Saturday, December 13, 2014

Back to the Church

What is a cathedral?

Technically speaking, it's a high place of worship, but it's a word that gets thrown around a lot in the sports world as it pertains to buildings. Lambeau Field and Soldier Field, it is said, are cathedrals of football. Fenway Park and Wrigley Field are often called cathedrals of baseball.

There are cathedrals of college hockey. Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis. Lynah Rink in Ithaca. Yost Ice Arena in Ann Arbor. Just to name a few.

We submit that Houston Field House fits the category.

It's certainly not the most glamorous place in the world. It's big and cavernous, swallowing sound from all but the most full crowds. Its birth as a Navy warehouse in Rhode Island is apparent from the moment you step in. The seats are mostly wooden and they're laid out in a manner unfamiliar to most places, walking up to your seat instead of walking down.

If you want all of the most modern accoutrements, go ahead and check out Ralph Englestad Arena in Grand Forks or Agganis Arena in Boston. They've got all the bells and whistles and they fill the places up more often than not. If you want architecture, we didn't have Eero Saarinen like Yale did. We're not above saying that we'd like to have something like that someday.

But the history is undeniable. Houston Field House is the place, arguably, where the concept of small schools competing with the big dogs was born and fostered through the Engineers' success in the early 1950s. It's one of only four buildings currently used as a home arena in college hockey that once hosted the Frozen Four. It's a place that has turned out a number of players who have reached the NHL, and whose alumni have competed in every NHL season for over 30 years. The NCAA record books are dotted with the names of players who called the Field House their home.

There's no hard and fast rule for what constitutes a "cathedral of college hockey." It's a plaything for discussion. You don't have to agree with us in the slightest. But it's a cathedral to us, and we're coming home to it tonight.

(This is the part where we give a "what's up" to the First Church of RPI Hockey.)

As we mentioned yesterday, tonight's game against one of the best American-born prospects in decades, Jack Eichel, and his Boston University Terriers isn't likely to be very competitive. They're playing pretty well, well enough to be the #2 team in the nation. RPI might as well be playing this game from a hospital bed.

But it's another opportunity to come see a traditional old rivalry, waking up the ghosts of college hockey's past while getting a golden opportunity to gaze upon the game's future. Come back to church. You won't regret it tonight.

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