The truest sign of leadership is the ability of an individual to stand up and do what is needed for his team. The 2012-13 preseason saw Cornell lose a goaltender and a defenseman abandon the program. Two players showed their loyalty to their alma mater through their willigness to fill the void left on the roster of the team representing Cornell's proudest tradition. They were senior Chris Hogan who joined the Big Red to serve as a relief goaltender from the ranks of Cornell's ACHA team and Craig Esposito, a successful golfer for the carnelian and white, who volunteered to play behind the blue line if Schafer and his staff needed.
This brief anecdote illustrates not only how hockey is deeply entrenched in the culture of Cornell University and Central New York, the region from which Craig Esposito hails, but how passionate and dedicated Esposito is. It took true leadership to stand up with uncertain challenges and rewards on the horizon to make oneself available for his team in need. That is what makes Craig Esposito a player worth celebrating on this 98th Cornell hockey team and what makes him truly a Cornellian.
Craig Esposito was gifted in several sports when he played at his high school in nearby Lansing, NY. The varsity squads for Lansing on which he played were undefeated. For six years. Yes, Craig Esposito played for his varsity squad when he was in only seventh grade. The links were not his only place of dominance. The Central New Yorker showed tremendous skill playing for his high school's hockey team.
His skill on the golf course continued at Cornell the season before he would volunteer his services to Schafer and his staff. In just his sophomore season, Esposito average just 5.65 strokes above par. This result was second-best on Cornell's golf team. This performance included two outings shooting under and at par. He saw time in the Big Red's eight tournaments during the 2011-12 season.
The offseason before the 2012-13 season was when Craig Esposito contacted Schafer and his staff. He informed them that he would be willing to do what was necessary to ensure that his hockey skills were at the needed level if his new team needed to call upon him. He prepared in this manner while his golf game remained a work of consistency. All but one of his tournament rounds counted toward his team's score.
His junior season on the golf course saw Esposito serve as a captain of his golf team. He did this while being at the beckoning need of the Cornell hockey team. Craig Esposito proved to be a dependable leader as well as contributor as he again finished with the second-best score on the Cornell team including remarkable individual performances at several tournaments. Cornell never needed to call on him during its 2012-13 season, but what the history and character of Craig Esposito indicates is if it had, he would have been ready to help his team in whichever ways it needed.
What to Expect
Craig Esposito is off to a successful season again with Cornell's golf team. He helped the Big Red finish third in the University's golf invitational. Furthermore, he is on pace to remove nearly 1.5 strokes from performances from his last two seasons. These promising indicators are all while Craig Esposito has been readying himself to see competition for two of Cornell's varsity programs. One can expect that his preparation for both has yielded equal results.
Esposito saw time in basketball, football, golf, and hockey when he was in high school. He was skilled to contribute in all four sports. Craig Esposito saw time in practice helping Cornell's skilled forwards get accustomed to new defensive schemes and regimes as the Big Red prepared for each opponent last season. This role was integral.
Schafer has emphasized, especially this season, that practices will be the most important in a week, not the games on Friday and Saturday. Schafer has stated that momentum is built and maintained on Monday through Thursday. It cannot be found on Friday morning or Saturday. Good habits and honed skill are the in the realm of practice, not game time. It is with this that Craig Esposito has contributed greatly and will continue to lend his services to help the team.
It may be a long shot to expect that Craig Esposito will start a game this season. However, this writer hopes to see it. He is the embodiment of hard work and drive. He made himself available to the Cornell hockey coaching staff, not for his own glory, but for the betterment of the team. Craig Esposito will deliver if given a start. Schafer has stated that he recruits work ethic more than skill. Esposito exhibits seemingly boundless grit and hard work. In this way, he is very much part of Cornell hockey culture and will do great things if he is given a start for the Big Red. At the very least, expect him to make an appearance during Cornell's senior week when he can level and stifle academically unscrupulous Cantabs.
A Look Back
The history of defenseman who wore the number 4 is a distinguished one. One of the more influential, but oft-forgotten, players of the early Bertrand Era experienced great success with a number 4 affixed to his carnelian-and-white sweater. Cornell was a program in transition when Dave Street rose from the freshman team before the 1970-71 season. Most of the talent that had propelled Cornell to four consecutive ECAC Championships and two national championships had graduated. The team was under the untested leadership of Dick Bertrand, a coach who had just months before been playing alongside his current charges. It would take Bertrand's maturation and leadership on his team to bring championships back to East Hill.
Dave Street, a sophomore during Dick Bertrand's first season, would provide that leadership. Street was a reliable defensemen who in an era of high-scoring defensemen like Dan Lodboa typically patrolled behind the blue line rather than blistering past that of the opponent. Street accumulated just 29 points over his first season. His point totals would tick up his senior season when he became the highest scoring defenseman on a championship Cornell team.
Bill Hanson and Dave Street captained Dick Bertrand's third team. Dave Street had scored one playoff goal over his career before his senior campaign. That goal evened the score between Cornell and Providence at Lynah Rink before the Big Red began a rout of the Rhode Islanders. It was his steady hand more than his scoring prowess that would pace Cornell during his senior season.
Street's senior season did not begin as he had hoped. Before the first game was played, Dave Street learned that a knee injury would hold him out of play until at least Christmas. His injury would linger somewhat longer. Cornell went 3-1-0 in his absence. The captain defenseman missed the wildly controversial Boston University-Cornell game of December 1972 that ended in a 9-0 Cornell loss on the ice, but that the Terriers would be forced to forfeit.
Dave Street notched four points including a goal against the Engineers of RPI in the 1973 ECAC Quarterfinals. His last point of his career was scored against Clarkson in the 1973 ECAC Championship Semifinal at Boston Garden. His dependable defensive play held an explosive Boston University Terrier squad to just two tallies in the 1973 ECAC Championship Final.
Dave Street through his resolve and determination to fight back from injury lifted his team to its first tournament championship in the Bertrand Era. It was the first championship that Cornell won after the departure of Harkness. The leadership of Street was decisive. His hard work was inspiring and integral. In these ways, wearers of the number 4 labor for their teams to give them what they need; tireless hard work and determination. It is apparent that Craig Esposito has chosen the right number for his jersey.