Red Hot Hockey

I should not be writing this right now. I have a final paper due early next week and my weekend consists of work, BU hockey, work, BU hockey, work, and football. So I promised myself that I would bang out most of it today to justify traveling to Merrimack tomorrow and going straight from work to the home game on Saturday night, but honestly I’ve been at it for the past four hours (made decent progress) and now just need a mental break. A break to remind me that I really still do like writing when I can write whatever the hell I want.

Also, I’ve been having major hockey withdrawal since my last game hasn’t been since Saturday night and the anticipation of tonight’s Bruins/Habs game and the home-and-home weekend with Merrimack is slowly breaking me.

So let’s talk about hockey.

Red Hot Hockey.

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Red Hot Hockey is a tradition that began 6 years ago on November 24, 2007. It is a much-anticipated, bi-annual matchup between the Boston University Terriers and Cornell University Big Red at Madison Square Garden in New York City over Thanksgiving Break. BU and Cornell are old conference rivals before the Terriers left the ECAC for the Hockey East in 1984.

Red Hot Hockey has brought this great rivalry back to relevancy for us youngsters every two years, drawing a sea of red and white to (arguably–and I’d definitely love to argue this) the best hockey arena in the world: Madison Square Garden

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Every meeting is a nail-bitingingly close game with the past two meetings going into overtime, including one tie and one almost win-that-would-have-been for Cornell due to a missing puck that drew a whistle and then somehow ended up in the back of the net. Despite all of this, BU is still undefeated in this new tradition, making it 3-0-1 with an incredibly nail-biting win last Saturday night.

I did not attend Red Hot Hockey in 2011 because I was still young, naive and unfortunately hadn’t quite realized how absolutely incredible college hockey was yet (I still went to all the home games at this point, but certainly wasn’t about to drop $200 for a drive out to Michigan for a couple of games) and thought an extra two days at home would be more fulfilling then a hockey game. Silly, Nicole. And I paid for it because I missed an incredible overtime win.

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Needless to say, since last year when I became a serious fanatic, I have been counting down the days until Red Hot Hockey (and Frozen Fenway, but that’s getting ahead of myself). That day finally came Saturday night and I was rewarded with an equally heart-attack-inducing as the past 2 years had offered.

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I left home at 8am on Saturday morning to train on down to the big city. I arrived a few hours before the rest of my friends and the band so I spent that time just wandering around that section of Manhattan, circling Macy’s, chilling in Herald Square, eating wafels, and avoiding the Rangers fans streaming in and out of the Garden like the plague.

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Finally, my best friend Vic arrived on the Long Island Railroad and we had another hour or so to grab some food and chill out.

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There may or may not have been an incident when we passed two guy walking together, one wearing a BC jersey and one wearing a Rangers jersey, and I just looked at them and screamed Ewwwwww! Noooo!! at them. If this did actually happen, I can tell you that they found it rather amusing and returned the Ew sentiments at our BU gear. This also may or may not have led to me passing in front of MSG again right as the game was letting out (after a Ranger win and a Kreider [former BC player] hat trick) yelling LET’S GO BRUINS! because we had beaten them the day before. But again, my brain was in such a cloud of RHH excitement that I can’t say for sure…or be held responsible for any hockey-related actions.

Finally, it was game time.

Vic and I waited in the hotel lobby for the rest of the band to join us and got a wonderful show as the entire hockey team walked out through the lobby heading to the game. We admired their beautifulness and hurled good luck vibes at them. Then we performed a small set outside the Garden for some BU parents and alumni, a larger set inside the garden at a special BU alumni cocktail hour and then half of the band, myself included, went to take our seats in what was still an empty Garden while the rest went to perform in the lobby.

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We even had personal TVs in our section! Perfect timing for watching the end of the Alabama-Auburn game too!

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This part’s a blur. It was the longest hour of my life as we waited over an hour for puck drop and went through the standard pre game procedures. The crowds began to pour in and MSG became a sea of red.

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The majority of which, we would later learn, were rooting for Cornell.

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But it’s okay. It probably evened things out with how loud the good ole Dog Pound can be.

BU came out to an early 3-0 lead and we were put to the daunting task of holding on to this great lead for a good 40 minutes. Words cannot even begin to describe how incredible Matt O’Connor was in net. He made incredible save after incredible save. The ECAC refs certainly tried to give Cornell back the game with penalty after penalty called against the Terriers (most of them being pretty bullshit…not being biased). But the Terriers killed every single penalty against a Cornell power play unit that is second best in the country. It was incredible.

The Big Red did manage to put 2 goals on the board toward the end of the third, giving us the nail-biting, heart-attack-inducing ending that we knew and expected from a Red Hot Hockey game. And another Terrier penalty with almost 2 minutes left in the game meant we would be playing 6-on-4 for the remainder of the game. But we Ole’d and screamed our hearts out and O’Connor held on like the clutch goalie he has definitely proven to be over the past several games and there was a collective sigh of relief from 25% of the Garden as soon as that final buzzer finally sounded.

Did I mention the Big Red had 39 shots on goal and BU had 11?

11.

3 of which went in.

And OC stopped 37 from Cornell.

Yeah, we all lost several years off our lives from that one.

But hey…all’s well that ends well.

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And boy, did this end well!

So former coaching legends at Boston University and Cornell, Jack Kelley and Ned Harkness, respectively, agreed that this year’s winner would determine the name of the new, shiny piece of hardware they would be giving out to the winner of the game at ever Red Hot Hockey from here on out. The Kelley-Harkness Cup if BU won or the Harkness-Kelley trophy if Cornell won. I think it should have been just the Kelley or Harkness Cup to really up the stakes, but oh well. And I tell you, I would’ve been really pissed if the first time Cornell ever won this thing was the year they get the damn trophy named after them! But everything worked out well and we got to stick around long after the Cornell faithful had vacated the Garden with their heads down to watch captains Noonan and MacGregor accept the Kelley-Harkness trophy.

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The Dog Pound and band even got a special nod from MacGregor as they were carrying it back to their teammates.

You don’t know how long I’ve waited (four years) to see this team take a picture like this:

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And I am convinced I will get to see it at least one more time at the Beanpot this year. And the Hockey East tournament. And the NCAA championships? Getting too far ahead of myself? It’s my senior year, come on!

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I’m pretty disappointed that this game wasn’t televised because the Islanders were on MSG (do people really care about them?) and no one else picked it up because the world unrightfully hates college hockey. So the only highlights we’re left with from the game are from Cornell Athletics and it leaves out oh so much! Like the many INCREDIBLE saves by O’Connor or the entire last 3 minutes of the game. I want to relive it again and again!

Oh well, at least I got to experience it in person.

After the game we had several hours to go crazy around Manhattan so I met up with some of my non-band friends and chilled at a pub, vastly outnumbered by Cornell fans, but it was fine! They all left long before us and we made some new friends who came over to us (clearly, crazy hockey fanatic people that we are) and asked if they could hang with us because we were obviously better than being near all the Big Red fans.

Good times.

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AND I got to have my first legal drink with my best friend! Vic turned 21 a week after me and we’ve both been so busy lately that we never got the chance to go out together so it was great! And I made it back on the band bus in time and in one piece, so we’re good!

It was definitely a night to remember!

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