The sweaters of Cornell, much like those of Minnesota, have undergone changes over the history of the programs. These changes range from the slightest changes in elements to grave deviations from tradition that are corrected typically in relatively short amounts of time, often thankfully. Drastic changes are rare after most storied programs gain a sense of appreciation for their history as they mature. This post is not intended to be an all-encompassing overview of the history of Cornell sweaters and uniforms, a post very much worth writing but not entirely relevant at this point in the season, but to highlight a minor reversion in the uniforms this season that has been missing for some time.
Cornell sweaters have gone through several stages. Traditionally, the homes have been of a variety similar to the whites now worn and the aways have been of a shade very close to, if not exactly, the reds worn now since Lynah Rink opened in 1957. There is some discrepancy about the reds because Harkness altered the reds when he arrived on East Hill to be closer to the cherry of RPI, a color that he believed was more befitting of a sports team's uniforms. It is entirely possible that the earliest years of Cornell hockey from 1958 to 1963 played in sweaters not only with Cornell written in diagonal letters but that were true carnelian, a hue quite darker than the red associated with Cornell athletic teams today.
The most drastic changes to the Cornell sweaters occurred after the Harkness Era. During an era in the wake of a legend, the Big Red sought to find a new identity. Cornell's uniforms reflected this search. The sweaters went through many varieties between the mid-1970s through the late-1980s. The uniforms in that range included changes in typeface of Cornell to resemble a corporate logo with the "C" over-sized and extending to underline the remainder of "Cornell," red shoulder panels, and shoulder patches that bore "skeptical bear." A re-dedication to history occurred in the late-1980s and with it a return to the sweaters worn during the Harkness Era.
Proud adherence to tradition and extreme protectiveness with respect to uniform design has been a hallmark of Cornell hockey ever since the mid-1990s. That is why when regional news outlets and Cornell Athletics released footage of Cornell hockey's 2012 media day I was surprised to discover that an alteration had been made to Cornell's uniforms prior to the 2012-13 season. The alteration is slight, but noticeable to any scrutinizing observer. The images at the top of the page show the change.
The first shows senior captain Erik Axell in the background of an interview with Coach Schafer. His shorts display clearly a white stripe down the side. The second image shows sophomore forward Joel Lowry scoring a goal against Harvard in February 2012 last season when the stripe is clearly absent. I knew from some cursory knowledge, a few debates, and a few historical images that a similar stripe always had not been absent from Cornell's uniforms. I began to research the history of the stripe on Cornell hockey shorts with the guiding question: how much of a return to or a deviation from history is the re-addition of the white stripe?
My first task was to determine the point of exodus of the white stripe. I was unsure if I would be able to determine the specific season when the stripe was removed from Cornell's uniforms with the paucity of photographs from the early to mid-1990s. However, the results, as shown in the two contrasting images above, are quite stark. The image on the left shows Cornell in the 1996 ECAC Championship Final. The stripe is clearly visible on the forward about to score a crucial goal against the Crimson when Cornell claimed its eighth ECAC Championship. The image on the right shows Cornell but a year later in Coach Schafer's second year at the helm. The white stripe is not visible as Cornell players climb over the boards to join their teammates on the ice in celebration after Cornell won its ninth ECAC Championship in 1997. Assuming that Cornell did not change its uniforms mid-season, the removal of the stripe occurred during the off-season between the 1995-96 and 1996-97 seasons. The stripe had not returned during Schafer's tenure until Cornell's 2012 media day. The remaining task was to discover how long the stripe had been part of Cornell's uniforms before the 1995-96 season.
There is little reason to believe that Cornell uniforms changed drastically between 1987 through 1996. It was the season after Nieuwendyk departed that Cornell began its return to the uniforms worn during the Harkness Era. Brian McCutcheon's tenure began in 1987 and his return to East Hill brought with it a return to the wearing of iconic Cornell sweaters. There is little likelihood that in the span of less than nine years for which the existence of the stripe is unaccounted that the stripe was removed and re-added so that it would appear in images of the 1995-96 season.
A random sampling of images from the early 1990s shows that the stripe was still present on the shorts worn in that era. This trend supports the conclusion that the stripe was present on Cornell hockey uniforms from 1982 through 1996. This trend can be extended further back into the annals of Cornell hockey history with the few available images of the Cornell uniforms from the mid- to late 1970s. The aforesaid era of Cornell uniforms with the over-sized and underlining "C" witnessed the white stripe on the Cornell shorts. This led to one last era or transition in delving deeper into the history of the stripe on Cornell hockey uniforms.
The next era to examine was the Harkness Era. However, the images of the 1967 and 1970 teams are so ubiquitous in Cornell hockey circles that this was the previous era about which I had fewest questions. The images below tell the story of both the stripe and the historic teams. The white stripe is clearly visible in the first image of the 1967 team while captains Dave Ferguson and Murray Death receive Cornell's first NCAA national championship trophy. The second image captures the 1969-70 team with the stripe on its uniform after completing its unprecedented and still unequaled feat of capping off an undefeated and untied season with an NCAA national championship.
Some may try to characterize the "addition" of the stripe to the shorts that will accompany Cornell's 2012-13 uniforms as a change from the norm. Admittedly, it is a change from the norm since the 1996-97 season. It is the first time that the stripe has been present on Cornell uniforms in 16 years. However, the change is very Cornellian in nature. It represents a return to the proud foundations of Cornell hockey and harkens back to its greatest era.
The stripe was a part of Cornell uniforms from at least 1966 through 1996. That range encompasses the Harkness Era: the time of Cornell's greatest achievements to date during which the Big Red totaled two national titles, four Frozen Fours, four ECAC Championships, and five Ivy-League titles. The Schafer Era has produced one Frozen Four, five ECAC Championships, and seven Ivy-League titles to date. The return to the uniform aesthetic of the Harkness Era for the 2012-13 season is not the only manner in which the accomplishments of the Schafer Era seem poised to resemble more closely those of the Harkness Era in this coming season and the near future.