November 19, 2016
Lynah Rink (Capacity: 4,267)
Cornell Big Red vs Princeton Tigers
Final Score: 4 – 2
A day that began with no jacket ended with heavy snow and a nerve-wracking drive back home, but in between was an enjoyable experience at a hockey game. Cornell University is part of the Ivy League and the school of nearly 20,000 students focuses heavily on research. The huge campus is in the city of Ithaca, though “city” is a generous word as Ithaca really is more of a big college town with a population of 30,000. Located within the Finger Lakes region of New York State, the Ithaca area is one of the country’s most scenic areas. Hockey is the sport that the school is most associated with and after occasional periods of outdoor games, Cornell had a full varsity program in the 1950s. Things took off in the 60s and the Big Red won two national championships in 1967 and 1970. Since then, Cornell has made 19 NCAA Tournament appearances and 8 Frozen Fours (though just one visit in the last 35 years). Games are played at nearly 60 year-old Lynah Rink, where the moniker “rink” is apt as this tight, old-school place boasts a fun atmosphere.
Prestige Ranking: 4 out of 5
The Finger Lakes is absolutely beautiful to visit, though the warm season is the best time as the outdoors are the main attraction. Wineries, waterfalls and gorges make this a destination for many. Ithaca is on the southern end of Cayuga Lake and the downtown is worth strolling through as there are plenty of hangouts to stop at. Expansive Cornell is on the east side of town and attractions on campus include the McGraw Tower, Fall Creek and plenty of historical buildings.
Location Ranking: 7 out of 10
Accessibility / Parking
Ithaca and Cornell can be challenging to get to from any direction. The closest interstate (I-81) is over 25 miles away, so country roads are needed to reach the area. Either exit 8 or exit 12 off of I-81 is the best place to start the venture to Cornell. I used Exit 8, which started me near Whitney Point before meandering my way to Ithaca. This certainly could be a dicey venture at night in the winter (one that I know far too well). Meanwhile, from the NY State Thruway (I-90) it takes almost 45 minutes of two-lane country roads to reach Ithaca. Once on Cornell’s hilly campus, the small roads and busy pedestrian traffic can make things a little confusing for visitors, but thankfully the athletic section is not far from the campus entrance. A parking deck near the rink is open for hockey games, though it can get backed up for about 10 minutes when exiting.
Accessibility / Parking Ranking: 5.5 out of 8
Lynah Rink looks more like a gymnasium at an elementary school than it does a sporting arena. The low-rise, small building is made up of tan and brown brick and features a tiny entrance up a flight of stairs. Letters of the building name can be spotted above an overhang and on the left side. The rink is attached to the bigger and more modern Bartels Hall on the right.
Exterior Ranking: 2 out of 10
The foyers and hallways of the aforementioned Bartels really help to move people around and give fans more options between intermission, otherwise the three narrow hallways around the rink would get very crowded. A renovation in 2006 has given this area character as I enjoyed the Red and White paint job, along with the displays and the player pictures on the doors.
Concourse Ranking: 2.5 out of 5
The circular area that serves as the middle for both arenas is full of protrusions, mostly for food stands. Items are generally basic and they at least contains grilled fare like burgers, fries, sausages and cheesesteaks.
Food Ranking: 1.5 out of 8
Old and rustic are two adjectives that came to mind when walking inside the rink and the most notable thing to me was the tight quarters. There is such a small surface area to the interior that it almost feels claustrophobic, primarily because of the low roof held together by wooden boards and wires. Seating is made up of 14 rows that follow straight lines down each side with a corner section in between the west end. The other end features a wall with a row of individual seats at the front of a walkway. Despite the decent steepness to each row, sightlines are not the best as I often found heads in my way of the ice in addition to straining to see play at the other end. Nearly all seats are on wooden bleachers, the exceptions being a slightly padded section at the center of one side and a couple rows at the top of the other side that had roomy, individual red seats. By no means is this is a comfortable place to watch hockey, however these are the ones where the game and atmosphere can be more special.
Interior Ranking: 3.5 out of 14
Since a board over center ice would be so low that it would nearly touch the faceoff circle, Lynah Rink’s scoreboard is located on an end wall. There is only one and it is quite simple, especially with the nostalgic dot-matrix message board at the top. Multiple ads are on the sides of the board.
Scoreboard Ranking: 1 out of 4
Cornell does a good job honoring their hockey program, especially along the hallways where there is a plethora of trophy cases and wall displays for both the women’s and men’s teams. Additional visuals include yearly team pictures, portraits of Cornellians in the NHL and plaques for statistical titles. A good amount of team color (red and white) enhances the arena and that also can be seen inside the rink. Banners in those colors hang from the low ceiling and the honors include the year of each conference title and NCAA appearance. Two jerseys can be spotted over center ice: #1 of Ken Dryden and #25 for Joe Nieuwendyk.
Displays Ranking: 4 out of 6
Parking is free and the tickets cost $20, higher than most schools, but on par with those that have popular programs. However, ticket prices have gone up 33% in the last decade. Most seats are reserved for students and season-ticket holders as limited sections are left for the public, though those tickets are not as hard to get as they used to be. The program is $3 and concessions are cheap ($5 or less for food, $3 or less for drinks).
Cost Ranking: 6.5 out of 8
Known as the “Lynah Faithful”, the fans at Cornell Hockey games have always created a great hockey environment and Lynah’s small design allows for lots of reverberation as the noise from a goal is awesome with everyone roaring. Several traditions and chants occur during the game that make this a very fun atmosphere for first-time neutrals. “Let’s Go Red” was the most frequent chant, while the loudest is probably “It’s all your fault”, pointed at the opposing goalie after he lets one in. It all starts with some fans reading newspapers during the visiting team introduction, followed by chucking them onto the ice. During the game, other chants I heard and saw included the Dragnet theme for each visitor penalty and the Tuba players hiking to Section A for a rendition of “Swanee River” during the first whistle in the third period. All of this should be noted with an asterisk as I have to say that the chants and traditions were muted on my visit. Aside from the student section, only some in the crowd, mustered a half-hearted effort to participate. This has been noted by longtime fans that Lynah is not what it used to be as only one game (Harvard) gets the full-on craziness that made Cornell one of the top places to watch college hockey. Spontaneous cheering was surprisingly lacking as a good hockey crowd should have saluted their goalie at the next whistle after a series of stops or turned up the applause after a great penalty kill, neither of which happened. Lynah is a great place for hockey and the traditions are enjoyable, but for me, it did not live up to the very high expectations I had coming in.
Atmosphere Ranking: 11 out of 14
About 85% of the seats were filled at puck drop and that increased to 95% ten minutes into the game. Another sign of “not what it used to be”: the season opener against Top-5 Quinnipiac only had a crowd of 3,767. Crowds are respectable and support is in the top 1/3rd of College Hockey, but sellouts are now rare and the only guarantee is the Harvard game (even last year’s ECAC First Round Playoffs did not draw more than 4,000).
Fan Support Ranking: 6 out of 8
Cornell and Harvard share a storied rivalry and the 1962 victory against the Crimson, helped to solidify Cornell’s program and establish Lynah Rink as a true home ice advantage. Games between the two remain passionate between each fan base, punctuated by the throwing of fish from the Lynah Faithful as Harvard takes the ice…..Cornell lists the capacity of Lynah Rink to be 4,267, a number that seems accurate. But man, it is really hard to believe this number. Comparable arenas look much bigger, plus Cornell has a history of wrong capacity (look at Schoellkopf Field, who’s number has not been updated since the removal of the west bleachers). I have no choice but to believe it and hope it is above my capacity threshold…..Rain changed to snow during the game, as expected and I figured I would be driving in steady snow on the way home. Not much stuck to the roads until Northeast PA and the Poconos, where the ride became white knuckle. It took me 4 hours and 15 minutes to reach home and this drive made me really think twice about travelling in any kind of snow.
It was a surprising start as perennial doormats Princeton took a 2-0 lead into the first intermission. Cornell started to control play better in the second period, with more opportunities to cut the deficit to one. In the third, they tied the game on the Power Play and then Mitch Vanderlaan scored a pair of goals to get and extend the lead. The game winner came with 6:20 left and the insurance goal a few minutes later was from a beauty of a wrist shot. Certainly not an overwhelming performance by the Big Red, but they got the job done and defeated the Tigers for the 9th straight time.