Aside from the annual football game against Yale, the biggest event on the athletic calendar each year up at Harvard is the Beanpot Tournament. A four-team ice hockey tournament featuring city-rivals Boston University, Boston College and Northeastern in addition to the Crimson, the event draws massive Boston media coverage and used to take place in the hallowed Boston Garden, before it was demolished last year. Last year at Princeton, where basketball normally dominates the winter sports scene in the same manner it does here, the futile quest of Pete Carril's team to topple the Quakers took a backseat to a bit of drama unfolding on the ice. The hockey Tigers shocked the world, storming to the final of the ECAC conference tournament, where a win would have given them an NCAA tournament bid. It is understandably hard for Quakers fans to comprehend what all the excitement is about around the rest of the Ancient Eight. To paraphrase an old Eagles song, "We haven't had that spirit here since 199." Indeed, the last time varsity ice hockey was played at Penn, the basketball team was on its way to the Final Four. There is an arena (the Class of '23 Rink on Walnut Street on the east edge of campus), but there is no team. The moral, then, would seem to be this: Merely building it does not mean people will come. You have to have the money to actually put a team there. The simple fact is the Penn athletic department is hardly overflowing with funds available for starting a hockey program. Take into account salaries for full-time coaches, financial aid packages for a whole new set of athletes, top-notch equipment for the players, a possible refurbishing of the arena, annual travel expenses, etc., and you only have half the financial picture. Because of Title IX, the athletic department would most likely be required to donate equal funding to a Penn women's athletic program, perhaps in the form of a women's ice hockey team. It is easy to see why establishing a hockey team -- or any new athletic program for that matter -- is hardly a nickel-and-dime operation. There is little, if anything, that can be done. But the lack of a program is still a shame, indeed something of a blemish on the athletic department. Some say hockey drew no fan support here in the 1970s and there is no guarantee it would ever catch on today. For one thing, as hockey club team captain Michael Chao pointed out, "A lot of students don't even know there's a rink on campus." Plus the basketball program is so strong and rightfully commands so much attention that moderate sports fans might not have a whole lot of time to devote to following hockey. And if people were to give it a try, they might like what they would see. Even for people who are not crazy about professional hockey, the college game is a beautiful thing to watch. No one ever remarks, "I went to a fight and a college hockey game broke out." College hockey possesses all of the grace and finesse of the pro version, but none of the unnecessary extracurriculars, like fighting and constant penalties. It has all of the artistry without most of the thuggery. But there is just enough bumping and grinding to make the game attractive to a college crowd. The fast pace and battle-like atmosphere are conducive to nurturing college rivalries. Anyone who has been to a game knows the integral role played by loud chants, lots of streamers and sometimes bands. At its best, in fact, the atmosphere at a college hockey game is reminiscent of a Big 5 affair at the Palestra. And except for those Big 5 games at the Palestra, it is, unfortunately, an atmosphere Penn students will have to do without for the foreseeable futureComments powered by Disqus
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.