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Have to love College Traditions


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I'm neither a Cornell nor a Harvard fan but I do appreciate college traditions such as this.

November 5, 2006

Cheering Section

At Cornell, Catch of the Day Is Always Best on Ice


Harvard skates into Cornell?s house this week. In keeping with tradition, fish will be served.

The fish are for tossing, not tasting.

For more than 30 years, Cornell hockey fans have been hurling halibut at Harvard players before the start of The Game at Lynah Rink in Ithaca, N.Y.

?Throwing fish is one way that Cornell fans get into the heads of the Harvard players,? said Jonathan Seibald, 25, a Cornell graduate who attends law school at Harvard. ?Cornell fans are never louder or meaner than they are at games against Harvard.?

For Big Red fans, the most anticipated game on the schedule is Friday, when they have a chance to greet the hated Crimson with carp, minnows and a variety of other sea creatures they sneak into their 4,100-seat arena.

The Cornell-Harvard rivalry dates to the 1909-10 season. But baiting between the teams began in 1973, when a Harvard fan threw a dead chicken at the visiting goaltender, alluding to the Cornell College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Big Red fans have been whaling away at the Crimson ever since, tossing fish on the ice as a way of poking fun at the fishing industry in the New England area and telling the Harvard players to go back to Boston Harbor.

Someone once tossed a shark on the ice.

?When the fish hit the ice, the Harvard players just stand there and look dejected, and it?s great,? said Aaron Kominoff-Smith, 24, a Cornell graduate who is a stand-up comedian. ?I mean, how often do you see a couple of thousand people throwing fish at you??

While the fish are being thrown, the Cornell band plays the theme from the movie ?Love Story,? in which Cornell beats Harvard in hockey.

?Eventually, the Harvard players get frustrated and start shooting pucks over the glass at us,? Kominoff-Smith said.

Cornell Coach Mike Schafer, who was a popular player for Cornell in the mid-1980s, called the Harvard game an event.

?When I was playing here as a freshman, I thought the sight of fish flying over the boards was hilarious,? Schafer said. ?It?s still a fun tradition that has lived on over the years, and it is all a part of the same kind of electricity that a college basketball fan might find at a Duke-North Carolina game.?

Byron Bitz, a senior center and captain of the Big Red, added, ?There?s so much animosity between our two universities, and it all comes to a head when we play each other.?

Bitz said much of the animosity between the universities stemmed from an ?academic rivalry,? but Kominoff-Smith attributed the bad blood, in part, to Cornell?s inferiority complex.

?When people think of the top Ivy League schools, they think Harvard, Yale and Princeton,? Smith said. ?No one immediately thinks Cornell, so I?m sure that there?s a subconscious feeling of inadequacy on our side.?

Harvard Coach Ted Donato, a former captain of the Crimson who played in the N.H.L., said that skating onto the Lynah ice made him feel as if he were being ?fed to the lions.?

?But over the years, I?ve really come to appreciate this rivalry,? said Donato, whose team is the defending ECAC Hockey League champion. ?And whether Cornell fans are throwing fish or newspapers on the ice, our guys have come to appreciate it as well.

?It?s a great college atmosphere, one that we embrace. We also circle the Cornell-Harvard game on our schedule.?

On Feb. 24, the teams will meet at Bright Hockey Center, which seats about 2,800, in Allston, Mass. Cornell fans, who sometimes outnumber Crimson fans there, refer to it as Lynah East.

?The Lynah experience is one of the most unifying elements of being a Cornell student,? said Gary Schueller, 25, an alumnus who is a public relations manager in New York. ?But when Harvard comes to town, the place erupts. It is exponentially more exciting than any other game.?


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