining in the season. However, after downing the formidable programs of Princeton, Yale, and Harvard, a feeling of inevitability dwarfed the challenges that Columbia and Dartmouth seemed to present. The task fell to Talbot Hunter to keep his second-year team motivated. If Cornell lost its remaining contests, defeating Harvard would be for naught as the Crimson could rise past the Big Red for the national title. Hunter dedicated himself to ensuring his team would not relent.
Cornell returned to St. Nicholas Rink in New York City on February 10, 1911 for a meeting with Columbia. Hunter had achieved his goal. The team seemed more focused and disciplined than it had even in its performance that dismantled Harvard on the Crimson's home ice. All-American rover Crassweller connected with right winger Vincent for the first goal of the evening. Cornell struck less than three minutes into the contest.
Vincent solved Columbia's Washburn again for Cornell's second tally of the game. The Lions of Morningside Heights attempted many breakouts successfully against the Big Red, but the poise and skill of the Cornell defense defused all of their chances and outlet rushes back into Columbia's zone. Cornell's captain, Magner, lifted the Big Red to a three-goal lead before the first half expired. Magner's first tally of the evening was scored off of a beautiful breakaway during which he split Columbia's Bates, Lovejoy, and Trimble before depositing the puck into the Lions's twine.
Magner scored again in the second half of the contest. Cornell retreated to defend its four-goal lead for the remainder of the contest. Columbia leveled far superior chances in the second half against Cornell. Cornell's defense and Vail were more than equal to the task. Cornell and Vail left St. Nicholas Rink with their second shutout of the season.
Harvard entered its final contest with a lone loss. A Crimson victory and a Red loss would tie the two in the IHA championship standings. Avoiding a tie with Harvard was not the only thing occupying the thoughts of the skaters on East Hill. Perfection drove them at this point. Cornell returned to Matthews Arena for the final game of the season. Championship glory and unprecedented success were what it sought.
Crassweller, Magner, and Vincent set the tone of the final contest early. Cornell was cheered on by 2,000 spectators that crowded Matthews Arena. Current undergraduates at Cornell and alumni dominated the number of attendants that evening like similar crowds had in Chicago, Cleveland, and New York. They were mesmerized as Vail made Dartmouth's best salvos look "foolish." Dartmouth rallied after Cornell's Magner and Vincent put the Indians behind by two goals early and Dartmouth traded starting goal guard McCarthy for Norris. Raucous applause from fans was regularly reported.
Magner's last-seconds goal to end the first half pleased the Cornell fans in attendance. Dartmouth resolved not to go quietly. The skaters from New Hampshire increased the physicality of the contest. This tactic proved ill-advised as it was Dartmouth, not Cornell, that needed to request a timeout four time for unconscious players. Cornell grew complacent in Dartmouth's end.
Dartmouth center Stucklen retrieved the puck and raced down ice unopposed on Vail. No Cornell skaters could arrest the impending offensive opportunity. Vail was not equal to Stucklen's shot and a momentary team lapse denied Vail his third shutout of the season. Crassweller, Magner, and Vincent responded to expand the lead back to three goals. Scheu and Warner played more disciplined and limited the quality of the few opportunities that Dartmouth had on Vail.
Cornell realized that it had a meeting with destiny. As time wound down, Cornell did not relent. The puck stayed in Dartmouth's and Norris's end. Crassweller from the corner of the playing surface at Matthews Arena sent the puck from a tight angle across ice toward the net. The puck slipped between Dartmouth's goal guard and the post into the net. Vincent appeared to score moments later, but officials waived it off. It was little disappointment to the Red skaters. They were national champions.
Cornell's victory that evening on February 18, 1911 was historic. The Big Red became the winningest team in the short history of college hockey. Cornell completed the season undefeated and untied. A flawless 10-0-0 record belonged to Cornell during the 1910-11 season. Cornell was not the first undefeated, untied team in the IHA era of college hockey. Harvard had achieved that feat in 1903. Cornell was the first to win as many games and the first program to equal a decade of wins in a season.
The skaters of Talbot Hunter were the best conditioned, most disciplined, and most skilled collegiate hockey team assembled to that point. So well trained and focused were the members of Cornell's 1910-11 team that Talbot Hunter never made any in-game substitutions during the entire season. His team was great. Its skaters trusted in their preparation.
The same seven Cornellians who began each contest competed every minute for the eventual victory. This was in contrast to the frequent substitutions that the Big Red's opponents made to relieve fatigue and attempt to reinvigorate their teams. Hard-fought and long contests did little to dilute Cornell's product. Cornell scored 20 goals during the IHA Championship series. Magner and Vincent each contributed nine. Crassweller, the rover who served often as the catalyst for scoring opportunities, notched the remaining two goals. Vincent became the highest scoring winger in the young history of college hockey.
The odds were starkly against the 1910-11 team. The members of that team were forced to play each contest on the road. Further exacerbating the challenges for the enormously successful team is the fact that Talbot Hunter and his skaters practiced and planned on natural ice. All contests of the regular season and the IHA championship were played on artificial ice surfaces. The perseverance and hard work of the 1910-11 Cornell hockey team is distinctly Cornellian in nature. It overcame grave odds to achieve greatness.
The odds overcome and the skill demonstrated were not lost on national media. The Boston media, long naysayers of Cornell hockey as a product of New York and resistant to singing the praises of the squad as had the media from New York City, relented and came to an astonishing conclusion after the Dartmouth game. The Boston hockey intelligentsia "pronounced the Cornell team as the best seen in the Intercollegiate field in years." Many programs that wished to safeguard their perch as all-but-guaranteed national champions felt a chill of foreboding emanating from Central New York.
This fear of eclipsing dominance creating irrelevance for proud programs was not a new phenomenon. Harvard, Yale, and Cornell were the Big Three of academics and athletics in the late 19th and early 20th Century. The respect between these institutions was so entrenched that Harvard and Yale invited Cornell to participate in the first and inaugural Harvard-Yale-Cornell regatta in 1897. Cornell won the three-way race handedly. In protest and fear of Cornell's dominance, Harvard and Yale decided that Yale, the second-place finisher, actually won the contest and that Cornell would be invited no longer.
This theatricality followed Cornell's indomitable performance in the 1910-11 hockey season. The Harvard Crimson in September 1911 cautioned that "[s]kating has always been one of the chief pastimes at Cornell, and inasmuch as they have a great many Canadian students there with whom hockey is the favorite sport, it looks as though the Ithacans would carry off the honors in this particular field for a good many years to come." Harvard, a four-time IHA national champion that won in 1909, feared what might come if Harvard continued to compete for national titles against Cornell. The fact that Hunter and his outgoing seniors began preparing a team for a nation-title defense the day after they returned to campus exacerbated fears. As what happened to the Harvard-Yale-Cornell regatta happened to the IHA with Cornell as a member.
Columbia was ejected from the IHA at the close of the 1911-12 season. The Lions were reported to be playing with players that were not students at Columbia University. The IHA did not permit this as a violation of the spirit of intercollegiate athletics. Suspicions began to be directed at Harvard for similar practices as well.
The last season that the IHA functioned as a healthy regulator of intercollegiate hockey was the 1911-12 season. Two national champions were crowned over 1913 and 1914, but the seasons lacked the oversight and regulation that had been expected since 1899. The IHA that had ceased to exist effectively one season after Cornell won a national championship would cease to exist entirely after the 1913-14 season.
Two decades with a lack of centralized control over college hockey followed a flight from the IHA that Cornell's dominance partially prompted. In 1934, the Quadrangular League was formed and its champions exchanged the Hobey Baker Trophy. The Trophy was named for valiant American war hero and Princeton alumnus, Hobey Baker. Baker had been a freshman at Princeton University when Cornell won the 1911 national title. Harvard had regained the good graces of Dartmouth, Princeton, and Yale by 1934. Cornell had not.
This era that was a direct result of Talbot Hunter's and Cornell's improbable perfect 1910-11 season shaped the history of Cornell hockey. Without a governing body to ensure regular match-ups, Cornell developed closer ties and rivalries with programs within New York. Cornell reignited its series against Army in 1914. Cornell's long-standing series with Colgate began during the 1920-21 season. The first ice encounter between Clarkson and Cornell occurred in 1923. Cornell reopened its series against RPI in 1924 after 16 years of neglect. St. Lawrence first became a fixture on Cornell's schedule in 1927. Union College traveled to Ithaca, NY in 1928 for the first installment of that series.
Cornell defines itself as the embodiment of Upstate New York hockey or, at the very least, as having a connection with the hockey culture of New York. This facet of Cornell's identity would not exist had Talbot Hunter not led his skaters to dominance over the best programs of Cornell's more natural peers. This onetime apparent misfortune is a happy coincidence. It made Cornell hockey what it is today. It was not just the culture born in the aftermath of the 1910-11 season that affects Cornell greatly, but also that which was experienced during it.
With each passing victory on distant ice surfaces, Cornell fans grew to expect greatness and anticipate championships. Even though the 1911 IHA Championship was the first championship that Cornell had won, it was apparent that the devotion of Cornell hockey fans demanded success, and that their coaches and players would deliver it. Hunter, Crassweller, Evans, Haist, Magner, Scheu, Vincent, and Warner were the first to deliver. The institutions of Cornell hockey, even if only on some subconscious level, have not been the same since that season.
The 1910-11 season has become overshadowed. Harkness brought unequaled greatness to East Hill in another era. Schafer instilled pride and expectations back into a program from Lynah Rink that has known four championship coaches. As important as both are, neither created a tradition on their own. They built upon what existed.
Some have dispensed with the Beebe-Lake era as a footnote. Those who do so are partially correct. The outdoor era was a footnote in that it is the underlying substantiation that impels programs at Cornell hockey to greatness. Few hallmarks define Cornell hockey. They are skill, hard work, and support of zealous fans. All three were omnipresent during the 1910-11 season; eight years before Ned Harkness was born.
There is a sad irony in the fact that the perfection of the 1910-11 season has been forgotten. A mere two days after Cornell claimed victory against Dartmouth to clinch the 1911 national championship, editors of The Cornell Daily Sun wrote of the splendid members of the 1910-11 team and their accolades that "[t]hey stand as an example for other minor and major sports to follow: they deserve all the honor that is due to a model team for surely their season has approached the ideal, and may be set down in history as a time most pleasing to remember." It has been a time forgotten for far too long. It should be no longer.
Even though their names or the positions they played may be alien at first, it is important to celebrate what they achieved for the institution of Cornell hockey. They were Cornellians who elected to represent their University in hockey. They were not recruited to lace up skates for an organized team. They were students like any other. It was through their hard work and resolve that they brought Cornell its first national championship in hockey. They incited the passions of fellow students and alumni to travel to distant cities to manifest their support.
The names of Crassweller, Magner, Vincent, and Vail may not be as memorable as those of Dryden, Lodboa, Nethery, Schafer, Nieuwendyk, Moulson, or Scrivens, but they should be no more forgotten. It is true that Harkness and Schafer have lifted more championship trophies for Cornell hockey than have any other coaches, but it was Hunter who hoisted the first. Harkness patented "the Big Red machine" and Schafer engineered "the dream-crushing, soul-devouring juggernaut," but first it was the 1910-11 team that executed with "machine-like precision." Teams of Harkness and Schafer may have precipitated The Line, the Lynah Faithful, and Lynah East, but the seeds of all were sown in December 1910 in Chicago as Talbot Hunter and nine Cornell skaters prepared to bring hockey greatness to Cornell for the first time.
F. H. Crassweller, Evans, F. A. Haist, E. B. Magner (C), E. M. Scheu,
L. B. Smith, Malcolm Vail (G), J. D. Vincent, M. F. Warner