SU needs hockey team

Now the rest of the nation will know how we’ve felt for so long. They’ll know what winter sounds like without the whoosh, what it feels like without body checks.

The NHL called off its season yesterday, league commissioner Gary Bettman delivering the news in a somber press conference. And, if you’re a Syracuse student who likes hockey, that’s bad news for you. For some reason, at a college covered in ice, there’s no hockey team.

Now that there’s no NHL, it’s time for us to realize how little sense that makes.

There are too many teeth on this campus. Syracuse should have a hockey team, and, no offense to the hardworking, hard-nosed guys out at Tennity Ice Pavilion, the club team isn’t cutting it.

In a place with an endless supply of ice and snow, it just makes sense. If we put it to a vote, the ‘Eh?’s’ would have it.

When new athletic director Daryl Gross first began his courtship with Syracuse, he had this silly notion that they played hockey on a campus whose temperature readings look like a golf scorecard. He didn’t even think twice – Gross just assumed SU played hockey.

Well, he was wrong. But he wants to change that.

Gross said in his introductory press conference that he wants to explore the idea of bringing a Division I men’s hockey program to the Hill, which currently has only a club level squad. And that’s a great idea.

Manifesting it, though, won’t be so easy, mainly because of Title IX. Introducing a men’s ice hockey program would throw the proportionality of scholarships for each gender out of whack, and a new women’s team would have to be introduced as well.

Introducing one new athletic program would put enough strain on SU’s athletic budget, recently damaged by shrinking football attendance. But two? Greg Robinson might have to pawn his Super Bowl rings.

Even if Syracuse made fiscal space for the teams, it would still need to make physical space. Tennity can house a couple club teams and the occasional student skater, but to properly make a new program, Syracuse would need a new, bigger rink.

Other than those obstacles – which, admittedly, are big ones – there’s no doubt that Syracuse could become a hockey hotbed. (Or is that coldbed?). College hockey is one of the most exciting sports to watch live, and once this campus figured that out, students would pack a new rink. It’d be so popular, Billy Fucillo could start selling Zambonis.

Ah, you say. Syracuse already has hockey, and students neglect it like the vegan line at Shaw. After all, there’s not a lot of buzz going around about the big Crunch game this weekend, is there?

But that’s not a proper litmus test, because the Crunch don’t play on campus. Syracuse students (ITALICS)never(ITALICS) do anything en masse if it means leaving the confines of Comstock. Heck, I’ve been to a bar in town that gives away free beer for half an hour every day – honestly – and students won’t even go there.

The Northeast is littered with puck-crazed campuses. Boston College’s football team almost won the Big East in its swan song season, and the Eagles’ hoops team shocked the nation with 20 wins to open the season.

But you know what? It’s a (ITALICS)hockey(ITALICS) school at heart. Fans there would trade all those wins in the sports we favor for a win in the annual Beanpot tournament, which rival Boston University won this weekend.

The intensity of the BU-BC rivalry could match any in the nation. That’s something Syracuse is missing, and an ice hockey team could remedy that.

Quick … name SU’s biggest rival in basketball. Is it Georgetown? Connecticut? Who knows?

How about football? According to my NCAA 2005 PlayStation game, Syracuse and West Virginia play for something called the Schwartzwalder Trophy. Not exactly Red Sox-Yankees.

Geographic distance has robbed Syracuse of any great rivalries ever since Colgate fell off the national football scene decades ago. But both Colgate and Cornell have quality hockey programs and are right around the corner from Syracuse.

Syracuse-Colgate was once a great rivalry in basketball and football, but that was ages ago. Now it’s more comedy than confrontation when the schools meet on the hardwood. Syracuse beat Cornell and Colgate by an average of 13 this year in basketball, and the Cornell and Colgate football squads are on a similar level to perennial doormat Temple. Oh, never mind.

But seriously, it would be great for Syracuse to gain a regional rival. The football team hasn’t played Colgate or Cornell since 1987, and the basketball team hasn’t lost to either school in 37 years. It would take a few years, but the Syracuse-Colgate and Syracuse-Cornell rivalries would thrive again if Gross brought hockey here.

It will be hard. It might take a while. But Gross, just 43 years young, has time. For a campus frosted with ice, he should bring a hockey team.

Adam Kilgore is a staff writer at The Daily Orange, where his columns appear every Thursday. E-mail him at adkilgor@syr.edu.

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