The Racker Rivals Big Red game will take center ice tonight at 7:00 pm at Lynah Rink. More appropriately one should view it as an all-star game of Cornell and college-hockey greats for a more than deserving local cause. Racker Centers are dedicated to improving the educational and overall quality of life of those with special needs in the Central New York area. Their mission is to ensure that all members of Central New York, Cornell's host community, feel welcome and included in all aspects of culture and life of their corner of Upstate New York. Their mission is a great one and Cornell hockey's involvement should be lauded. This event will present not only a great spectacle, but will raise awareness, create opportunities, and help support one the region's most beneficent community organizations.
The hockey will not be too shabby either. Taking the ice will be former Cornell hockey players including Wayne Stokes, Mike Schafer, Joe Nieuwendyk, Doug Derraugh, Danielle Bilodeau, Jeremy Downs, Jon Gleed, Dan Pegoraro, Dave McKee, Jan Pajerski, Brianne Schmidt, Topher Scott, Taylor Davenport, Michael Kennedy, Chris Fontas, Matt Hedge, Tyler Roeszler, Jordan Kary, and Sean Whitney. Joining the Cornell hockey alumni will be coaches Ben Syer and Edith Racine, goaltending coach Matt Michno, and skate-sharpening extraordinaire Sean Schmidt.
Now, most media have almost myopically emphasized the alluring NHL accolades of celebrity participants Joe Nieuwendyk and Mike Richter. The savvy Lynah Faithful know better. To us, Nieuwendyk is much more than three Stanley Cups and a gold medal won. He is an alumnus who left a year too soon, but fell in love with the Cornell University community so much that since his first year in the NHL ranks he has owned a constant home on Cayuga Lake and given generously to the communities of Central New York.
Nieuwendyk's number has hung from the rafters proudly since February 2010. He recalled fondly in his Hockey Hall of Fame induction speech how Mike Schafer, a junior captain, took him as a talented freshman under his wing. In return, he helped propel Cornell to its seventh Whitelaw Cup in 1986 during Schafer's senior season. In Cornell's 1986 NCAA Tournament victory over Denver, Joe Nieuwendyk contributed two goals and an assist on the game-wining goal in the victory in Colorado. His playing legacy ended at Lynah Rink as he tallied hat tricks in each of his last two games for Cornell. Cornell won both games with his final goal in carnelian and white being the completion of a natural hat trick with the game-winning goal.
The Lynah Faithful know how Nieuwendyk connects to Cornell University and Central New York as a legendary player and one-time captain. What some may not know is how Mike Richter is connected to Cornell. The legendary Wisconsin Badger, who now serves as the namesake for the award given to college hockey's greatest goaltender, has trained at Lynah Rink during some of the off-seasons of his career. It was Nieuwendyk who invited Richter to join others to practice at famous Lynah Rink. Even though the Badgers have never braved Lynah Rink, one of their famous netminders will tonight.
What about the other Cornell greats that will take the ice? Some enjoyed careers even more decorated than that of Joe Nieuwendyk. Three distinct eras of Cornell hockey are represented among the former players who will take part in the Racker Rivals Big Red game: 1973-76, 1982-91, and 2001-12. Wayne Stokes, the lone representative from the first era, served as captain of the Big Red during its 1975-76 campaign.
The group in the aggregate represents 13 Whitelaw Cups won by individuals. That number explodes to 49 ECAC Hockey tournament champions if one includes the current women's hockey roster that is rumored to participate. Among the 13 Whitelaw Cup champions are three two-time Whitelaw Cup champions Jeremy Downs, Dan Pegoraro, and Jon Gleed.
A member from one-third of Cornell's ECAC Hockey Championship-winning teams will take part in the contest tonight. The four championship years represented are 1986, 2003, 2005, and 2010. Postseason success for these legends was not limited to the East Coast. The Cornell squads on which these alumni played accumulated nine wins in the NCAA Tournament. Perhaps more importantly, teams to which these skaters contributed notched 29 victories against Harvard.
Not excited yet? Are you sure your veins course carnelian? Students can imagine and alumni can reminisce about great events in Cornell hockey history as their program's legends and other greats battle for on-ice supremacy.
Sean Whitney will take the ice for his first competition at Lynah Rink since his eating of the famous rink's ice. Recent alumni will not soon forget his goal against Union for Cornell's last championship.
Dave McKee brought Cornell not only a championship, but battled eventual national champion Wisconsin through three overtimes in the 2006 NCAA Midwest Regional Final a year later. Will McKee fare better in his own barn if squared off against another Badger in Richter?
Who cannot think fondly of the overtime-winning goal that Topher Scott scored against Clarkson in 2005 continuing Cornell's rush to its 11th Whitelaw Cup?
Doug Derraugh's antepenultimate outing in a Cornell sweater witnessed his assisting on the game-winning goal for Cornell's 1991 NCAA Tournament victory over Michigan. Will he still have his famous scoring touch that carried him to a 66-point, 30-goal senior season placing him among the top-ten all-time point producers for the Big Red?
Then, the question everyone wants answered: Will Mike Schafer treat the Faithful to a reenactment of his pregame routine from his famous December 10, 1983 game that The Harvard Crimson characterized as "a special flourish, cracking his stick over his helmet and shaking the pieces furiously at the Crimson?" Considering his wife, alumna Diane Schafer, is on the other bench, we know that she will be spared Bill Cleary's fate. These questions need answers. Find them. Tonight at Lynah Rink.
Placing all anticipation and zeal aside, it is important to remember that this event is at the heart of what it means to be a Cornellian and member of the Lynah Faithful. This event is about camaraderie and sense of family. Cornell University forges us into a cohesive whole. Our University, as a land-grant institution and an extension of Ezra Cornell's vision, must remain committed to enriching the lives of those in our surrounding community. That is what this event does.
So, be there tonight, not just for the great hockey and the great memories that we have to share and make, but because it will give you a chance to make a small gesture through extending an open, welcoming hand and greeting those who too often are ignored into one of our homes. Far beyond championships and unwavering loyalty, that is what it means to be Lynah Faithful and a Cornellian.
Where Angels Fear to Tread is a blog dedicated to covering Cornell Big Red men's and women's ice hockey, two of the most storied programs in college hockey. WAFT endeavors to connect student-athletes, students, fans, and alumni to Cornell hockey and its proud traditions.