Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Dream

RPI hockey is a passion, and those who take part experience that passion in different ways. Some follow the team from game to game, investing in plane tickets or long drives in October and November as the team works its way through the non-conference schedule, frequently visiting places that are out of the way or unique, and taking the yearly trips around the league to visit those rinks they see every single season. Some follow the team's recruits as they play junior or high school hockey; I know of some who have been willing to invest in those same plane tickets or long drives to watch them play. Some, from every corner of the globe, listen to every game on the Internet.

Some of us have been following the team since we were very young. Some became fans as students. Some discovered the team later in life. The dedication does not change, whether you're a person who prefers simply to take in every game or one who gets loud and stays loud. That dedication makes a brother or a sister out of a total stranger. That dedication establishes friendships and bridges gaps.

Without the lows, there can be no highs. Without the possibility of failure, success is meaningless. The chase for the ECAC title and the NCAA tournament has no emotion to it if the possibility of its loss does not overshadow the games we enjoy. Tonight, the dejection would not have been experienced without the hope that existed that there would be jubilation on the final whistle. That hope is why we came to watch. That hope will bring us back in October.

Long after the disappointment of this night has dashed, you will remember fondly the times you watched Chase Polacek terrorize the opposition with his speed and agility. You'll recall the grit and determination of John Kennedy, the tenacity of Jeff Foss, the energy and indomitable spirit of Bryan Brutlag, and the never-say-die attitude of Tyler Helfrich. Years from now, you will remember how Allen York stood on his head to defeat the best team in the country. You'll marvel at the memory of a last moment goal against a heated rival that preceded an overtime winner. You'll ask the person in the seat next to you if they were one of the ones that made the trip that snowy night to watch RPI win a game in the most unlikely fashion imaginable - on a penalty shot in overtime while killing a five-minute major.

Once again, we have watched as those things we wanted for our team have eluded us. And yet, the passion never dies.

Perhaps the next Engineer to hoist an ECAC championship has yet to be born. Perhaps he just finished his first year of squirts or peewee. That's possible. It's also possible that he's playing juniors now, or is in his sophomore or junior season in Troy.

We want to be there when it happens. That is why we go, and that is why we keep coming back. We will be there to see it when one day, the team crowds around the Whitelaw Cup again holding their index fingers in the air. We will be there to see it when one day, the team returns to the game's biggest stage and takes on some of the best teams in the nation.

Setbacks are a part of life, just as they are in hockey. It is how we deal with setbacks that can, more than most anything, illustrate who we are. It's never a bad time to be an Engineer fan, and that includes tonight. I am excited. Excited for my team, who gave me so many memories this year. Excited for its players, each of whom has a bright future ahead of them. Excited for my school, which is blessed to have such people representing them, and is blessed with such loyal, devoted, and yes, passionate fans.

Here's to old Rensselaer.

She stands today without a peer.

6 comments:

  1. As you know, I am a huge fan of RPI hockey. I really think your words are moving and encourage the reader and RPI fan to take the long view. Certainly years from now I will still remember Tyler and Chase and Allan.

    Today however, I think one has to begin and take a long hard look at SA and why his teams fail in the last 1/4 of the season. The man can recruit, no question. The track record over the last three years makes me worried for the short term future of this proud program.

    Go Red! Go White!

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  2. One only has to look at the short term past of this program to find this concern laughable.

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  3. ADKinLA, we had February fails even when Fridgen was at the helm.

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  4. WAP, what are the chances of a NCAA at-large bid? Could you break it down?

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  5. Without "breaking it down," I would suggest that it's not yet time to throw in the towel on this season. RPI has a slim but plausible chance of making the NCAAs.

    Basically, you need bloody murder to happen in the Hockey East quarters and for no one to make it through the playoffs clean. I would say there is even room for one surprise conference champion. (As a Cornell fan, I know who *I* would like to see make a surprise run to a championship; indeed, there's still an outside chance for the ECAC to put 5 teams in the tourney this year. Oh, how the West would gnash its collective teeth.)

    And there's always the chance that Dartmouth will tank in its quarterfinal series. Keep the faith.

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  6. Actually, there's no chance for five teams. Princeton is out and Cornell winning the ECAC's would almost certainly put RPI out.

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