For Yale’s men’s hockey team, there is more to winning than playing hard.
Even after skating and scoring their way to the ECAC championship-clinching victory over Cornell this weekend, players on the team continue to adhere to a strict regimen off the ice. Call it tradition, or even superstition, but many of the 25 members have developed their own idiosyncratic pre-game rituals for success in the rink, including new plans for luck and unity in the post-season.
Left winger Denny Kearney ’11 explained his routine this past season as a series of naps before a game. On game days in his Pierson College double, he said, he naps before the team meeting, attends the meeting, returns to his room and subsequently naps for an additional 1½ hours. Refreshed and ready to dominate in the game, Kearney said, he then treks up to Ingalls Rink.
“I always have a bagel when I get there,” he continued.
Kearney even admitted having a special talent of predicting wins; during his pre-game naps, he said, he occasionally has visions of fellow left winger Jeff Anderson ’11 scoring a goal. And when Kearney shares his dream with Anderson before a game, he explained, Anderson actually scores. “It’s something kind of weird,” Kearney said.
He said his first vision came before the Alabama-Huntsville game at Alabama last season, when Anderson scored his first collegiate goal. His second vision, Kearney said, came before this year’s Harvard-Yale away match, and, indeed, Anderson scored in the 6-2 victory over the Crimson.
Some players have more traditional routines, like putting on the left side of their gear first when dressing for a game or taping their hockey sticks in unique ways. Ken Trentowski ’11 said there is one ritual that affects about a quarter of the hockey players: hot chocolate.
“About six or seven of us have a whole craze that we go through two to three hours before the game,” Trentowski explained. “We throw in one French vanilla creamer, no more, no less.”
Trentowski said he personally makes and delivers a cup to right winger Broc Little ’11, a tradition that began naturally before a team win last season and has continued ever since, Trentowski said.
Some rites are teamwide, such as the annual post-season custom for every player to grow out his facial hair and cultivate a “playoff beard.” Brendan Mason ’11 said he and Ryan Rondeau ’11 have opted for the mustache as their facial hairstyle for the post-season.
“The guys are going to look like absolute beasts,” Mason said.
Trentowski agreed, “Everyone knows this tradition. It doesn’t have to be announced.”
Mason also explained “the flow,” the decision for a player to let his hair grow out for the entire season. Although not mandatory, Mason said, this is a popular tradition that most players adopt.
When the skates are off and the equipment is packed away, the team that plays together certainly tries to stay together, though their living situation has recently been fraught with obstacles.
While the upperclassman players are all members of the Sigma Nu fraternity, the current sophomore players chose to drop their membership to the organization this year. Because a number of soccer and tennis players are also vying to live in the fraternity’s house on High Street, the sophomores would have had to be separated. Living apart from one another is not an option, as Kearney put it. And so the sophomores are currently looking for another house on Edgewood Ave.
“It just puts a damper on what we’re about,” sophomore Trentowski said about what he calls the “Sigma Nu crisis.” “When the hockey team has a party, you don’t want to be at someone else’s house.”
But the team has limited its partying habits and cut down on late nights at Toad’s Place, especially as the season nears playoff time.
“It’s never an issue,” Trentowski said of drinking regulation. “It has limited our social life. But it is just precautionary.”
The team, after all, still has a good time off the ice, now and then. On Sunday night, the players celebrated the team’s weekend victory and the birthday of goalieBilly Blase ’10 at the Sigma Nu house.
Featuring a spread of free cupcakes from the cupcake truck that is typically perched near Ingalls Rink, the party was not widely attended. The team did not mind. After all, it is the middle of midterm season.
Remarked Mason: “We have fun when it’s just the guys.”