Dryden in net for Cornell. Photo courtesy of the University of Toronto

Editor’s Note: This story was written by and republished with the permission of the Big Red Sports Network, which provides excellent Cornell sports coverage throughout the year for alumni, parents, students and fans everywhere.

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Ithaca, N.Y. — Now that we have covered the traditions and cheers of the Lynah Faithful, let’s take a step back and look at the overall history and significance of college hockey’s most notorious fans.

Andy Iles in net for the Big Red. He’s now playing in Alaska.

The birth of the Lynah Faithful

Even though Lynah Rink opened in 1957, it didn’t immediately become what it is today. Cornell’s hockey team had originally played on a frozen Beebe Lake, but after a few unseasonably warm winters, that surface was no longer suitable, and as a result, the team was disbanded after a winless 1947-48 season.

However, in the mid-1950s, funds were raised for a new rink, which was completed in time for Cornell to revive its program for the 1957 season.

The first few years were hard times for the Big Red, as they often lost by lopsided margins, and played in front of sparse crowds. But that all changed in 1962.

Led by goalie Laing Kennedy, the Big Red were on their way to their first winning season in the Lynah era, and were going into a game against Harvard, whom they hadn’t beaten since 1912. According to Adam Wodon’s Cornell University Hockey, fans lined up hours before the game, and by some accounts, more than 4,500 fans backed into the rink that could barely seat 4,000. After the Big Red upset the Crimson, 2-1, fans stormed the ice, and the Lynah Faithful was born.

Legendary coach, goalie guide Big Red to new heights

After the historic win against their bitter rivals, Cornell hired legendary hockey coach Ned Harkness, who guided the Big Red to new heights. Led by future NHL Hall-of-Famer Ken Dryden, Cornell won it’s first hockey national championship in 1967, and then one-upped themselves by winning it all again in 1970 by becoming the first and only college hockey team to have a perfect season at 29-0-0.

It was also at this time when the Lynah Faithful started to resemble what it is today, as hockey tickets became a must-have for all students. Before the recent switch to online ticket sales, the only way to get the best season tickets was to camp out in Barton Hall before tickets went on sale.

It was considered a rite of passage for the most rabid fans, and for a while was a tradition just as famous as anything that happened in Lynah. (Unfortunately, this tradition was stopped a few years ago because of concern of swine flu. And probably because the administration didn’t love that kids were missing classes).

Dryden in net for Cornell. Photo courtesy of the University of Toronto

The craziest game in Cornell hockey history?

Over the next several years, Cornell would continue to play in front of sold out crowds every night, and would continue to be one of the top teams in the country. Probably the most famous game in this time (and probably the most famous game in Cornell hockey history) was the 1979 Quarterfinal against Providence College at Lynah Rink. The Big Red trailed the Friars 5-1 in the third period, but three late goals cut it to 5-4. When Cornell pulled their goalie with less than a minute left, Providence’s Randy Wilson stole the puck and skated to an empty net to end the game—and Cornell’s season. But miraculously, he missed the net, and Cornell got the puck back, and with 13 seconds to go, future NHL player Lance Nethery fired a desperation shot from the blue line that somehow made it to the back of the net. Lynah Rink exploded in a way it never had before, and may never will again.

According to some accounts, people were going so crazy that the band actually forgot to play “Give My Regards to Davy”! Cornell eventually won the game 6-5 in overtime on a goal by Robbie Gemmell, and the Lynah Faithful swarmed over the boards and mobbed the players on the ice.

The modern era

Today, while the rink may look a little different (after 2006 renovations, capacity increased to 4,267), but the atmosphere has not changed much at all. Even though students no longer camp out for tickets, they are finding newer and newer ways to get under the opposing team’s skin, and finding more and more ways to insult their sieve.

But more than a place to watch a hockey game or scream until your lungs bleed, Lynah Rink has become the ultimate bond for the Cornell and Ithaca community. Students and locals (who I have to say are just as supportive, if not more so, than the students are), who might not always see eye-to-eye, immediately unite on one front, while alums from different eras and current students are able to agree on one thing. On a campus as diverse as Cornell’s, it can sometimes be difficult to find common ground with a fellow student. But once you’re in Lynah, nobody cares about your major, where you grew up, or what student organizations you belong to. You are all united under the singular purpose of rooting for Cornell’s hockey teams.

This season

As the 2013-14 season gets started, feel lucky, but more importantly, feel proud that you get to be part of such a storied tradition. Get to the game early to throw newspapers, then scream “RED!” during the national anthem, try to make the rink shake during “Gary Glitter”, and make sure you stay until the very end, so Schafer and his boys can properly salute you for your support.

Also, because Lynah Faithful should not only apply to the men’s team, please make sure you go to as many women’s games as possible this season. They’ve been one of the top teams in the nation over the past four years, and would love to have more support. But most importantly, in the next few months if there’s ever a week when you feel overwhelmed with stress because of reading, prelims, problem sets or graduate school applications, don’t let it get to you. Save up your stress and frustration and release it the second you get into Lynah. The team might not always win, and the traditions might change, but the experience is one you will never forget.


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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.