Monday, November 24, 2008

Watching Hockey with the Lazy Eye, Vol. I

Credits due to the folks across the Internet-o-sphere who paid appropriate homage to Paul Newman/Reg Dunlop, acknowledging in his death the actual weight of the role and looking back, thinking, "Slap Shot actually is a good movie, not just some hockey slobs version of a Caddyshack."

It isn't On the Waterfront, but if you've lived in a town that looks a lot like the Charlestown/Johnstown of Slap Shot, there is a darkness captured in the mill, in the brown winter jackets, dirty snow, worn-by-wear jeans, and cheap hats that looks a lot like November through April in Binghamton or Syracuse, or whatever place is home. That's what hockey feels like. Snow on the curbs, wet road, bare trees, canadian beer, and cars covered in salt.

And that's what missing at this past weekend's hockey visit, Cornell University, whatever the charm of Lynah Rink and the active student cheeering section.

The Upstate Ice Girl and I cashed in a grandma-babysits chip Saturday night and watched the Big Red take on Dartmouth in Ithaca. I've been to at least one Cornell game each winter since a high school friend/Cornell student starting passing tickets my way in college back in 1995.

Lynah is fun. The students have a series of ritual cheers they perform throughout the game, and they go off script often enough to keep it fresh and funny. During the Dartmouth game, the student section engaged in a battle of wills with the Dartmouth goalie, imploring him to "bend over" during a Big Green powerplay. He would not oblige. For at least 1:45. Finally, the Big Red cleared the puck on net, and he went to a knee to steer the puck to the corner. Big cheer, some laughs. (elynah is a great, comprehensive site for learning Cornell cheers, checking out pictures, etc.)

Lynah has a low ceiling, old wooden beams, and concrete benches for bleachers. The fan involvement and passion nearly reminds me of the Old AHL I used to watch in Binghamton, but with a key ingredient missing. The Dirt.

A visit from Rochester or Syracuse was a serious event in the days of the Binghamton Whalers, and, to a certain degree, the Rangers. I was too young to attend Dusters/Johnstown games, but I have a feeling that might have had a little spice, too.

Dusters at Philadelphia Firebirds

Two years ago I forgot my place at a Cornell game and stood up to admonish the Big Red captain, Byron Bitz (who, coincidentally, I saw playing for the Providence Bruins a few weeks ago during a hockey trip to Albany).

It appeared Bitz had been on cruise control most of the evening against Dartmouth, so when he finally laid a body to the opposition with 1:10 remaining, I leaped up and screamed something along the lines of, "if you'd done that 25 minutes ago I might not want to rip that 'C' off of your chest, you pu..." and as I saw the heads turning, that final epithet weakened and went unfinished, a bit like Joe McGrath in the lockerroom at intermission of the Federal League championship, had he collapsed while struggling through "puuusssies."

So I'm not arguing for vulgarity (today), as I like to be able to take my kids to a game and not have to explain what someone means by "cocksucker." But I always find myself missing "The Dirt" when I am in Lynah.

I miss the Binghamton/Syracuse girls dressed for bear, hair to the ceiling, leather coats and boots glistening, lips begging come hither. I miss the drunk dancing, the kids running up to the glass with an eye cocked over the shoulder waiting for the usher to bring them back. And I miss the broken bar signs outside of the arenas, palm trees or overflowing mugs that had once been proudly lit from within only visible now in the lights of passing cars.

Cornell is nice. And think that's what's missing.

In the catacombs of the Old Bird, the Broome County Veterans War Memorial

The Islanders

Well, frankly, I haven't been watching much due to scheduling conflicts, road trips, and the impending holidays. I'll get back to it soon enough.

I like what I read. I watched the Vancouver game and felt the Islanders were the better team for the night, and it seems they're carrying that energy forward, for the most part.

The Nielsen thing sucks, but I think the whole "let's talk about head shots" thing is something I'll think about before I write what everyone else is writing. We'll get there.

Ok. We'll try to stay with it ... .


Islanders Outsider said...

Since you've been going since '95, you probably remember that Lynah used to be nastier. The ECAC and the University have gone to lengths to clean up the atmosphere so it's more family friendly. And it seems today's students value their tickets more than their vulgarities. Can't really blame them for that. As you said, still fun.

The Rev. Zamboni said...

Definitely, no blame, although they go a little overboard with confiscating fish on Harvard night (a few still slip through despite best efforts). It's nice to have options, and not have a beer spilled on you.