The thermometer was dipping toward 10° below zero, but the attraction was hockey—college hockey—and the town of Canton, N.Y. (pop. 4,379) bulged last Saturday night with hockey fans who won't be put off by 10 below.
Some spectators drove from Water-town over 60 miles of icy roads. Others walked to the arena from campus dormitories and fraternities of St. Lawrence University (enrollment 1,250). On their way, hockey addicts passed the football field where the St. Lawrence Larries drew crowds of 2,000 last fall. They also passed the gym where, earlier in the week, the St. Lawrence basketball team trimmed the University of Rochester in the full view of less than 50 fans.
When St. Lawrence squared off against Boston College on the ice of the $400,000 Appleton Arena Saturday night there were close to 3,500 in the stands to watch. Most of them saw the kind of game they came for. The Boston boys were fresh from a 3-2 victory over a strong Clarkson College team, but St. Lawrence went into a furious first-period offensive which gave the Boston goalie nothing but fits. The attack paid off after 17 minutes when a pair of 21-year-old Canadian boys, Leland Fournier and Ron O'Brien, scored for St. Lawrence within the space of eight seconds. Later in the game Bill Meehan from Arlington, Mass. and Paul Swancott from Rome, N.Y. also scored for the home team and the final score, much to the satisfaction of every citizen of Canton, was 4-1 in favor of Coach Olie Kollevoll's well-balanced Larries.
February 21, 1955
Had all this happened a few years ago it would have prompted nothing more stimulating than a few remarks around New England to the effect that Boston College must have had an off night to have lost a game to little-known St. Lawrence. Today no such remarks are warranted. College hockey is one of the nation's growing sports and its "big league" is thriving. The sport is growing without help of any kind from Notre Dame, Ohio State, UCLA, Duke or Southern Methodist. None of these football powers indulge. Neither do such perennial basketball stalwarts as La Salle, Duquesne, San Francisco, Kentucky or Dayton.
HOCKEY FOR BIG AND LITTLE
Instead, the big league of college hockey is a curious geographical mixture—as it is in college basketball—of big-name universities such as Michigan, Minnesota and a few Ivy Leaguers and a handful of lesser-knowns—St. Lawrence, Clarkson, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (all in upper New York State), North Dakota, Michigan Tech and Colorado College. Artificial ice is being installed wherever hockey-minded students are enrolled—in recent months rinks have gone up at Amherst, Williams, MIT, Middlebury and Penn State. Still more are planned for Nebraska, Colgate and elsewhere where hockey has captured the imagination of sports-loving college officials and alumni.
To many of these campuses are flocking hockey-crazy students from dozens of New England prep schools and from more than 300 hockey-playing high schools. Last year the three-day Minnesota state high school hockey championship drew a record 24,465 people to the St. Paul Auditorium.
If U.S. schools are helping to build hockey into a respectable position in the jealous hierarchy of college sports by sending well-coached and enthusiastic skaters to the campuses of our colleges, this help is regarded in some quarters as strictly secondary. Of primary importance, say many who know the score of college hockey, is the annual invasion by hundreds of Canadian students, a good many of whom, by some fortuitous chance, also happen to be cracker jack hockey players. Most of the Canadian boys on top U.S. teams are standouts. They should be. This is their game and they've been at it, in many cases, since the age of eight. Nevertheless, a hot debate over the invaders is already raging.
Last year, after his team was soundly whacked by Denver and Colorado (whose teams are loaded with Canadians), Harvard Coach Cooney Weiland publicly moaned that Canadian athletes were ruining U.S. college hockey. He found a supporter a few weeks ago in Dartmouth Coach Eddie Jeremiah, who complained that the wholesale imports of Canadian stars to some colleges are making a farce out of the NCAA championships. A reply from the West came screeching in like a true slap shot. Johnny Mariucci, who coaches an all-Minnesota-born team at Minnesota (as opposed to the all-Canadian team at Michigan) said: "Those Ivy League schools think their campuses stretch around the globe. If they get a boy from the North Pole to play hockey, he's there for an education. If we get a boy from Wisconsin to play hockey, he's a hired man. So long as the boys get a little of that ivy on them they're all right." Colorado College officials quickly took up their cue and reminded Coach Jeremiah that Dartmouth—once the greatest power in U.S. college hockey—should not be so critical of other schools when its own National Championship ski team is led by stars from Japan (see page 40), Norway, South America and also Canada.
At 99-year-old St. Lawrence University which, along with Clarkson (11 miles away in Potsdam, N.Y.) and Harvard, leads the eastern teams, the Canadian controversy has nobody too upset. Canada is only 18 miles away. St. Lawrence is the nearest American liberal arts college to Ottawa (80 miles away) and, as President Eugene Garrett Bewkes sees it, "Why shouldn't Canadians come to U.S. colleges if they meet the scholastic requirements? We also have students here from France, Spain and Finland. We are not in a position to give grant-in-aid scholarships as generously as some colleges, and we certainly don't go out recruiting."
Of the 31 Canadians enrolled at St. Lawrence today, eight are on the 19-man hockey squad. Only three of the six starting players are Canadians. One of them—an All-East team selection last season—is Captain Brian McFarlane, who is currently carrying an average of three A's and two B's as an English major. Goalie Bill Sloan, who turned back 29 shots against Boston College, owns a straight A average in mathematics. "They play hard, but they work hard too," says Coach Kollevoll. "Most important of all, though, is that people who criticize U.S. colleges for using Canadian hockey players are really on the wrong track. They ought to be thankful that Canadians are helping to make the game more popular in this country. Our players are improving all the time, and much of the credit should go to the Canadians for setting such good examples of how hockey should be played."
It is much the same story on other college hockey teams, although the Western League, whose teams are 90% Canadian-manned, are still being criticized for what one college president termed "an undue proportion of what looks like outright recruiting." In the West, Canadian boys seem to get along academically as well as they do at St. Lawrence. They also play some first-rate hockey, but they don't by any means draw all the headlines. At Minnesota there is a center—a local product from Eveleth named John Mayasich who has led the Western League in points for three years and in 22 games this season has scored 35 goals and 27 assists. An American player drawing top notices in the East is Harvard's junior center, Bill Cleary, a product of nearby Belmont Hill prep school.
Spectators will notice a few college rules that differentiate the game from that played by the professionals. For one thing, a team is allowed to body-check only in its own defensive zone (the pros can and do check anywhere they spot a foe). Another difference is the elimination of the center red line in college games. Both these rules have, for the most part, been favorably received by the college coaches, for they tend to open up the game somewhat. Fights are not unknown in college hockey circles, but they are infrequent. One of the reasons may be that when a college man gets thumbed off with a major penalty, he gets thumbed out of the game for good—an occurrence which would find many a professional game winding up with only two sullen goalies glaring at each other from opposite ends of the rink.
Next month (March 10-12) the four top hockey teams in the U. S. will battle it out for the NCAA title on the ice of the Broadmoor rink at Colorado Springs. From the strong Western League, almost sure to go is league-leading Colorado College, which has 18 Canadians on the squad. The second Western spot will likely go to either North Dakota, Minnesota or Michigan.
From the East the two invitations will almost certainly be split among St. Lawrence (14-3-1), Clarkson (15-2) and Harvard (10-2-1). One of the St. Lawrence defeats came at the hands of Harvard earlier in the season, and after Cooney Weiland's disparaging remarks about the Canadian ruination of U.S. college hockey, it was ironic indeed that Harvard's winning goal against St. Lawrence was scored by one Terry O'Malley—the only Canadian on Weiland's Harvard team (and one of only five Canadians in the Ivy's pentagonal hockey league). Terry O'Malley, it seems, reached Harvard with a well-timed assist from the Harvard Club of Buffalo and without a body check from Weiland because he happened to be at the top of his class in St. Catherine, Ontario and, as a matter of fact, the scholastically third-highest man in the entire province.
SEASON'S LIVELY ENDING
No matter who goes to Colorado Springs for a crack at the title won last year by an underdog RPI sextet which knocked off both Michigan and Minnesota, the next few weeks are going to see plenty of lively action on many college fronts. In the West, crowds of 5,000 will not be uncommon. When North Dakota plays Minnesota, special trains take 500 loyal rooters into Gopher Land from Grand Forks to cheer for victory over a college that wouldn't consider scheduling a football game with such a rank upstart. At Troy, N.Y., defending NCAA Champion RPI will draw, as it nearly always does for home games, 6,000 fans for the traditional game against St. Lawrence on March 5.
Elsewhere the 50-odd colleges which play varsity hockey will also be winding up the season before the biggest crowds in history. And some, looking for a future all-expense trip to the Broadmoor, will be busy plotting. They may note, for instance, that last year Michigan, which lost over $12,000 on baseball and track, took in $22,000 on hockey. The haul was $25,000 at North Dakota and $70,000 at Minnesota. U.S. college officials may be reminded, as they trek off to scout the high school tournaments, of what Princeton Coach Dick Vaughan said a few years ago: "We definitely have players as good as the Canadians, but we don't have as many." With this in mind, they may alter course for the far reaches of the Canadian junior leagues, where hundreds of kids are waiting to swap their talent for a scholarship and a free education.