The tides of time are set to erode the palpable essence of these traditions felt at Starr Rink. Before these waves crash upon the shores of the record books, Lynah Faithful, Hamiltonians, and Colgate fans ought to reflect upon what this building means to their preferred programs and the relationship between two Central New York universities.
The First Time Before The Last Time
The crumbling of the first Intercollegiate Hockey Association in conjunction with the Big Red's ejection from that league necessitated Cornell's seeking opponents more locally. The maroon and white were a palatable option as New York's oldest hockey program cultivated deeper relationships with Upstate's hockey programs. Colgate's program was nascent. Its first indoor home was a distant spectre, 38 years in the future.
A series of convenience counted 30 installments before its last outdoor episode. The Ithaca-based half of the series moved indoors on January 18, 1958. The Red made Lynah Rink home. Hamilton-area iterations stayed out in the cold a season longer.
The last outdoor game of the series came on February 25, 1959. The contest was the last of Colgate's season. The Raiders carried with them a 1-6-0 record. Cornell was more winning but no more honed. A 4-12-1 record reflected the quality of a program in the midst of a rebuild just two seasons after its resurrection. The carnelian and white were reeling from a humiliating loss to their archnemesis, the Crimson of Harvard. Little solace would be found against a regional challenger.
Cornell defeated Colgate at Lynah Rink earlier in the season. Paul Patten's Ithacan icers put Colgate in a 2-0 deficit in the first period. The Red scored again and the Raiders rose to the challenge. Late in the contest, the Hamiltonians suffered a 3-1 deficit to the Big Red. Cornell was contented with two different two-goal leads. It went awry from there.
The fast-skating players of Colgate narrowed the carnelian advantage to one goal before the teams took the pond for the third period. The injury to starting goaltender Jack Detwiler, sustained during the carnelian-and-crimson rivalry clash two days before, tolled in starkest terms in the third period. A back-up netminder was no match for a determined Raider squad. Colgate scored in the first 15 seconds of the last period of regulation. The game was bound for overtime.
Colgate made quicker work in overtime than it did after the second intermission. The Raiders won the face off and raced into the Red's end. Joe Wignot found Dave Eldon for the game winner. The decision came in ten seconds. An injured goaltender, relinquished leads, and an overtime winner were the verses of the last outdoor movement of the Colgate-Cornell series.
Intrigue of the Eastern college-hockey establishment narrowed its gaze on Hamilton during the off-season. Colgate University was making strides to take hockey more seriously. An indoor rink was the most massive element of this forward momentum. It was not the only component. The University granted hockey permanent major-sport varsity status before April 1959. The maroon-and-white program enjoyed that status only intermittently during the previous decades of its existence.
Bill Doeschler for The Colgate Maroon gleefully predicted the bright future of the hockey program in Hamilton. In a turn of phrase derisively suspect of the academic timber of college-hockey players, not unlike the sentiments later found at Union College, Doeschler noted that "the possibility of the admissions office accepting some Canadian players" brightened the future of the Colgate hockey program. The future home of the hockey program was everyone's focus.
The William A. Reid Athletic Center would house Colgate's new hockey rink. Construction of the facility was estimated at $3.3 million. Despite a successful fundraising campaign, the completion of the facility ran afoul of bureaucratic politics that created financial shortfalls. The University decided that completion of the basketball courts and various team rooms in the multisport complex would be delayed. Hockey was prioritized highly. Colgate's athletic department directed liquid funds to the completion of the Reid Athletic Center's lobby and hockey rink in anticipation of its December 1959 opening.
The hockey rink housed in the Reid Athletic Center was state of the art. Little technological innovation was spared in the design of the rink for improving the in-game experiences of contemporary spectators and athletes. Seating capacity of the new venue was limited to 1,000 people at the time. The design envisioned the possibility of expansion to accommodate 3,000 spectators if interest in Hamilton and at Colgate University warranted. The refrigeration system was purported to make ice harder and faster for skating. Illumination emitted from the overice lights was blue-tinted to reduce glare. These novelties heightened interest in the experience of witnessing a game at the Reid Athletic Center.
These storylines saw that the hockey rink was finished nearly six months before its first anticipated use in competition. The Colgate hockey team needed to be ready to deliver upon this anticipation. Olav Kollevoll served his third season as head coach during Colgate's first season with a sheltered home. Kollevoll was an alumnus of Colgate University and a former icer for the Raiders. He proved to be a formidable coach at St. Lawrence University for five seasons. Kollevoll made an acquaintance during his time in Canton.
Ollie Kollevoll stewarded the Saints of St. Lawrence alongside Paul Patten. The former showed little of the animosity toward the latter that his partisan boosters in Hamilton would expect years later in 1959. Patten led the Saints for three seasons. After a perfect season in the 1949-50 season, Patten stepped aside and allowed his friend, Kollevoll, to lead the Saints. The future coach of Colgate hockey played the protégé to the future bench boss of Cornell hockey. These two figures in college hockey could not anticipate how their paths would collide in December 1959 at the opening of the sport's newest arena.
This personal angle rendered more personal a series that is always all too personal for maroon exponents. Fittingly, it was Kollevoll and Patten, Colgate and Cornell, that christened the hockey rink of the Reid Athletic Center on December 11, 1959. Other festivities on the ice delayed the inevitable collision.
The Colgate Maroon dubbed the game of that day as "the first hockey intercollegiate contest at Colgate since 1951." The inaccuracy of this statement was obvious to those on the ice. Colgate's Dave Eldon and Joe Wignot, and Cornell's Dave Barlow and John Coppage all knew of the grapple between their programs in the elements just ten months earlier as President Everett Case of Colgate University strode to center ice for a pregame ceremony.
Colgate's president introduced dignitaries and honored persons whose presence was requested or required for the Colgate-Cornell game at Colgate University. Among those honored at the end of Case's address was J. Howard Starr. Starr was a war hero of the Second World War. His bona fides for recognition on that day included his tenure as head coach of Colgate hockey. The historic coaching career of J. Howard Starr remained a secret to most Colgate backers if The Maroon was any indication.
In a most glaring neglect of hockey history and tradition, The Colgate Maroon bemoaned J. Howard Starr's role in preparing the 1959-60 Raider team for the season while Ollie Kollevoll resolved his duties as football coach before hockey season. Starr knew the game of hockey well. He buoyed one Colgate hockey team to one of only a few perfect seasons in the game's history. As J. Howard Starr stood at center ice of the rink that would bear his name just six years later, he received recognition from the few who realized his legacy in the history of Colgate hockey. The game proved his knowledge of hockey and preparing a team for competition had not faltered in nine years.
The game, the first at what would become Starr Rink, began at 8:00 pm. Cornell entered the game having sharpened its skates with a win against Penn six days before that night in Hamilton. Colgate lost both of its preceding contests. The Raiders scored no goals in those losses. Opponents scored 20 times. Patten predicted that the Big Red could bring him victory over his mentee and his charges.
Speed was the weapon of the Raiders. Cornell's head coach summarized that his team was "really going to have to hustle." Ike Borofsky and Torch Lytel, stars for the Big Red, were available in only limited capacity in the opening contest at Colgate's indoor rink. Cornell needed to find new stars if it wanted a chance to sour the opening-night festivities in Hamilton.
It was speed that made Colgate pay first. Just under five minutes into the contest, a defensive misstep gave Knobby Holmes of the Red a step on the Raiders's defense. The junior broke out from the neutral zone unassisted into Colgate's end. Holmes converted dampening the mood of the assembly in Madison County. The Colgate bench knew to whom to turn to put them back in the game with Cornell. Only one player would The Cornell Daily Sun describe as "Cornell's personal nemesis."
True to a script fit for opening an arena that would become historic, Joe Wignot mirrored the play of Holmes in bearing down on Detwiler with an unassisted answer. The maroon's great hero against Colgate's most hated foe found a way to answer less than a minute after Cornell posed the first question. The first period ended with both teams knotted.
The second period belonged to the home team. Wignot's lone tally near the midpoint of the first period inspired his team. The Raiders pillaged the Big Red's end with two second-period tallies. The emotion of the event began to become apparent in the sometimes chippy play of the Colgate squad. Cornell answered in kind. The fisticuffs were not the story of the second period.
The punctuation to end the second period came when Dave Barlow whittled the Ithacan's disadvantage to one goal. John Coppage set up a brilliant pass that left Colgate acharacteristically dazed on that evening of great import. Barlow made good on the rare opportunity. The final four minutes of the second period expired. The germinal game indoors was just as close as the ultimate game outdoors for Colgate and Cornell.
The third period saw no early scoring. It was not without its spectacle. Colgate and Cornell proved to be in an intractable stalemate as each moment passed. Anticipation on the part of Colgate and frustration on the part of Cornell caused a noticeable increase in the game's physicality. In the final two minutes of the period, the Raiders were called for a penalty.
Patten's skaters took the ice focused to force overtime and reverse their fate from the previous season. The carnelian and white managed to pen the maroon and white in the latter's zone. No shot converted. Time became scarcer and scarcer. Patten gave the signal. Jack Detwiler sprinted from the Red's crease and leapt over the boards. The extra skater went to work. The skaters of New York's land-grant institution enjoyed an advantage of two skaters for 90 seconds.
Cornell was dominant. The Red unleashed shot after shot. The Colgate defense was more than prepared to push shots to the perimeter. The majority of Cornell's shots were not on net. Both teams scrambled frantically either to preserve or alter their destiny in this first game at the future Starr Rink. The emotion reached a fever pitch for the home-standing Raiders.
Colgate preserved the victory. The first game at the hockey rink of the Reid Athletic Center exhilarated the home crowd with a victory over their program's most despised opponent. The emotion of that evening endeared the venue to the spectators of that evening. The emotion of that game courses through the walkways and stands of that arena for as long as it exists.
Where Angels Fear to Tread felt the stories behind the first game at Starr Rink were deserving of telling. Their tales no longer will be felt. Considerable violence is done to any reciprocity that Colgate enjoys from Cornellians. The severing of this shared bond in history conflates almost all other aspects of the Colgate-Cornell series with aspects of the Red's ordinary series.
The game on Saturday, November 14, 2015 likely will be the last time the two programs that opened Starr Rink will face off in that historic venue. It is unlikely that another Colgate-Cornell contest will occur at Starr Rink. The 48 games that Colgate and Cornell share at Starr Rink count no playoff installments. Carnelian never clashed with maroon in the playoffs at Starr Rink.
Fate may intercede to write one more great chapter for Starr Rink. Do not bank on another opportunity to say farewell to a venue that marked a historic moment in the history of two programs. Go to Starr Rink this weekend. Take one last look. As great of a home of ECAC Hockey and Colgate that Class of 1965 Arena may become and as deserving of commemoration as the namesake of Riggs Rink is, no longer will there be that quizzical reminder to Colgate fans and the Lynah Faithful alike in a display case that the first game played at that old barn connects their programs and ended in victory for the home team.