Our boys in carnelian and white constitute one of those teams.
This begs for particular consideration. Now, a series of fortunate events beyond Cornell’s control will need to go the Red’s way for Cornell to tie for or earn the greatest number of conference points. However, on Saturday, when the Dutchmen of Union seek vengeance, Cornell could be playing for ECAC Hockey’s regular-season title.
The last time that Cornell vied for this particular tchotchke this late in a season was 2012.
A half-decade tends to dull recollection. An entire graduating class of players and Lynah Faithful have come and gone without the Red contending for this prize. A refresher in Cornell’s protocol if the unlikely happens on Saturday is in order.
As with all things in ECAC Hockey and Cornell hockey, a brief history provides context. ECAC Hockey named the prize that it gives its top conference point getter(s) (yes, if there is a tie, all participants get their own version of it) on March 16, 2001. Each season’s point monger has gotten the “Cleary Cup” to do with it as it wishes (more on that soon) since the end of the 2001-02 season.
Readers and followers of Where Angels Fear to Tread know that contributors refuse to use that term to refer to the boondoggle physically presented to the team that earned the greatest number of points in a regular season. Our writers elect instead for more accurate terms like “spittoon,” “bedpan,” “participation trophy,” or, when discussing something of real value, “first seed.” Why do they engage in such ritualized practice?
Bill Cleary resembled Lex Luthor to more than coiffeurs. The Lynah Faithful saw in him for 19 years the very embodiment of evil. The Harvard man turned coach oversaw the era during which the Crimson re-discovered their roots and hurled fish at Cornell skaters, and drunken denizens of Cambridge lobbed wine battles at netminders from Ithaca. Cleary was the opposing coach who showed so little regard for Cornell hockey that he disparaged its accomplishments in the media and waved his defeated teams from congratulating the Red in handshakes on the ice.
His villainous permagrin made him Joker. Bill Cleary was the entire rogues gallery in one. Cornell found a suitable antihero in Cleary’s waning days at Harvard. A blueliner with the audacity to challenge an opposing team’s bench boss. A defenseman whose clearing attempts occasionally veered up the boards and into Harvard’s bench near Bill Cleary. Stick-breaking Mike Schafer was that player.
Coach Schafer as an assistant helped Cornell growl at Harvard, “why so serious?” in the 1990 ECAC Hockey Quarterfinal that ended Bill Cleary’s career on Lynak Rink’s ice. Coach Schafer as a head coach led Cornell in the first regular season after which ECAC Hockey would give a named trophy to the league’s regular-season champion.
Cornell won the first name regular-season trinket. Then, the second. Each time, like all those subsequent, including when the Red clinched the regular-season title during the 2004-05 season, Cornell remembered nearly two decades of disrespect that Bill Cleary as head coach at Harvard had paid the carnelian and white.
The captains of Cornell refused to accept the regular-season trophy. They left it on the ice. No players touched it.
Now, Quinnipiac tried something foolishly similar during the 2012-13 season. It is not the accomplishment that is tainted as the Bobcats misinterpreted. It is the namesake. Cornell refuses to celebrate an award affixed with a figure who did so much to disregard and demean its program.
If the Red wins the bedpan on Saturday, the skaters of this team and their coach will remember to refuse it and leave it on the ice. In the event that Cornell and Union tie for the regular-season title, I advise that the leaders of this team encourage the Dutchmen to take the tarnished accolade with them rather than wait to get their own version at Messa Rink. There are far nobler prizes to win on the ice ahead for this Cornell team.
You laugh at the prospect, right?
Why is the unlikely impossible when the unthinkable already has happened?