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  • Writer's pictureEric Guo

Long Live Lynah

As students, new and old, arrived in Ithaca this semester, Cornell seemed to begin its gradual return to normalcy from the coronavirus pandemic. During the day, students and professors, all masked of course, fill spacious classrooms and lecture halls while social distancing regulations continue to be enforced. By night, Cornellians and Ithacans alike yearn to fill up the 4267 seats in Lynah Rink to support our Big Red hockey teams and continue the tradition of being one of the most raucous sports’ arenas in the nation.

Even when empty, Lynah Rink radiates life through its vault of memories. Named after James Lynah, Class of 1905 and former director of Cornell athletics (1935-1943), the rink was actually built over 50 years after Cornell had first begun sponsoring a hockey team in 1900. Had there not been thin ice at Beebe Lake during the 1947-48 season due to abnormally warm winters, we might still have hockey games take place outside. (Of course, global warming would have eventually forced Cornell to construct an indoor rink anyway.) Ironically, Walter S. Carpenter, Jr., the man who donated half a million dollars for the construction of the rink during the 1950s, specifically did not want the building to be in his name. And that is why supporters are called the “Lynah Faithful” and not the “Carpenter Faithful.”

It is truly these fans that give Lynah its boisterous atmosphere during gamedays. As junior forward Samantha Burke describes, “the atmosphere at Lynah is like no other in college hockey. It somehow balances this welcoming and ‘homey’ feel, while at the same time is an absolute shark tank for the opposition to enter.”

“Every game we have a plethora of fans cheering us on and the band blasting their famous tunes. Often it is so loud that we can’t hear what our coach is saying during time outs!” notes senior goaltender Lindsay Browning.

For visiting teams, Lynah is indeed foreboding. Since the rink opened in 1957, the Big Red has won over 70% of all games played in Ithaca, boasting an impressive 82-17-14 home record over the past seven years. Thanks to the Lynah Faithful, the Big Red has historically asserted itself as one of the best teams in the ECAC Hockey conference with a record 12 championships and a further 24 titles in the Ivy League, second to only our archrivals Harvard Crimson.

Lynah has been home to many iconic games, including a famous 1979 victory over the Providence Friars where the Big Red came back from a 5-1 deficit to win 6-5 in overtime. Arguably, some of the best and most memorable moments have been against Harvard. In 1973, William Ruskin (Class of ‘74) and a couple of his friends decided to exact revenge on Harvard for their previous dead chicken antics by throwing dead fish onto the ice.

“Contrary to what was in The New York Times this week, there was no intention at the time to have any symbolism of the New England fishing industry. We merely wanted to put something disgusting in their net…getting a big smelly fish seemed like the best thing we could do,” said Ruskin according to an interview with the Cornell Daily Sun. From then on, the fish-throwing became a tradition.

Sophomore defenseman Travis Mitchell vividly remembers his first game against Harvard: “The whole game against Harvard, stepping onto the ice and the fish being thrown and just how loud it was. Overall that was a very cool experience seeing and experiencing that for the first time.”

“When you looked over where the student section is, which for that game is half of the rink, they had that place so packed the glass was leaning inwards.”

Besides tossing animals on to the ice, the Lynah faithful have found many other ways to heckle the visitors from Cambridge. Always, you will hear chants of “Harvard sucks” whenever Lynah hosts a Cornell-Harvard game. During a 1983 showdown, current men’s hockey team head coach Mike Schafer, then a member for the Big Red, broke a hockey stick emblazoned with the words “Harvard sucks” over his head in a show of spirit that won the applause and approval of the audience. The Lynah Faithful’s presence is so strong, even during away games, that they like to call Harvard’s Bright Center “Lynah East” in an assertion of dominance. Of all the taunts, my favorite is the one targeting Harvard’s grade-inflation: “Give me an A, give me another A, give me another A, give me another A, welcome to Harvard.”

Even with all the entertainment that Lynah Rink has provided fans over the years, we must not forget that this arena is where all the magic happens for generations of hockey players. Talking about Lynah Rink, Burke remembers the secrets, the laughs, and the incredible memories made over her years playing for the Big Red. But, what in particular stands out to her?

“The feeling of home. When we get back from a long road trip, I feel like I’m at home the second I arrive at the rink. It’s not when I get back to my own house in collegetown, but rather when I hop off the bus, punch in the locker room code, and enter our team’s home.”

Browning also embodies that powerful love for hockey and Lynah that all of the players on the Big Red hockey team possess. The team’s dedication to achieving success on the ice is truly unmatched. In an amusing moment of hindsight, she recounts, “In 2017, Lynah was undergoing some construction, so we had to skate in Lansing at 6am. We all woke up at ridiculous hours of the morning and drove half asleep to the rink. One day, they forgot that we were coming and didn’t open the rink, so we all had to dress in the lobby in the darkness! At the time, we were all cranky and complaining, but when we look back at it, it is one of our favorite memories that make us so appreciative of all we have at Lynah.”

This season, Cornellians, Ithacans, alumni, faculty, staff, parents, and kids are unlikely to have the opportunity to see their Big Red play inside Lynah Rink. The Lynah Faithful, however, thrives beyond the ice rink, beyond Cornell, and beyond Ithaca. The love for not only hockey but also for Cornell around the world could quite possibly have its roots in this historic building alone. The pulsating cheers, the deafening screams, the blast of the fight songs by the Cornell band… When things are back to normal, come to Lynah and prepare for one of the best (and loudest) nights of your life.

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