Beyond Jack

When: Saturday, 11:15 p.m.

Where: Bright Hockey Center.

What: Midnight Madness.

As a pack of students rounded the corner at Dillon Field House, mouths opened and eyes bulged.

"What We're here 45 minutes early and still..."

Yes, it's true. If you were one of the sneaky ones who thought that arriving 15 minutes before the doors opened and 45 minutes before the Madness began, you still witnessed a ice long line.

It's true--the crowd in front of Bright was antsy to enter the arena and to see its first glimpse of the Harvard men's hockey team in action.

Sure, one could rightfully ask if it was actually the offering of free T-shirts and some pretty cool door prizes that brought over 700 people out to Bright on a rain-infested night. After all, if you were one of the lucky ones, you could win such luxuries as inline skates or a breakfast for two at the Inn at Harvard.

But it wasn't the case that students only came out for the prizes. It's true--believe it or not--Harvard does have spirit. Really, it does.

A pep rally, you ask? After yesterday's Midnight Madness, Harvard can finally chalk one up for school spirit.

As the players skated onto the rink, the band played in the background and fans screamed. Isn't this what football--I mean, hockey--games should be like?

After player introductions, the Crimson scrimmaged, with Crimson facing White. Since the event was held to recognize the beginning of official practice, it wasn't surprising, or even a problem, that the players were not playing their sharpest.

The players were having fun. The fans were having fun. And that was all that mattered.

The event was topped off by a shootout involving all returning senior letter winners. Before the shootout, spectators could make a pick, and if their player won the shootout, they would have a shot at winning one of the grand prizes.

Although the even didn't lack raffles or prizes, bands or fans, there was something missing from the event: tradition. Midnight Madness lacked something that all of the other large sporting attractions (i.e. the Harvard-Yale football game, the Beanpot) boast.

As most of us know, Harvard defines tradition. When the clock strikes 12 on the eve of the first day of exam period, we expect to hear screams. When the snow falls for the first time each winter, we expect to see students sliding down the steps of Widener on dining hall trays. And with the coming of each football season, we look forward to the Harvard-Yale game.

But as Midnight Madness proved, tradition is not always the answer to initiating school spirit.

When the clock struck 12 on Saturday night, and the dripping-wet fans were still piling into the rink, tradition, if only temporarily, was put to rest, Midnight Madness proved that students and athletes can unite as one, in support of a school and an athletic program striving to succeed.

About 15 minutes before the doors opened at 11:30 p.m., no one rushed for cover. Not even the students who knew that their hopes of winning a T-shirt for being one of the first 60 people at the rink were shattered. After all, there was a fresh, new hockey team to see and excitement to confront.

Harvard coach Ronn Tomassoni, who is usually clad in a suit and tie for each game, substituted his more formal attire for a sweatsuit. Tomassoni's lack of formal wear was indicative of the laid-back atmosphere.

Not only was the event a way to bring the Harvard community out to the rink and get it excited for the upcoming season, but it also was a great way to have fun.

For one night, the crowd and the players were one. For once.