Cornell men's ice hockey players embrace each other at the end of a game as fans cheer on nearby.

For the Lynah Faithful, Ice Hockey Is a Matter of Tradition

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There are sports fans—and then there’s the Lynah Faithful. Though Cornell first had a hockey team in the early 20th century, the rink’s opening in the 1950s spawned a family of fiercely dedicated supporters, complete with their own set of traditions. Decades later, it’s still going strong.

“It brings the community together so well,” season ticket holder Scott Pesner ’87 says of the Lynah culture, “both the students and people from the Ithaca area.”

Now an officer of the fan-centered Cornell Hockey Association (CHA), Pesner fell in love with Big Red Hockey while playing in the pep band during games—so much so that he cites conducting the group at Lynah as highlights of his senior year.

A shot of the crowd at a Cornell University men's hockey game.
The crowd, in panorama. (CHA)

Ned Dykes, DVM ’74, by contrast, never ventured into the rink during his days as a busy veterinary student. But after joining the radiology faculty at CVM, he started attending games in the ’90s, eventually becoming an avid volunteer photographer for the CHA. He became part of the Faithful subset affectionately dubbed the “Townies”—local fans, some of whom have been sitting in the same seats for generations.

“There are so many little ‘rink rats,’” Dykes says, using the fond term for children of the Faithful. “They grew up running around the rink, they married and stayed in Ithaca—and now their kids are running around there.”

In the stands, the demographics are clear among the sea of red. Students cluster on one side, and remain standing throughout the game—sitting only during the breaks between periods.

Two hands playing a cowbell instrument at a hockey game amid a crowd.
More cowbell! (CHA)

“The Cornell hockey traditions have been widely imitated but never equaled,” Jim Roberts ’71 and Arthur Mintz ’71 write in Forever Faithful: Celebrating the Greatest Moments of Cornell Hockey. “There may be other universities with more impressive facilities, but there’s nothing like Lynah Rink. Programs like Boston College and the University of Michigan have more national championships, but the reputation of Big Red hockey stands out. Being a member of the Lynah Faithful is something that stays with you all your life.”

The 4,267-seat rink that’s home to Big Red hockey and its fans was constructed in 1957–58; it was named in honor of James Lynah 1905, Cornell’s athletic director from 1935–43.

Being a member of the Lynah Faithful is something that stays with you all your life.

Jim Roberts ’71 & Arthur Mintz ’71, Forever Faithful

Previously, home games had been held on Beebe Lake—until a series of mild winters in the late 1940s forced the University to scrap the program. Varsity hockey wouldn’t resume on the Hill until the opening of Lynah a decade later.

And as the Big Red men’s team became more and more successful—winning national titles and sending players to the pros—Faithful traditions grew and solidified. They even grew beyond Lynah.

“Maybe most of all, I remember the fans,” legendary NHL goalie Ken Dryden ’69 writes in his foreword to Forever Faithful. “The ones who camped out overnight in raw Ithaca weather to get their season tickets. The ones who went on the road with us, to Christmas tournaments in Boston or New York, and the two or three thousand who sounded like 10,000 at the ECACs in Boston Garden. They taught us a life lesson—always do what you do where it matters.”

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Cornell hockey fans cheering at a game wearing red shirts.
The student section, always upstanding. (Jason Koski / Cornell University)

In Lynah, the Faithful traditions are many, colorful, and—it must be said—a tad harsh on the opposing squad. The visiting team’s goal tender, for example, is routinely derided as a particularly porous piece of kitchen equipment.

Or, as Adriano Manocchia ’97, BS ’98, puts it on “the Faithful must remind the opposing goalie that while we have a goalie, he is merely a sieve.”

As a student, Manocchia had a key role in Faithful fandom: revving up the crowd by playing the cowbell. (The tradition traces its origin to Neil Cohen ’72, then a freshman in the pep band, who brought a cowbell to a game and repurposed an old high school cheer—a staccato rhythm peppered by “Fight!”)

In addition to other goalie-centered invective—not the least of which is shouting “It’s all your fault!” when Cornell scores—the Faithful show disinterest in the opposing lineup by pretending to read newspapers (and chanting “Boring!”) when the other team is introduced, then crumpling the pages and chucking them onto the ice.

And speaking of throwing things on the ice—which you should not do; we’re reporting, not encouraging!—there is, of course, the longtime tradition of tossing fish before the Harvard game (and tubes of toothpaste when the Big Red plays Colgate).

“Following the Big Red hockey team is something that really solidified our experience as Cornell students, both as undergraduates as well as when we returned to do our PhDs,” says Katie Nelson Schoenberg ’03, PhD ’10, whose husband, Jonathan Schoenberg ’03, PhD ’11, performed as a skating Touchdown between periods. “We have lifelong friendships that were created around it.”

Given the Faithful’s fervent fandom, it’s unsurprising that Lynah has the reputation of—as Roberts and Mintz write—being “detested by opponents and loved by the home team.”

Cornell men's hockey players dressed in red jerseys raise their sticks at the end of the game to honor the crowd.
Saluting the fans. (Cornell University)

But it has also been posited that some visiting players find the atmosphere a welcome challenge—that it revs them up and encourages them to play their best.

(That may have a limited effect, though: Big Red men’s hockey has won more than 70 percent of its home contests, including a stunning 63-game streak in 1967–72.)

And even on the minority of occasions when Cornell doesn’t emerge victorious at home, the evening ends with a touching coda. Win or lose, the players raise their sticks toward the crowd before exiting the ice—offering a salute to the Faithful.

Top: Players and fans celebrate a goal. (CHA)

Published February 28, 2023


  1. Les Buchanan

    What a wonderful tribute to Cornell Hockey! Having spent 48 years on the CHA BOARD, I can say that Cornell Hockey has been and will continue to be a significant part of my life. GBR!

    • Ken Gilstein, Class of 1970

      Being a manager on the historic 1969-1970 undefeated championship team,I continue to be an active fan.I really enjoyed this article,
      and every moment that I have spent at Lynah.

      Ken Gilstein
      Cornell ’70

      • William D. Highland, Class of 1970

        Hi, Ken! I saw us win the title in March 1967 with Ken Dryden in goal.

        Bill Highland, Class of ’70

  2. GEORGIAN LEONARD, Class of 1981

    Such great fun and memories! about 20plus years, there was an opposing goalie by the name of “Oh No” (please excuse the spelling)
    The faithful kept chanting ‘OH NO’! ‘OH NO’ until it really affected his game. More recently another opposing goalie of that name (another generation of the family?) played against Cornell. You can only imagine the chant again!!! (poor guy)

  3. Eric Beane, Class of 1993

    Some of my favorite memories at Cornell involved Big Red Hockey. From sleeping out all night for season tickets, to attending games with my closest friends packed in tightly in the student section, to celebrating big wins over rivals, I loved every minute of it.

  4. Ron Livecchi, Class of 1970

    I arrived at Cornell in the autumn of 1966, wide eyed and waiting for the beginning of a season of Big Red hockey. I began to follow hockey while my brother was at RPI. He would bring home stories of the games and their coach, Ned Harkness. The coach moved to Cornell and the dominance began. They never lost a home game and would win by huge scores like 14-2!! Ken Dryden was in goal and would lean on his stick while the play was in the opponents end of the ice. Bored, no. Confident, yes! My senior year, the team headed for the NCAA tournament in Lake Placid. No room, no tickets but full of excitement and gas money, we drove to Lake Placid. We stayed with a group from another fraternity packed into a knotty pine hotel room! The team was 27-0 for the regular season. In the first game, we proceeded with the usual chant, ‘28 and o!’ If my memory serves me, the Big Red hadn’t scored midway through the second period. The opponents fans began to chant ‘27 and one’! How dare they! The high scoring Big Red scored two in the third to move on to the finale and won! Undefeated 29-0, the only team to have done that. Proud then, proud to this day.

    • Danny Scheraga, Class of 1973

      I grew up in Ithaca, but went to Wisconsin my freshman year (69-70) and hitched a ride with other Wisconsin students to Lake Placid, so I was part of the group hollering 27-1. It didn’t work, and I remember Dan Lodboa scoring a 2 man own goal against Clarkson in the final.I remember my neighbor, owner of Browning King clothing store (where Simeons is now) and huge hockey fan Haskell Davidson and co-Cornell Fan Ozzie(don’t remember his last name) were there. It was a great weekend and an awesome year for Cornell.
      My senior year Cornell again played Wisconsin in Boston Garden. Now a Cornellian, I think we were up by 3 goals, and Cornell tried playing only defense the 3rd period. It didn’t work, Wisconsin tied the game and won in overtime. I remember some Cornell fans had a sign that said Wayne Thomas (who was Wisconsin’s goalie in 1970) was only a back-up to Cornell’s Ken Dryden with the Montreal Canadiens.

  5. Kennth Fields, Class of 1967

    My freshman year (63-64) was at the very beginning of the Harkness era and often more people showed up for freshman games than varsity and the rink was rarely full. I believe sophomore year was the first for season tickets and my fraternity sent two pledges to get around a dozen the day they became available (no lines, no rush, no dynasty yet). We chose seats just above the glass behind the opposing bench. We wore matching sweatshirts identifying ourselves and our fraternity and made it a point to verbally harass the visiting team throughout the game (easier to do if you are above the glass). The Athletics department did contact us at one point about our language but it’s good to know how that tradition has continued.

  6. Lars Lundeen, Class of 1972

    I had the pleasure of watching our team with Dryden play in the early ’70s. You remember the rink reverberating with cheers and chants of “one, two, three, we want more!” goals. Those were great times.

  7. Michael Waxman, Class of 1969

    I specialized in specific professors when I was at Cornell (1965-69). While I was a member of the increasing class size every semester for Professor Polenberg’s history classes, the professor I knew the best was Professor George Stoller. As a Czech, he lived for hockey (there may even be a picture of him at a game in the yearbook). Invariably, our economics research discussions evolved (when it was hockey it never “devolved”) into a seminar about Olympic, NHL and most vividly Big Red hockey. Indeed, in 1968 during the Czech revolt, Professor Stoller brought a friend to class who was teaching for a year at Columbia. While the primary focus was on the revolt, somehow I remember most the deep discussions about hockey.
    On our family trip to Cambridge, MA each year to watch the Big Red beat (?) Harvard, our daughter (Naomi) led the cheers and called the trip – The George Stoller Memorial Seminar.

    • Harlan Ettinger, Class of 1973

      George Stoller was one of my favorite professors. It was said that he purposely scheduled his large lecture classes early in the morning because he hated turning students away when the class size limit was reached.

      David Friedman ‘74 and I had a pair of seasons tickets in the first row immediately to the left of the goal judge during the Elenbaas, Fumio, McCutchen era. I still remember sitting there in shock the night the 63 game home winning streak ended.

  8. Bradford Zak, Class of 1980

    As a ’79 Big Red Marching Band member, the Lynah pep band was a coveted way to enjoy the games. Because the allotted space for the band was understandably limited and coveted for the Harvard game (for example), band members had to play for (less popular at the time) soccer or basketball games and accumulate points. Not mentioned in this wonderful article was the tradition of revealing the identity of the Touchdown the bear mascot at the last home game. The band would play the “stripper music,” and the bear would slowly take off piece by piece of clothing, leaving just boxers and the head till the last. The pieces would be thrown into the crowd. Finally, before removing his head, he mooned the fans, and the band was penalized — meaning a Cornell player had to start in the penalty box at the start of the second half because the entire pep band didn’t fit in the penalty box! I recall at the time; the mascot was always a Hotelie, something I could relate to as a Hotelie!

  9. Patrick Gallagher, Class of 1972

    Attended a game at Lynah in 1968 as a high school senior on a lacrosse recruiting visit arranged by Ned Harkness (who was also men’s lacrosse coach at that time). Still remember the feeling of excitement and how it influenced, in a big way, my coming to Cornell. And by the way, Ned’s record as lacrosse coach for three seasons was something like 35-1.

  10. Anne Paulin, Class of 1987

    My friends and I slept out for season tickets for the ’86-’87 season – the days of Mark Schafer (“Kill, Schafer, Kill!”) and Joe Nieuwendyk. I so enjoyed going to the games. Now my husband and I go to the annual MSG game when we can, and it’s fabulous that I still know and can join in on all the cheers! I also love that Mark Schafer is the head coach now. What a shame that their 2020 season got canceled when they (and the Women’s team also, I believe) were in 1st place in the NCAA.

  11. David Gutman, Class of 1967

    I started going to Lynah with fraternity brothers during the ’64-’65 season and continued with my wife until finally finishing grad school in ’73. What a time to be among the Lynah fanatics. We learned a little trick to get great seats that I’m sure has long been corrected. About 10 minutes after the gates opened you could enter on the penalty box side of the rink and sit on the red line one row behind the press. Seats were not reserved, and a loose rope hung on stanchions to keep the press row clear. To our advantage the rope draped over the second row and the initial rush of fans kept that row clear. So, we marched in an took our regular seats in front of the crowd and were never challenged.

  12. Joe Doherty, Class of 1976

    Attending home games at Lynah Rink was definitely one of the top 10 energizing experiences during my four years at Cornell. I really enjoyed the article, but would have also liked to see a small shout out for my DTD fraternity brother Joe Wilson ’76. He was a diehard cowbell player and super fan in his own right! Thanks for resurrecting many great college memories. Take care and GO BIG RED!! PS Ken Dryden had moved onto a hugely successful career in the NHL by the time I first arrived at U-Hall 1 on West Campus. But I’d like to highly recommend his book “The Game” to anyone interested in not only ice hockey, but also the psychology/bonding experiences of sports teams in general.

  13. Chuck Roby, Class of 1967

    Despite being from Wisconsin, I had never been to a hockey game until I arrived at Cornell in 1963. I don’t think I missed a home game during the 5 years I was on the hill. I just loved going to the games and even the camping out at Teagle to get season tickets. Also went to several away games including bolting from an afternoon lab to drive up to Clarkson and watching us win (of course). And nothing could be better than winning the NCAAs in Syracuse our senior year (1967). After beating North Dakota in the semi’s, we owned the arena for the final, loudly shouting “BU is # 2” as we put it away! Great times and great memories.

  14. Pete Shier, Class of 1978

    Played for the Big Red late 70’s and without a doubt the best fans in the most intimidating rink in college hockey. Nothing else like it. Thank you Lynah Faithful.

    • Doug Johnson, Class of 1978

      And we enjoyed watching you play, Pete. See you at Reunion, hopefully.

    • Matt Adler, Class of 1980

      Pete Shier, right back at you. You were an amazing player to watch – and I believe played a part in one of the all-time great games at Lynah, the legendary comeback against Providence in the 1979 playoffs.

  15. Perry Jacobs, Class of 1974

    Never missed a game in four years BUT my senior year I’m in my room listening to WVBR when they announce the Harvard game begins in 15 minutes. I jump in my car and frantically drive to Lynah.
    Of course, there isn’t a parking spot for miles around so I desperately park on the grass between the sidewalk and the curb and, when I come out, there is a ticket with about seven boxes
    The car was registered to my dad so I wrote the Cornell police a letter, apologizing and enclosing the ticket. They contacted my dad and our next phone call was less than pleasant. 🏒

  16. Marlene, Class of 2001

    I went as a student towards the end of the 20th century and now take my husband and two kids to Lynah. They’ve become avid fans, and my kids now aspire to go to Cornell (one can hope!) mostly due to how much fun they’ve had at Lynah and how much they look up to the Big Red players.

  17. Mariangela Noyes, Class of 1986

    Like many others, such amazing memories from camping out for tickets to screaming until hoarse. Cornell hockey even helped me land my first job out of college! While interviewing, I noticed a picture of guys playing hockey on the VP’s desk. I asked if he played and he asked me “what do you know about hockey?” I replied that I grew up in a hockey town (Gloucester, MA) with the only (then) public school regulation-sized rink, girls and boys played hockey at PE, attended Cornell with all of its hockey traditions and noted that we were proud of our own Ken Dryden who had had an amazing NHL career by then plus suggested that he be on the watch for an up-and-coming player from my days who was bound to have (and indeed did have) an equally amazing NHL career, a young Joe Nieuwendyk. The VP proceeded to ask me hockey questions for the better part of my interview. He paraded me around to the other interviewers (3 days of individual and group interviews back then!) telling each one that I was from Cornell and to go ahead ask me any hockey questions! In the group interviews, the other candidates were a bit flummoxed by this exchange. I got the job! (Great to have a solid job offer in hand by February of senior year). I’d like to think it was my academic record and social skills that got me in, but honestly, it was Cornell hockey!

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