Last Saturday, for the first time in Yale hockey history, the Bulldogs defeated Quinnipiac 4–0 to win the NCAA Division I men’s hockey championship. But you already knew that. This week, WEEKEND brings you what you don’t already know. What were the players thinking moments after the final buzzer rang? If it took Yale this long to win, then what were we doing for the past 120 years? Three hockey players offer the details on what this momentous victory means; a Yale history professor gives us a crash course in Yale hockey history; a devoted hockey fan tells us about the Pittsburgh viewing experience; and for the first time in the News’ history, a Quinnipiac student offers his take on the Yale-Quinnipiac rivalry. Take a moment and read their words — because this is what it feels like to go to a school that’s good at sports.
By the Yale Men’s Hockey Team
// NICHOLAS MARICIC ’13 (Goalie)
It took years of clawing, scratching, pushing and pulling to get to the door. With each tournament appearance, we knocked a little louder: a soft rasp in ’09, a respectable thud in ’10 and an almost impossible-to-ignore bang in ’11. What happened in ’13 was different, more akin to quietly walking up, pulling that oh-so-heavy door of national acceptance off its hinges and casually tossing it aside. It is now undeniable — Yale has arrived. The club of Division I hockey national champions is an exclusive one, with Yale now being only its 19th member. For the Yale hockey program and its fans, this is a long-awaited moment to savor.
For us players, the experience has been surreal, and perhaps a little overwhelming. Skating around the ice after the final buzzer, it was hard not to think of the people who made this all possible. For Yale, our families, our coaches both past and present, friends, teachers, classmates and suitemates, we couldn’t have done it without you. More than anything else, this experience has made us cognizant of just how fortunate we are. For all of us, this championship is the culmination of a journey 10, 11 or 12 years in the making.
Hockey isn’t a sport you can casually pick up in high school — it’s a lifestyle that consumes you before your age reaches double digits. To feed the obsession, you need enablers. This championship was for our parents, who selflessly gave up vacations, birthdays and anniversaries without a complaint just to make sure we got to pee-wee practice at those ungodly hours. It was for the coaches of past and present, who saw our potential as both players and people and gave up thousands upon thousands of hours to make sure we didn’t squander it. It is for the teachers, whose flexibility and understanding make it possible for us to succeed both academically and athletically; you don’t know how much that paper extension after a long road trip means to us. It’s for the friends and suitemates who support us inside and outside of Ingalls. We might feign a stoicism when we are on the ice, but rest assured we see you up there breaking it down in the student section, and we love it. Your support outside of the rink is just as important; talking to us about everything except the rough game last night provides an outlet for us that, though we might not verbalize it, we appreciate. Finally, Yale, after an incredible four years, this is for you. A certain coach, smiling what I can honestly say might have been the first grin I’ve seen in four years, said it best after a certain big game on Saturday: “You’ve already given us more than it would ever be possible to give back to you”.
// CHARLES ORZETTI ’16 (Left-winger)
First and foremost, I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to play with my team this year and accomplish what we did. Most college hockey players go through four years without making the tournament, and my class was fortunate enough to win the whole thing in our first year. It is surreal, and we’re still in celebration mode; I suspect once everything settles down, it will sink in. I remember skating around after the win in disbelief. Every team says winning the championship is its goal, but we had actually done it. I was struggling to come up with words for an interview to describe the feeling, and I still am. Being able to celebrate with my mom, dad, brother and sister after the game made winning even more special. I will never forget that night.
Playing for this University and having the entire school behind us was an unbelievable feeling. I’m proud of the boys, coaches, staff and what we were able to accomplish. Hockey is the ultimate team sport, and we have a special group of guys who play for each other. The senior leadership was unbelievable, and I truly believe that Andrew Miller ’13, Josh Balch ’13, Antoine Laganiere ’13, Colin Dueck ’13, Jeff Malcolm ’13 and Nick Maricic ’13 creating winning expectations was the biggest factor in our success. When a reporter asked about the team after our win, I told him it was the mentally toughest group with which I’ve ever played. That’s a tribute to the seniors, and I think it’s the main reason we were able to handle a lot of adversity during the season and in the tournament. I’m glad they are graduating as champions — I cannot think of a better way to send off such a great group.
As for the future of Yale hockey, I’m already excited for next season. The bar has been set regarding expectations, and after experiencing this ride, I know everyone will want it again even more. Since college hockey crowned its first winner in 1948, there have been eight repeat national champions. Next year, we’d love nothing more than to be the ninth.
// ROBERT O’GARA ’16 (Defense)
I still do not think what we accomplished last weekend has completely sank in. I think Nick Maricic ’13 put it best in his speech during the celebration at the rink, when he said it feels like a dream still, and he doesn’t want to wake up and have it end. As a kid you dream about winning championships like this one, and to actually accomplish that goal and win that championship feels nothing short of incredible. To win that game with this group of guys, incredible coaching staff and my parents in the stands is something I will remember for the rest of my life and for which I could never describe my true gratitude. I feel beyond lucky and honored to have played with each and every one of those guys out on that ice Saturday night. Everyone stuck to the plan, and with the leadership of our seniors, who are already about to be doing big things in hockey in different sweaters, we were able to persevere. This is quite obviously the greatest victory of my hockey career, and I have my teammates and coaches to thank for that. It really is difficult to describe my emotions, but to say I am still on cloud nine would be an understatement.
In terms of what this win means for the future of Yale hockey, I hope that it makes everyone here even hungrier to win it all again. That feeling was one like no other, and to say “I want it again” would be severely underexaggerating my desire to have our hockey team back on top once again: I am already looking forward to next season to hopefully do it all again, and that’s what our focus will be. We now have a large group of guys who know what it takes to win at that stage, and I think that alone will really help our program in the coming years. I am so excited at where we can go in my next three years here at Yale, and once again want to express my appreciation for going through this unbelievable experience as a freshman.
A quick shoutout again to our awesome senior class who really deserved to go out this way — a great group of guys. Also Gus Young ’14, my defense partner, will appreciate a shoutout if he reads this — I can’t wait to play with him again next year. And finally the freshman class — the best class dynamic in the NCAA. Thanks.
A Look Back Into Yale’s Hockey History
By Professor Jay Gitlin ’71 MUS ’74 GRD ’02
First — best sign ever: Pux et Veritas. Second — congratulations to head coach Keith Allain ’80 and the NATIONAL CHAMPIONS: Yale men’s hockey team. I like the sound of that. Thanks guys. We’re very proud of you. And nod to Max de La Bruyère ’13, Alberta is in the house.
All of this may be a surprise to some, but it shouldn’t be. The Yale men’s ice hockey team is the oldest existing intercollegiate ice hockey program in the United States, dating back to 1893. The team had its ups and downs, and even won the Hobey Baker Award in the 1934–’35 season, but the modern era began in 1938 when the University hired former New York Rangers player Murray Murdoch to be the team’s head coach. Murdoch, born in Ontario and raised in Alberta, played over a decade for the Rangers. He coached the Yale team until 1965, received the Lester Patrick Trophy for his contributions to U.S. hockey in 1974 and died at the age of 96 in 2001. Murdoch, known as the “Iron Man” for never having missed a game in 11 seasons with the Rangers, came to Yale at the suggestion of John Reed Kilpatrick 1911, an All-American football player in 1909 and 1910. Kilpatrick became the president of Madison Square Garden and the New York Rangers in 1933. How’s that for “life after Yale”? I knew Kilpatrick’s daughter, Frannie Field, a wonderful person who had the best stories ever, having literally grown up in Madison Square Garden. She would tell us about meeting Will Rogers, Walter Chrysler, rodeo stars and hockey players.
As for me, I developed a fascination for hockey as a young kid in the late 1950s. I couldn’t stand up on skates, but I loved the game. Channel-surfing for something to watch — well, it wasn’t exactly channel-surfing then since these were the pre-cable and pre-remote days and you had to get up and turn the dial on the set — I found such marvels as the New York Tuck Tapers of the National Industrial Basketball League and then, hockey: the Rangers. (I patiently explained hockey to my dad — blue lines, cross-checking, etc. He loved all sports and had been a boxer, a runner and a big baseball fan.) The Rangers didn’t have a great team. The Montreal Canadiens with Maurice “Rocket” Richard and his younger brother Henri, the “Pocket Rocket,” and later, the incomparable Guy Lafleur, always seemed to dominate the NHL. But the Rangers had their great players, Camille “the Eel” Henry and Andy Bathgate. My favorites were Rod Gilbert and Jean Ratelle. I got to meet Gilbert when I played the piano at the New Haven Coliseum at a reception for the New Haven Nighthawks, the Rangers’ AHL affiliate, back in the 1970s.
So I was already a hockey fan when I arrived at Yale in the late ’60s and discovered that hockey was a big deal in the Ivies and in prep schools all over New England. At Yale, however, hockey also became my window into Canada in the form of Duane D. Drager ’71 — “Spike.” Spike was from Sudbury, Ontario, and lived across the hall my sophomore year in Calhoun. We cheered him on at Ingalls Rink, but perhaps of more lasting importance for me, it was Spike that introduced us to his “home and native land,” Canada. While other rooms sat around listening to the Stones and the Beatles, we listened over and over again to the great songs of Canadian singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot. You should check him out. Apparently, Robbie Robertson of The Band (also Canadian) and Bob Dylan were huge Gordon Lightfoot fans. Lightfoot’s biggest hits were “If You Could Read My Mind” (beautiful song) and “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” (Both hit the top 10 in the U.S.) My own favorites are “She Was Something Very Special To Me” and “Canadian Railroad Trilogy.” Thanks Spike — still love these songs.
Well, many years later, I wound up as a member of the Canadian Studies Committee at Yale, and now I’ve taught Canadian history here for 15 years. Especially in the first years I taught the course, I would always have a few hockey players in class, and I have to share a story about one of them: Nick Deschenes ’03. Nick, a native of Alberta, took my class and wrote an excellent final paper. I was also pleased that he had used this occasion to reconnect with relatives in Québec and brush up on his French. He wrote his history senior essay on a very serious topic, the impact of a cholera epidemic on Québec City in the 1830s. Toward of the end of the semester, he walked into my office in Davenport with the biggest grin ever and announced: “Professor Gitlin, this is the best day of my life. I got an A on my senior essay … and I’ve been drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers.”
So here’s to Yale Hockey, past and present. Here’s to our 2013 team and to Nick, to Spike, to Roland Betts ’68 and Jeremy Kinney ’68 who played hockey as undergraduates and have been great alumni and supporters of history initiatives such as the Lamar Center, to classmate Bob Ufer ’71, Bob Brooke ’83 and former student Keith McCullough ’99. Drink a toast to Jeff Malcolm ’13 of Lethbridge, Alberta, and Antoine Laganiere ’13 of Ile Cadieux, Québec. It was a long time coming, but worth the wait. Three cheers for Hockey, Canada and Yale. Murray Murdoch is smiling.
Don’t Take It For Granted
By Evan Frondorf ’14
We may frequently lament the dearth of athletic success here at Yale, but we’re actually pretty spoiled. We’ve seen success that previous Yale classes could only dream about. Yale hockey has never been better, and it’s been good for the better half of the last decade — the team has made the NCAA tournament four times in the last five years. Before that? Just twice in the previous 61 years of the NCAA tournament. Yale’s ice hockey program is the oldest in the United States, but it took 120 years for the Bulldogs to earn the national crown. We’re living through history, folks.
I was in Pittsburgh for four days to cover the team for WYBC (and Grand Rapids before that), and my biggest takeaway was how special this moment was for fans and former alumni and team members. Sure, I had spent the last couple years covering games in 3,000-person rinks in upstate New York, so I too was starstruck by watching Yale play in an 18,000-seat NHL arena in downtown Pittsburgh. But to me it seemed like a natural progression: Step 1. Cover the regular season games. Step 2. Cover the conference tournament. Step 3. Cover the NCAA tournament. For longtime Yale fans, the New Haven faithful and employees of Yale Athletics, however, the team usually didn’t make it to Step 3 (or even Step 2). There was no payoff, no reward at the end of a grueling regular season. This was a team that went 5–25–2 during the 2004–’05 season, playing at an Ingalls Rink that badly needed a renovation.
Obviously, going to the Frozen Four for the first time in 61 years — and then winning a national championship — was an event of cathartic delayed gratification that no current student can understand or imagine. The New Haven Register’s Chip Malafronte has covered college hockey in New Haven for more than a decade and never saw a team in the Frozen Four. Suddenly, he had both Yale and Quinnipiac not only advancing to the Frozen Four, but also advancing to the national title game. Meanwhile, this was my first full year primarily covering Yale hockey — it almost felt as if I didn’t deserve it. I made memories I’ll have for the rest of my life, but some people have been waiting for a good part of their life to make these memories.
But the hockey team’s success is no accident. Yes, Yale was the last at-large team to earn a bid to the tournament. Yes, they were a statistical underdog in each of their four tournament games. Yes, we could call them a Cinderella that made a magical run. Yet this team wouldn’t even have had the chance to compete for championship if it weren’t for the concerted effort of staff and administrators. When Tim Taylor, a hockey coaching legend, stepped down as head coach in 2006 after 28 years at the helm, the Athletics Department and the administration took a step back to re-evaluate the future of the hockey program. Despite strong criticism of his handling of the University’s athletics programs over the years, President Levin was instrumental in the hiring of current head coach Keith Allain ’80, a former star goaltender for the Bulldogs who had first found success as an assistant coach in the NHL. Also credit Athletics Director Tom Beckett for persuading Allain to come to Yale. As Allain said in a postgame press conference after the team earned its bid to the Frozen Four, “I wouldn’t be coaching in college hockey if it wasn’t for the Yale job.” Step 1: Hire a Yale alumnus renowned in the hockey world, who knows and understands the University’s unique relationship with athletics, to coach the ailing hockey program.
Next came a $23 million renovation of the beautiful Ingalls Rink, completed in 2010, just as the school made its second straight NCAA tournament. The renovated facility was essential to establishing Yale as a top-notch hockey school. Just as the program’s stature was rising, fans returned to Ingalls. Step 2: Put millions of dollars into restoring Ingalls Rink to its rightful place as the coolest venue in college hockey.
Finally, Yale needed to recruit players that met the school’s academic standards but were still capable of playing at an elite level. The school faces disadvantages, both those that are properly self-imposed (the academic rigor and lack of athletic scholarships) and those that are an unfortunate result of Yale’s position in the college hockey world. If top NHL prospects even choose to play college hockey, they go to one of the powerhouses — Minnesota, Boston College, North Dakota and so on. For example, Yale had four NHL draft picks on the squad this year; Minnesota had 15. Instead, Allain used what he had and created a system based on recruiting smaller players overlooked by the big schools — smaller players who are often speedy, relentless and have a strong hockey IQ. Bringing it all together under a terrific head coach has led to both team success and accolades for individual players. Step 3: Recruit intelligent players who fit in with Yale’s playing style, instead of developing the team around top recruits.
Mix well, and seven years later, the Bulldogs have earned a national championship. But those seven years in the oven were so crucial. Those three steps took time, dedication and a belief that Yale could make waves in the college hockey establishment. And they surely weren’t as clear-cut as my naive “three steps to covering a hockey season” I mentioned earlier. This championship is for the current students and the current team, but in large part, it’s also for the former players, the alumni and the die-hard fans that stuck with Yale hockey through the lean years and the program’s growth. Without each of their contributions, there’s no way this program would be where it is now.
Toad’s Rivalry Takes Center Stage
By Daniel Grosso QU ’13
After closely following Quinnipiac hockey and attending as many games as my schedule would allow during my four years in college, I could not have dreamed of a better culmination to an incredible season than the championship game on Saturday night.
I made the trek to Pittsburgh for the Frozen Four, and it was truly an amazing experience. It was incredible to see my small school from Hamden, Conn., recognized on the red carpet. Countless locals tapped me on the shoulder in bars, puzzled as to the pronunciation of the school on my shirt. The hockey team did more than win that night — it gave Quinnipiac national recognition.
Our hockey team had a storybook season. The Bobcats began the season unranked, an impossible-to-pronounce university nuzzled in the heart of Connecticut, and by the end the team had held the top ranking in the nation since February and was playing for the NCAA Division I men’s ice hockey championship. It was only fitting the final obstacle standing between Quinnipiac and a national title was its rival, a team they beat three times previously in the season, the Yale Bulldogs.
Although it provided good media fodder, I wanted nothing less than to face the Bulldogs in the championship. It is incredibly difficult to beat one team, harder yet a rival, four times in a single season. Sure enough, Yale was prepared in the fourth go-around and was able to beat Quinnipiac when it mattered most. The Bulldogs seemed to beat Quinnipiac to every puck; they played inspired hockey, defeated the top three teams in the nation and took home the national championship. Yale put together one of the all-time great runs in college hockey.
The championship loss will sting for quite some time, as only a win on the biggest stage could remedy these feelings, but it adds more history to one of college hockey’s best rivalries. Looking back, as a freshman, there was one game I knew I had to get a ticket for: the Yale game. The atmosphere of a Quinnipiac-Yale game is electric, and it was a thrill to experience at the Frozen Four.
Seeing the CONSOL Energy Center filled with Connecticut pride is something I will never forget. The game was such a great showing of the quality of hockey our region has to offer. Both student sections were out in full force and ready for some serious competition. Quinnipiac’s section was a sea of gold, while Yale showed plenty of spirit themselves. Students wore all blue, and some painted their chests for the game.
As has become customary with the rivalry, the sections fought back and forth. Quinnipiac was keen on the “everybody knows Yale blows” chant, a staple for our school at these games. I love the rivalry our two schools have; it is a time we can openly insult Yale without fighting at Toad’s or peeing on buildings. It’s a way to go crazy and have some good jawing back-and-forth without actually harming anyone.
During my four years at Quinnipiac, the Yale game was always the strongest showing of school spirit. The rivalry unifies the student body and is the biggest event at my school each year. Quinnipiac’s hockey game against Yale is the closest I will ever come to the intensity of a Yale-Harvard football game. It’s circled on everybody’s calendar and is a game guaranteed to sell out.
Unlike recent incidents in other sports or at other schools, nobody has ever attacked one another at a Quinnipiac-Yale hockey game. To me, this is the rivalry’s best quality. Both schools understand the rivalry is in the name of fun and is more about school spirit and pride than it is anything else.
While in Pittsburgh, my friends and I ran into some Yale alumni from Ohio in one of the bars. We were decked out in Quinnipiac gold, but they approached us anyway. We talked for a while about college hockey and took some friendly jabs at each other’s schools, but it was always in good fun. By the end of the afternoon, they had bought us shots and we were sitting and drinking as friends. It was fun to see how a college rivalry can bring together people who have never before met. Although we are “enemies,” it was a good conversation starter.
Although the championship loss will be tough to put behind me, I know the rivalry will only grow more intense. Yale has hardware to hold over our heads, but Quinnipiac will be coming even harder for the years to come. The Toad’s rivalry will continue to grow and will be there for new students to enjoy. Seeing both these programs experience national success only makes me excited for the future. Our two hockey teams showed Minnesota and the rest of the nation how strong the ECAC and Connecticut hockey are.
We may be rivals, but that does not mean Quinnipiac does not respect a good opponent. My hat goes off to the Yale hockey team; you guys went on an incredible run. It was fun seeing you guys in the championship game, and I can’t wait to be back next year.
Contact Daniel Grosso at firstname.lastname@example.org .