Touchdown the Bear in front of Madison Square Garden in NYC and a Frozen Apple sign

Big Red Hockey’s Annual MSG Tradition Keeps Sizzling

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Generations of Lynah Faithful will descend on Midtown Manhattan for the annual Thanksgiving weekend showdown on ice

By Lindsay Lennon

For Big Red hockey fans—and many other Cornellians throughout the NYC metro area—it’s a Thanksgiving tradition on par with turkey and pumpkin pie: a festive weekend game in legendary Madison Square Garden.

On Saturday, November 26, the fabled arena will host the Frozen Apple, the spirited exhibition game that brings thousands of Lynah Faithful to Midtown every other year.

Cornell hockey fans cheering at Madison Square Garden
For many alumni, the annual MSG game is a family affair.

Unlike Red Hot Hockey—the other biennial game in MSG, in which Cornell always faces off against Boston University—the Frozen Apple pits the Big Red men’s team against varying opponents.

They’ve included Yale, Harvard, Michigan, and Penn State; this year, it’s the UConn Huskies.

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“It brings a wide swath of Cornellians and multiple generations of Lynah Faithful together,” says Scott Pesner ’87, vice president of the Cornell Hockey Association, which promotes and supports Big Red men’s hockey.

“When you have 10,000 alumni and their families and friends in one arena, it really is an amazing experience.”

Despite the different titles, the Frozen Apple and Red Hot Hockey have intertwined roots.

After longtime hockey rivals Cornell and B.U. were split into different leagues in the 1980s—ECAC and Hockey East, respectively—they seldom got to face each other.

The friendly foes rekindled their rivalry in 2007 with the introduction of Red Hot Hockey, drawing a sold-out crowd to MSG.

(Among the 18,000 attendees at that debut game were hockey royalty: members of the U.S.’s 1980 Olympic championship team, winners of the “Miracle on Ice” against the Soviet Union.)

The Frozen Apple tradition began in 2012; that game is held in even-numbered years, with Red Hot Hockey continuing in odd-numbered ones.

This year marks the first Frozen Apple since 2018, as the pandemic canceled the 2020 game; Red Hot Hockey was held in 2021, with some COVID restrictions.

Tickets to this year’s game are available through Cornell Athletics; it will be streamed on ESPN+ (subscription required).

Holiday on Ice

While the MSG events are decidedly New York-centric, Pesner notes, they also inspire Cornellians from far beyond the metro area to incorporate the game into their holiday travels.

“It brings classes and clubs together; a lot of alumni bring their children,” says Pesner.

“Current students get to see that they’re part of a longer history—not just the Lynah Faithful, but a larger Cornell community. There’s a lot of pride when you walk in and out of Madison Square Garden and everyone is wearing Cornell red.”

Top: Touchdown hypes the Frozen Apple outside MSG in 2012. All photos by Cornell University photographers.

Published on November 14, 2022


  1. Peter Kaplan, Class of 1974

    Happy Thanksgiving and hope to see many Cornellians at MSG.

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