Sunday, January 12, 2014

Yale's Romp at the Rivalry on Ice

Yale fans cheer, as the Bulldogs jumped to a 4-1 lead after the second period (YWAA photos).
In football, there is The Game.  In ice hockey, there could be The Game on Ice.  But organizers this year decided to call the showdown The Rivalry on Ice.  Somewhere somebody had a clever idea that the rivalry could be staged in what New Yorkers unabashedly call The World's Greatest Arena.

Harvard met defending national champions Yale at Madison Square Garden on a Saturday night (Jan. 11) in Manhattan with students at both schools on vacation and with alumni looking for something amusing to do to avert post-holiday blahs.

Yale and Harvard fans ventured into the newly refurbished arena, likely expecting a tough, closely fought game in front of a small, intimate crowd of  polite Ivy followers.  None of the chair-banging rowdiness observed at Rangers games.  None of the slings of verbal assaults and fighting interludes on ice that we see in the NHL. Yet indeed, lots of familiar Harvard-Yale taunting. 

"It's all your fault! It's all your fault!" Yale students screamed in unison toward the Harvard goalie on their end after he allowed the first goal.

But what a pleasant surprise, especially for coaches, athletic directors and event organizers. The crowd gathering was lively, large, noisy, ebullient and huge. Many fans stared in pleasant disbelief to see Yale and Harvard logos on the Garden's mammoth new scoreboard.

Yale's band was perched on a mezzanine deck at one end. Harvard's band blared from the other end. This rivalry game had Yale flare. Secretary of State John Kerry '66 dropped the first puck before the game (before jetting to Paris for Monday meetings).  The Spizzwinks(?), the same group that sang for Yale Westchester last spring, delivered the national anthem in tails.

The Garden's announcer stated 15,524 fans had convened for the inaugural Rivalry on Ice. The arena was filled from top to bottom--with a scattering of empty seats way up high.  From the swatches of color around the oval, Yale fans appeared to out-number Harvard by about 3-to-2.  They certainly out-shouted, out-cheered, and out-taunted their Crimson counterparts.

While it was a mere regular-season game, it had the atmosphere of a tournament game or, shall we dare say, a Stanley Cup play-off match-up.  Nonetheless, Yale-Harvard playing hockey in the Garden seemed almost like Yale-Harvard playing football.  Before the game, swarms of Yale students and fans gathered at Grand Central Terminal for the walk or subway ride to Seventh Avenue.  About a couple hundred alumni, some donning Yale hockey jerseys, met at the Yale Club for a pep rally that was more reunion than rally.

What few expected was that the Yale team would whisk Harvard off the ice with ease.  The Bulldogs smashed the Crimson, 5-1.  As the second period ended, it was never close and the game turned into a snowstorm for all those who journeyed to the Garden from Cambridge.

In the second period, if you blinked, you might not have seen the barrage of three goals Yale scored to take a 4-1 lead.  Cody Learned '16, a sophomore from Amherst, NH, scored two of them, while Yale fans continued to toss collegiate insults at the goalie, who was eventually replaced. 

The atmosphere at the Garden was lively, tournament-like. John Kerry '66 dropped the ceremonial first puck, and the Spizzwinks(?) sang the national anthem. (YWAA photos)

The Yale team (which features four players from New York state) eased to its victory. The Rivalry turned into a romp, but Yale fans remained throughout, basking in the big time and tasting a rare bit of Yale-Harvard victory on a really big stage.

Even Yale president Peter Salovey '86 Ph.d. was on hand to receive a "Rivalry on Ice" trophy, something that seemed bigger in size than the NCAA plaque the team won last April. Yale coach Keith Allain '80 watched. Organizers promise this is the first of what they hope will be a long series. No fan, from Harvard or Yale, disagreed with that. This could quickly become a special Yale-Harvard tradition, an annual post-holiday party on 34th Street.


The Yale band was on hand to blare "Bulldog, Bulldog" after all five goals (YWAA photos).
The Garden announced a crowd of 15,524. Yale fans out-numbered Harvard followers. (YWAA photos)
At the end of the game, organizers presented the Rivalry trophy to Yale president Peter Salovey '86 Ph.d.. (YWAA photos)

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