Harvard Hockey Has Played for 100 Years Now. Who Would Have Known?
* Team's cenntenial marked by apathetic fans, empty Bright
This season will mark the centennial anniversary of Harvard hockey. And what a 100 years it has been.
Just one glance into the record books reveals an illustrious history which speaks volumes about a program that has created such household names as Ted Donato '91, Ted Drury '93 and Don Sweeney '88. And who could forget the 1988-89 season when Ed Krayer '89 shoveled in the winning overtime goal against Minnesota for the national title?
Celebrations are indeed in order, but chances are there will be no fireworks, no champagne and if recent times prove consistent, there won't even be many fans this year.
During those glory days in the early '90s, Section 12 instilled a nerve-shattering fear in the opposing team. Now that same student section sits virtually empty with only a few Harvard faithful beating upon the glass.
Perhaps it was symbolic that long-time zamboni driver Jack Kirraine retired last season after over 20 years of service to Bright Hockey Center as Harvard's home ice seems strangely rudderless these days.
Just one year before, Harvard goaltender Tripp Tracy '96 felt the same void.
That season, Harvard failed to gain the home-ice advantage for the quarterfinal round of the ECAC Tournament. Thus, the Crimson was headed for St. Lawrence the following weekend.
But standing in the hallway after his final home game at Bright Hockey Center Tracy felt no profound sadness.
Would he miss the rink and the very ice which he spent so many hours playing on?
"There really isn't that much of a difference playing at home," Tracy said with an indifferent stare. "I'd actually prefer to go on the road because at least you know that there's going to be a big crowd."
Last season was no different. Bright, which can hold more than 3,000 fans, rarely came close to capacity, and there were very few games in which Harvard fans outnumbered their opposition.
Even schools like Vermont and Cornell, which are over five-hour drives away, brought not only their entire band, but also bus loads of fans.
This phenomenon was never so apparent as during the 1995-96 season when Harvard clawed its way to the ECAC Championship round in Lake Placid.
The Cinderella conclusion to what had been a mediocre regular season should have invoked waves of excitement throughout the Harvard campus, but rarely was a word uttered about the tournament.
Even Vermont Coach Mike Gilligan noticed the lack of Crimson support the night before the semifinal round.
In front of the four participating teams, Gilligan talked of the rich history and importance of such a tournament which is held on the famous 1980 Olympic ice surface where the Miracle on Ice occurred.
"I know that all the teams are really excited," Gilligan explained. "We brought all our fans up for the game, and I know that Cornell and Clarkson has busloads as well."
After an unintentional glance towards the Harvard side of the room, Gilligan quickly added, "And Harvard has their fans too."
No one could really blame Gilligan for his seeming faux pas because he was telling the simple truth. The only Harvard fans were the player's parents and friends.
One hundred years is a long time and much can happen during that span. Harvard hockey is currently in a rebuilding mode compared to past glory. Had the anniversary occurred 10 years ago, this centennial season would have inspired grandeur but instead the present clouds the memories of the past.
Unfortunately, the glory days are long gone and there will be no happy birthdays for a program whose rich history certainly deserves them.