New Ticket Policy Irks Ithaca Faithful, Opens up Seats for Harvard Fans

Any student who has stood through three periods at the Bright Hockey center to watch Cornell’s fans chant “Sieve!” at the Harvard goaltender might wish the Big Red fans would just stay in Ithaca. The ticket policy that the athletic department has adopted for this year’s game might help to ensure that they do just that.

This year, tickets to the Jan. 9th game against Cornell will be sold in a Pick-Four package that will include games against Princeton, Rensselaer and Massachusetts. While the ticket office claims it is not an attempt to bar Cornell’s fans from the game, it might still reduce the amount of red in the stands clashing with crimson.

Every fall, Cornell students line up for days to get hockey tickets, and an away date with Harvard is one of the most sought-after games. Frequently, Big Red fans nab so many tickets that they crowd out Harvard followers, effectively creating what the Lynah faithful like to call, “Lynah East.” The new ticket policy will, at the very least, free up more tickets for Harvard students and prevent the game from being sold out before the season starts.

“When you’re in your own backyard you might take it for granted that tickets will be available,” said Harvard coach Mark Mazzoleni. “Then you call a week or two before and [the Cornell] game is sold out.”

At this point in the year the only way to get tickets for Big Red fans is to claim one of the 100 given to the Cornell ticket office, to purchase the four-game package or be a Harvard season ticket holder. A set of tickets, often greater than 100 in years past, has also been apportioned to Cornell alumni in the area through the Cornell Club of Boston.

The new policy is designed to increase ticket sales in one of Harvard’s few revenue-producing sports. It also has the consequence of affording local fans of college hockey the opportunity to see four quality games without paying for a full season ticket or running the risk of buying tickets on the day of a game.

But the option to buy four tickets to a rival school’s games in order to see the one matchup you want is not very appealing to the Cornell students, some of whom see this as a personal attack on the Big Red fan base.

But this is nothing personal—just business.

“It is traditional for the home fans to have first dibs on home game tickets,” said senior assistant captain Rob Fried. “It is not like we are locking them out of the Bright.”

Cornell traditionally has a huge following of passionate fans, who tend to travel well. But with growing interest in Harvard hockey, as well as the increased competitiveness of the rivalry, the number of fans on each side was bound to conflict.

“Our fans base has been growing as we have been improving over the last few years and those people should get a chance to watch us in our big home games,” said captain Kenny Smith.

The packaging policy, while new to men’s hockey games, is hardly revolutionary. Professional sports teams, as well as many competitive college programs, have ticket packages, coupling marquee games with others that don’t sell as well.

“One of the goals is to protect the fan base, like we do with the Beanpot,” said Harvard ticket manager Erin Hobin-Audet. “Another is to boost attendance to the lesser games.”

But with this rivalry, even simple business tactics can have far-reaching effects.

“We have schools that won’t answer the phone from certain area codes when they know our students are calling,” said Cornell coach Mike Schafer. “Our fans will do what they need to do to get tickets.”

This is especially true of Harvard, the team every Cornell student loves to hate. Big Red fans could still snatch up the Pick-Four package, leaving the stands rather deserted for the other three games. They will have another opportunity to attend the game starting on Jan. 5th, when tickets not sold in the package or through Harvard affiliates will be released to the general public. Therefore, if Harvard fans don’t jump on the opportunity, Cornell, with its boisterous following, could still dominate Bright. Certainly having more Crimson in the stands to drown out Cornell’s Pep Band would be another benefit.

“The Cornell fans do bring a certain energy to the rink that is enjoyable, but I’d much rather have our fans there,” said senior assistant captain Tyler Kolarik. “I think we will have way more great supportive fans this season.”

Either way it’s going to be a full house in Bright Hockey Center on Jan. 9. It’s Harvard’s job to make sure it’s their fans who line the ice and keep the absurd “Harvard Sucks” and the even more bizarre “Safety School” chants to light background noise.