Friday night, Liz Jordan ’06 and her friends were trekking through the rain from Swing Space to Ingalls Rink, the site of the Yale-Harvard hockey game. They were making slow progress because of the puddles and ice, when suddenly a vision in blue spandex tights appeared in the wintry mix, waving a Yale flag. This mysterious, caped man was none other than Captain Freedom, there to save the day.
As the men’s hockey team’s mascot, Captain Freedom is a familiar face to Yale hockey fans. But this Captain Freedom’s masked face may have seemed less familiar. Last Monday, Dicky Shanor ’05 — who has been donning the blue tights for the past three years — passed the torch down to the new Captain Freedom, a freshman who must remain anonymous to protect the mystery surrounding the mascot. Friday night’s game against Harvard marked the debut of the ninth incarnation of Captain Freedom.
A long-standing Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity tradition, Captain Freedom came into being approximately 33 years ago as a way for DKE to support its hockey-playing brothers, Shanor said. Chosen as a freshman, Captain Freedom usually holds the prestigious post for all of his four years at Yale, but Shanor said he decided to pass on the honor a year early because he had found such an appropriate successor.
The criteria for selection is tough, Shanor said. Contenders must have “first and foremost a good heart and love of school and country,” but they must also exhibit “inhuman flexibility.” Finally, hopefuls must have “the strength of 10 bears.”
Shanor said that although he would miss his alter-ego, he is confident that his successor embodies all of these traits.
“It was a wonderful experience,” Shanor said. “And I can go to sleep at night because I know that this next person carrying it on will do an exceptional job.”
So who is the mysterious new Captain Freedom? In an anonymous phone interview, the new mascot let slip that he is a football player and gets his love for hockey from growing up in Connecticut.
Shanor emphasized the importance of maintaining the mystery surrounding Captain Freedom and said he was only able to agree to an attributed interview because he no longer holds the revered position.
“I think that it’s the only way it could be done,” Shanor said. “Just as Clark Kent could never relinquish his true identity to anybody, neither can Captain Freedom.”
Shanor did say that Captain Freedom lives in the “Hall of Justice” and that to get to the Ingalls Rink from the Hall of Justice, Captain Freedom “takes the Ho Chi Minh trail.”
According to Jordan, the Ho Chi Minh trail apparently runs along Canal Street. After Jordan and her friends encountered Captain Freedom behind Swing Space, they joined the chosen one and his entourage of DKE members who led them along a path in the woods and across what seemed to be a frozen pond, eventually arriving at their destination — Ingalls Rink.
But for the majority of Friday’s hockey-goers, Captain Freedom first appeared 12 minutes into the first period, wearing his trademark outfit: dirty white shirt emblazoned with a blue star, red cape attached with safety pins, blue tights, American flag bandana tied around his head and a white strip of cloth functioning as an eye-mask, brandishing the letters “C” and “F” for Captain Freedom. Waving a Yale flag, Captain Freedom led the crowd in a cheer before disappearing out of sight.
The mascot appeared several more times throughout Friday night’s game, leading cheers of “Harvard sucks” and, inexplicably, “U-S-A” as well as eliciting cheers from the crowd of “Cap-tain Free-dom.” After the first period, Captain Freedom circled the rink aboard the Zamboni, one of the mascot’s entrenched traditions. Captain Freedom called this, his first ride, “magical” and said it was an emotional moment.
“My first ride on the Zamboni, I had a tear dripping down my cheek,” Freedom said.
The whole week leading up to Friday’s game was fraught with emotion for the newly anointed Captain Freedom. Although he said he had heard about the existence of the mascot from friends, Freedom was unprepared for the phone call he received Monday from Shanor asking to rendezvous at MexiCali Grille. That night, at 6:30 p.m., in a dark corner of the restaurant, the torch was officially passed over a steak burrito.
Between Monday’s revelation and Friday’s inauguration, Captain Freedom spent his time in anticipation of the game, practicing his moves and developing his new persona. Captain Freedom said he walked around his room in costume, looking at his new superhero outfit in the mirror on his door. He added that he wore the spandex leggings underneath his jeans on the day of the game in an effort to further explore the tights’ power and to get into character.
After seeing Captain Freedom again, during his return to the Hall of Justice from Ingalls Rink, Jordan said the new mascot was still in character, still waving the Yale flag high. Jordan, who has attended one other hockey game this season during the reign of the former Captain Freedom, characterized the new mascot as “a little less belligerent” than his predecessor and said he seemed “more positive.”
“I thought he was pretty good for his first time,” Jordan said. “When he got the wave to go all the way around, that was pretty exciting.”
Although Yale ended up giving up a 4-0 lead to lose 7-5, fans did not fault the superhero’s efforts. Captain Freedom, however, was more critical of his performance.
“There’s always room for improvement,” Freedom said. “Right now, I’m like the minor leagues. I messed up a lot, I did some good things and some bad things, but we’ll get back on that horse.”
He said he plans to include more dancing during the breaks and more harassment of opposing players in the penalty box, Freedom said. But above all, he said he was touched to be a part of the tradition.
“Being Captain Freedom is one of the greatest honors that one man can ever possess,” Freedom said. “Just one step below being president.”