Cornell University is not Cornell without hockey and Lynah Rink.
As developing Cornellians, there is one thing you will learn that our institution reinforces in you: never accept anything as writ without critical challenge. So, you not only may find yourself asking, you must find yourself asking, is hockey the sport of Cornell University? And, if it is, why is hockey the sport of Cornell University?
The intent of this writer is not to demean the traditions, successes, and fan bases of the other sports at Cornell University. The purpose is to state a reality. Cornell football has a proud tradition and Coach Archer has its current teams dreaming of reclaiming greatness. Cornell men's lacrosse perennially contends on the national stage. Cornell men's basketball has impressive recruiting and shows germs of being able to return the Big Red to the NCAA tournament. Cornellians should go experience those environments and support those teams. One thing will remain clear. Hockey is Cornell. Cornell is hockey.
Football. The athletic raison d'être of the Ivy League. Why is it not the sport of Cornell University? Well, regaling you with Cornell lore is one of the many services that we offer here at Where Angels Fear to Tread, so we will break you in now. Andrew Dickson White, co-founder and first president of Cornell University, remarked famously upon receiving word that the football team of the University was invited to play the team of the University of Michigan in Cleveland, OH, "I refuse to let 40 of our boys travel 400 miles merely to agitate a pig’s bladder full of wind!" Football never quite recovered. Students and alumni began to look elsewhere for a congealing escape.
The first students at Cornell University, your historical antecedents, arrived on East Hill just 28 years before Cornellians dreamt of a carnelian-and-white hockey team. The sport that such a team would play was even younger. In four years's time, Cornell played in its first intercollegiate contest and had its first undefeated season in hockey. Early American legends of ice hockey played at Cornell University including Jefferson Vincent of Buffalo, NY who led Cornell to a perfect season and national title in hockey in 1911.
The history did not end there. Fear not, the Big Red hockey team is not the Chicago Cubs of collegiate hockey in its need to rely upon distinguished but antiquated greatness for comfort. Ned Harkness, a coach whose skill equaled or surpassed that of figures like Herb Brooks who live in pop culture through such films as Miracle, returned Cornell to hockey greatness in opening a flowing pipeline to professional hockey and restoring recurring success, including two more national titles, at the regional and national level for Cornell hockey teams. The greatest team ever to play collegiate hockey played for Cornell. That greatness continues under Coach Schafer, an alumnus who spearheaded Cornell's 1986 Eastern championship.
This writer said "Cornell hockey," did he not? Nowhere did this writer say "Cornell men's hockey." This is precisely why hockey unlike many other sports on campus that are reasonable contenders is Cornell University's sport. There is no female analog of football and the female counterpart of lacrosse is all but a distinct game. In the words of Doug Derraugh, alumnus, legendary goal scorer from the Class of 1991, and current head coach of the women's hockey team, "hockey is hockey." Change in gender of the participants is moot.
Women began playing ice hockey on East Hill in the early 20th Century on the same frozen waters of Beebe Lake, the paintbrush of the scenic vista that separates North and Central Campuses, that trained the great 1911 team. Modern women's hockey began at Cornell University in 1971. The program immediately became one of the most dominant programs in women's athletics. The Big Red won six consecutive Ivy League postseason tournaments. More recently under Coach Derraugh, it has won four Eastern tournaments in just five years.
The Lynah Faithful, the zealous fans who flock to Lynah Rink to support Cornell hockey, live the best of the vision of the University's founders. In one of the more frequent manifestations of the guiding spirit of coeducation and equal opportunity, the Faithful do not distinguish their zeal or loyalty toward the men's or women's programs. Both programs are supported passionately. Both programs enjoy the best playoff crowds in the nation in their respective spheres. Perhaps above all else, in living coeducation and living the tautology that hockey is in fact hockey, hockey is Cornell's sport.
Yes, yes, winning, as you can see, is a very big part of this. Drawing from the earlier examples, students at Duke measure their time in terms of Final-Four runs, students at Penn State know their era by bowl games, and students of Hopkins know their national-tournament runs in lacrosse. For Cornellians, each era of students knows its time by the ECAC Hockey championship(s), Eastern championship(s), that was(were) won during its time. With 16 Eastern tournament titles shared between the two hockey programs, the vast majority of graduating classes celebrate raising a championship banner.
The environment itself is why hockey is Cornell. It is hard not to feel belonging watching the superorganismic antics of the Lynah Faithful in harassing goalies ("sieves," as you will learn), singing volumes of songs from the University's past, and unleashing incomprehensible zeal when the Red scores. From this writer's personal experience, there are few better ways to let out steam and recenter after a long week and challenging prelims (as you will learn to call them) at our rigorous university than watching some good, honest physicality that lays the lumber on opponents over the weekend. Trust me, the feeling will be all the greater when the opponent is wearing sweaters (or jersey, if you are so inclined) of certain shades.
Cornellians become a community at Lynah Rink and share the experiences of Cornell hockey.
In a few short years, at commencement, when the alma mater is sung, you will feel and likely will succumb to the urge to lock arms with the Cornellian next to you and sway in time, like you learned at Lynah Rink.