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Men's hockey takes campus spotlight

When the sports editor from The Michigan Daily called the 'Prince' sports office the other day, it didn't surprise me. The reasons were obvious – Princeton's men's hockey team is going to the NCAA hockey tournament, its first round opponent is Michigan and the contest is going to take place in the "neutral" site of Ann Arbor, Mich.

And I'm pretty excited about the NCAAs. After watching more than a dozen hockey games here before even setting foot in Jadwin Gym, I am only wistful that the team did this well the year after I traveled up to Lake Placid, N.Y.


But back to the phone call. Right away, they told me that the Daily was going to run a 16-page pullout section for the tournament. In case the sheer size of the section doesn't immediately strike you, in comparison, the 'Prince,' in what I thought was a good effort, produced an eight-page NCAA basketball preview a couple of weeks ago.

Besides making me feel small and insignificant, the difference in coverage highlighted another difference between here and there: the second-class nature of the men's hockey team on our campus.

It wasn't always that way – maybe it still isn't and I just have a misperception – but I know that men's hoops got top billing in the newspaper the entire season, and while Jadwin was setting attendance records at the end of the season, Baker Rink was suffering in student-section attendance. I'm guilty of pushing the hockey team to the side, and I suspect many of you are as well.

Now the basketball season is over, but I'm still not convinced that people have caught up with the news of the hockey team's amazing accomplishment.

The Tigers are a talented team that finished the regular season injury-plagued. Their play was inconsistent in the last weeks of the regular season as they tied and lost to opponents in the lower half of the league. Their limping to the finish line and subsequent No. 7 seed in the Eastern College Athletic Conference playoffs didn't help matters in attracting campus attention.

Yet, in the ECAC playoffs two weeks ago, Princeton went on a remarkable tear.


In a span of nine days, the team beat Brown – twice in three days – Cornell, Yale and Clarkson. Except for Cornell, each of these teams finished ahead of the Tigers in the regular season. Both Yale – winners of the ECAC regular-season title – and Clarkson are among the 12 teams in the nation that earned berths to the NCAAs.

And the most impressive fact is this – this will be Princeton's first appearance ever at the 51-year-old national tournament.

The fans have shown they can be great if they want to be. Fickle, perhaps, but enthusiastic. Hockey fans, in general, are ardent (how else could you stand sitting in the cold for two hours?), but the Tigers are embarking upon a task that everyone should appreciate – they are trying to beat the fourth-ranked team in the country in its own arena.

There are no more home hockey games to go to this season, and I doubt that too many people are willing to fly to Ann Arbor ($166 round-trip tickets are available from certain airlines), but it would be nice to see some excitement on campus about another Princeton athletic team. I know that if we make it to the Final Four in Boston April 2 and 4, I'm taking a road trip to Beantown.

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