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2

And yet, all who enter and leave

St. Lawrence, inevitably, learn a little

something about hockey and acquire

some agreeable feeling for a beloved

college tradition, played by a varsity men’s

team on campus since the 1920s and

from the 1970s by women.

Why is St. Lawrence hockey

noteworthy? What is there to think about

when the community gathers in Appleton

Arena, or is the point not to think too

much? Is there anything to it other than

an easy vicarious brush with intense

physicality and the release of otherwise

tethered emotions? At St. Lawrence, we

live in a serious academic setting,

immersed daily in concepts, motifs,

analysis, discourse, and creative

expression. How do you “read” this game

if the story is new to you or how do you

rediscover it if it’s a familiar old book?

To start, I like seeing fresh, untouched,

and glimmering ice, immediately before

the competing teams appear from their

locker rooms. Maybe it’s like Emerson’s

preference for the sanctuary quiet before

the start of church. The St. Lawrence

“barn,” as hockey insiders often call

their home rink, preserves this quality of

contemplative stillness when people

arrive early, different from the feeling of

wired expectancy now commonplace in

the rock concert atmosphere of most

sports arenas.

The father of a hockey student, who is

himself a scholar of the game, once said

to me that he loved “the metaphysic” of

Appleton. It would be overreaching and,

therefore, contradictory to the

transcendent golden mean, for anyone

to claim Aristotle’s presence in this

corner of campus. And yet, before the

action begins, there is something

I

f there were a North Country

jazz tradition, equivalent to the

music evoked by the Mississippi

Valley, it would be expressed as

ice hockey. The pleasure of

syncopation and groove are

inside that distinctive game, played at

bebop speed. Even when the goalie slaps

and slaps that oversized stick on the ice to

signal the end of a penalty kill, a

percussive beaver-tail sound beating

upstream, you can hear the cadence of a

kick drum in a jazz set.

Hockey, like the term jazz itself, is an

odd word. There is no trace of linguistic

origin, not in English, French, Dutch, or

Algonquin. The game’s history, however,

has a more confident beginning on the

frozen St. Lawrence River around the

time of Canada’s national self-

determination as a dominion, rejecting

its status as a colony in 1867.

It seems that a convergence of early

athletic influences from Celtic, Northern

European, and Native American cultures

eventually produced a game played by

skaters, carrying bent sticks, chasing a

small petrified disk, while other emerging

sports incorporated a lively, pliant ball

with more predictable spin. There are still

forerunner remnants of hockey called

shinny and bandy preserved on frozen

outdoor patches.

The majority of Laurentians have never

played ice hockey, so for lots of people it

is an untried, purely second-hand

experience. Many have never seen hockey

until their first semester of college life,

sometimes beginning their spectator’s

career with one of the most legendary

college rivalries known in America,

usually played right before fall finals and

the first big snow—the Clarkson game.

Hockey Night in Canton

AWordFromthe

The majority of Laurentians have

never played ice hockey, so for lots

of people it is an untried, purely

second-hand experience. Many

have never seen hockey until their

first semester of college life,

sometimes beginning their

spectator’s career with one of the

most legendary college rivalries

known in America.