23 April, 2014

Cornell Hockey Traditions Include Throwing Fish

Not unlike college football, college hockey is steeped in tradition and rivalries making it an experience not to be missed.  One such rivalry is the 98 year old Cornell-Harvard game.  OFB reader Dante shared with us some of those traditions and some images from last night’s Cornell-Harvard game (Cornell won at home 2-1). Here is Dante’s report (All images courtesy Dante Shepherd):

Ivy League sports rivalries may not really stand up well to some of the other great college rivalries that are out there – the basketball teams are sure to go out in the first round in March and the football teams aren’t bowl-eligible.  The one sport where the top teams are consistently ranked among the nation’s elite, however, is hockey.  And Cornell-Harvard is right up there with UNH-Maine and all the rest.
Cornell / Harvard - Faceoff
Cornell’s biggest rivalry used to be with Boston University, and was especially strong back when Cornell and BU were both in the ECAC.  The Cornell fans still cheer ‘Screw BU, (opponent) too!’ at any game, no matter who’s playing.  However, after BU left the league, all the focus was directed to Harvard.  The fact that most of the students attending the game are primarily focused on academics is evident and reflected in the cheers – chants like ‘Safety school’ or ‘Grade inflation’ probably aren’t heard in many other arenas and rarely used in reference to Harvard – but with both teams being consistently in competition for the league championship and shots at the NCAA title, the bitterness easily extends over into the fans.

One of the key elements of the game, whenever it’s held at Cornell, is the throwing of fish onto the ice.  Back in 1973, a Harvard fan threw a dead chicken onto the ice at the Cornell goalie, supposedly to make fun of Cornell’s agricultural college.  When the game was held at Cornell later that year, Cornell fans started throwing fish onto the ice to make fun of the fishing industry in Boston.  Harvard’s response was to tie a live chicken to the Cornell goal the following year, but officials there have prevented them from doing so ever since.  On the other hand, Cornell fans at Lynah rink continue to throw fish onto the ice, despite security patdowns (that seriously do pat you down in every uncomfortable spot).  Because any fan caught throwing fish can be ejected and have their season tickets taken away, some fans try to prevent fish smell on their hands by throwing cans of tuna, cans of sardines, or packages of Swedish fish.

Cornell ZamboniThere are a number of Cornell traditions that take place at all the games.  First and foremost is to bring a newspaper.  When the opposing team’s line-up is announced, every fan pulls out their paper and starts waving it in front of themselves, chanting ‘boring’ over and over.  Finally, all the newspapers are thrown onto the ice.  Other cheers include waving at any opposing player heading to the penalty box, and once he steps in, to shout ‘See ya, asshole, you goon.’  Halfway through the third period, the tubas in the band walk all the way around the arena, head down the aisle behind the opposing team’s bench, and lead a cheer that goes, ‘Hey (opponent), Dieeeeee, Drop dead, Go home!’

There are other reasons why the ‘Lynah faithful’ cheer on their team as much as they do – the team clearly appreciates the fans’ support and the rink administrators are well aware of the power of the home-field advantage.  The zamboni driver puts personal effort into adding to the entertainment, dressing up from head to toe in a different costume for every game (last night, he was a British soldier).  The team also salutes the fans at the end of each game, circling around with their sticks in the air.

Cornell Hockey Celebrates WinLast night’s game was a fine example of the rivalry.  Ben Schrivens had 14 saves for Cornell, and while Matt Hoyle wasn’t quite on par with Harvard’s former goalie Kyle Richter, he was still decent with 35 saves.  Harvard went up 1-0 around six minutes into the first period after Michael Biega took advantage of Schrivens playing out of position, but Cornell tied it up four minutes later on a shot by Riley Nash.  A mad scramble in front of the Harvard goal led to Nash scoring again with four minutes left in the second period, and Cornell kept up the pressure in the third to effectively ice the game, outshooting Harvard 12 to 3 in the final period.

I was lucky enough to have a seat in the student section B, right near the band and among the more diehard fans.  As opposed to the townies who attend and sit all game on the opposite side of the ice, the students stand on their seats the entire game and cheer their heads off.  It’s well known that if you’re going to the Cornell hockey you should bring two windpipes, because you’ll be needing the second one after the game is over just so you can talk.

Dante J.T. Shepherd writes Surviving the World, a webcomic focusing on all shades of
life, from science to literature, politics to sports, romance to
religion, and everything else in between.  A new lesson or recitation is posted every day at noon.  Dante holds a B.S. in Civil Engineering from
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a Masters of Philosophy from
Brown University.

[Here are two more videos from past Cornell / Harvard games. Also, do you suppose Lew Zealand was a Cornell grad?]


  1. The Cornell hockey fans were always the craziest and most enthusiastic. I first saw them on my recruiting trip to their school and I distinctly remember the newspaper move. Their band also travels to their away games, and they quite often put our own band to shame (Go Big Green).
    I never saw them throw fish on the ice – that was something that the UNH fans always did though.
    Our tradition at Dartmouth was specific to our games against Princeton. After the first goal was scored against the Tigers, all of the fans threw tennis balls on the ice. I have no idea what the significance of it was, but I do remember that they were always trying to prevent us from throwing the tennis balls – never worked.
    Gotta love college hockey! Go Big Green!
    Total Female Hockey Club

    22 November, 2008 at 6:34 pm | Permalink
  2. Gustafsson wrote:

    I’ve only been to one college hockey game — DU @ Colorado College. What a blast! Plus, the Colorado College is not on school property, so there is plenty of good beer.
    I’m looking forward to my 2nd college hockey game, the Frozen Four here in DC.

    22 November, 2008 at 10:50 pm | Permalink
  3. Grooven wrote:

    If only they were boomerang fish… then they’d come back and youcould throw them again. (Lew would be proud)

    23 November, 2008 at 11:47 am | Permalink
  4. Grooven wrote:

    The focus on academics cheers reminded me of my school, which included, on the rare times we lost:
    That’s alright
    That’s okay
    They’re gonna work
    For us someday
    (I don’t feel a need to elaborate on the football-meets-engineering cheers that include phrases like “Oblate spheroid”)

    23 November, 2008 at 5:13 pm | Permalink
  5. Dave wrote:

    Guys, a buddy of mine gave me an awesome code for buy one get one tics 4 the game at the Pru Center!

    Buy 1 get 1 free
    Code: youthhockey
    Via Ticketmaster

    19 November, 2010 at 11:23 am | Permalink
  6. Dave wrote:

    Guys, a buddy of mine gave me an awesome code for buy one get one tics 4 the Cornell v Colgate game at the Pru Center!

    Buy 1 get 1 free
    Code: youthhockey
    Via Ticketmaster

    19 November, 2010 at 11:25 am | Permalink