Thursday, November 12, 2015

Throwback

Last week, Cornell did a pretty cool thing - they paid tribute to their past with a special throwback sweater that included the names of famous Big Red alums who wore the numbers of each current player. The sweaters shown in the link above recognize Brian Ferlin, Brian Cornell, David LeNeveu, Matt Moulson, Colin Greening, and Doug Murray, names which should be well known to anyone with more than a passing knowledge of ECAC history. The sweaters, along with sweaters for Ken Dryden and Joe Nieuwendyk (who couldn't be honored on the ice because their numbers are, in fact, retired) will be auctioned off at a later date to benefit the team's off-season mission trip to the Dominican Republic - certainly a worthy cause.

And hey, look. We've never been above ripping off good ideas from elsewhere (as long as you give props to the people you're ripping them off from - looking at you, Union), so here's the part where we say: this would be really cool to bring to RPI. The team did something like this last season for Black Friday, where the sweaters had the names of all team alums printed in microprint - but it would be very, very awesome to see the names from heroes of yesteryear on the backs of the Engineers of today for one game.

And as far as throwbacks are concerned... well, the 1985 design is so classic that it became the athletic logo for the entire school once that ill-begotten "Redhawks" thing was tossed in the dustbin. So how about using the simple design of the '54 champs instead?

(RPI Library)
Simple sweaters that would require only very simple nameplates and numbers (readable numbers, white on red, for those poor suffering WRPI announcers who couldn't read the numbers on this year's Black Saturday sweaters). And yes, they'd be red, so this would look a lot like Cornell's current sweater, but so what? We wouldn't have this against Cornell anyway. How about... Clarkson? Too Freakout! for this year? Hey, we've had Freakout! sweaters auctioned off in the past. Besides, check out one of the (likely apocryphal) stories, as related in Cornell's alumni magazine some years ago, as to why Cornell wears the color in the first place: Some give credit to legendary hockey and lacrosse coach Ned Harkness, who came to the Hill in 1963. He changed the color of the hockey uniforms to bright red (perhaps because that was what he was accustomed to, after eighteen years at RPI); other Cornell sports teams followed suit. So there you go. Maybe we invented it.

What names go on the back, though? There are, essentially, five categories that make things easier in drawing names for each number:

* All-Americans - There have been 22.
* Olympians - There have been four.
* NHL alums - There have been 13 that were not All-Americans.
* All-ECAC honorees - There have been 17 that do not fall into a category above - 16 of which are alumni.
* Folk heroes - A category that can run the gamut. From fan favorites for one reason or another, guys that played 4 years and racked up games and points but not honors, to notable captains, to names who established themselves off the ice, to rarely-used backups who the students loved, to guys who performed individual feats that will be hard to forget.

And so, without further ado, a quick trip into RPI history to pinpoint the top names to wear each active number, and who we'd want to honor with a throwback sweater. Feel free to tweet at us with your severe and vehement disagreements.

Cam Hackett #1 - Right off the bat, we've got a tricky one. The number 1 has traditionally been reserved for goaltenders, and frequently it was used by the team's top goaltender across much of the team's history - although, since Bryan Masotta left the program in 1996, only Jordan Alford '08 and Jake Soffer have worn #1. Still, prior to its falling into disuse, some of the best netminders in RPI hockey history wore the number: Bob Fox '55 backstopped the team's first national championship. Bill Sack '65 and Ian Harrison '79 made All-ECAC teams. Daren Puppa '87 was an All-American and was in net for the team's second national championship, and Neil Little '94 was an All-American and a Hobey Baker finalist. Tough choice here. Give it to Puppa on the back of his NHL career.

Parker Reno #2 - This choice is a little easier. While Bill Grisdale '66 was All-ECAC and Tim Friday '85 won a national championship and had a cup of coffee in the NHL, Brian Pothier '00 was an All-American his senior year and went on to enjoy a long career in the NHL. There's your #2.

Tommy Grant #4 - This number hasn't had too many top names associated with it. Only one, in fact, can claim one of the honors listed above - Brad Layzell '94, who was named All-ECAC as a junior. There's another player who might qualify in the folk-hero category: Pierre Langevin '85, who was one of the bruisers on the national championship team his senior year. It was told during the 25th anniversary celebrations that Langevin, in the Frozen Four against Minnesota-Duluth, put Hobey Baker winner Bill Watson hard into the boards while telling him Adam Oates should have been the winner. A fun story, but there will be plenty of representatives of the mid-80s on this list, so we'll stick with Layzell, a sometimes forgotten hero from the mid-90s.

Phil Hampton #6 - Another tough choice among unheralded names. Fred Kitchen '65 and Scott Basiuk '04 were both All-ECAC selections. We'll give the edge to Basiuk, who was a team captain his senior year and still lives in the Capital District after getting his Master's from the London School of Economics.

Zach Schroeder #7 - Here's where things get even more difficult. Number 7 was worn by Abbie Moore '54, All-American, most outstanding player of the 1954 NCAA tournament, and the leading scorer on the 1954 national championship team. It was also worn by Paul Midghall '59, twice an All-American, by All-ECAC selection Jim Josephson '62 and by NHL veteran Steve Stoyanovich '80. Really, the choice is between Moore and Midghall. Let's break it down to a function over form argument for the coin-flip. There's already a Moore (no relation) on the team this year. So to avoid confusion between alumni and active names, let's give the nod to Midghall.

Kenny Gillespie #8 - A hard choice if only for the caliber of player that has to be left off. Frank Chiarelli '55 was, arguably, the first RPI superstar. A three-time All-American, he scored 55 goals in 18 games in 1952, setting an NCAA record for goals per game that will never be broken. He's the obvious choice, even though Bob Brinkworth '64 is a true RPI legend himself, twice an All-American. Both men are in the Ring of Honor. At almost any other number, he'd probably be the top choice, but it's hard to pick him over Chiarelli.

Meirs Moore #9 - This one's probably the easiest so far. While George Servinis '86 played in the NHL and scored the game winning goal in the 1985 national championship game, and Jerry D'Amigo '13 wore the sweater for his one season in Troy before jumping to the NHL, neither can compare to Joe Juneau '91 in terms of their RPI, NHL, and international careers. Juneau led the team in scoring for four seasons (the only Engineer to accomplish the feat), had a long NHL career, was a two-time All-American and Hobey Baker finalist, and represented Canada in the 1992 Olympics. The only oddity? Seeing Juneau's name on the blue line.

Evan Tironese #11 - Believe it or not, the number 11 isn't associated with a great number of legends at RPI. Kraig Nienhuis '86 is the only player in that number to fall into one of the above categories, with his few seasons in the NHL. But perhaps we can think outside the box a little on this one. Let's go instead with Dino Macaluso '82 in the folk-hero category. A team captain his senior year, Macaluso is one of the most involved alumni in the program today, and even is a team sponsor this year through his wealth management company in Albany. Perfect sponsorship tie-in! But also a super guy, and no slight meant to Nienhuis - plenty of his contemporaries are on our list.

Viktor Liljegren #12 - No explanation needed here. While Bryan Price '63 was an All-ECAC selection and Graeme Townshend '89 enjoyed an NHL career in the early-90s, Adam Oates '86 is a Hobey Baker finalist, All-American, NHL legend, and a Hockey Hall of Fame inductee. If anything more needs to be said, you're at the wrong blog.

Jared Wilson #13 - Two Olympians have worn this number for RPI - Marty Dallman '84 (Austria 1994) and Mo Mansi '88 (Italy 1994 and 1998), as did All-ECAC selection Danny Riva '99 and team captain and cancer survivor Kirk MacDonald '07. Dallman had a few games in the NHL, which helps makes this pick pretty difficult all around. It's not an easy choice really at all. In looking at the two Olympians, Dallman was a major scoring threat from his sophomore year on, that plus his NHL experience probably makes him the choice here.

Riley Bourbonnais #14 - Hard to believe that there isn't a single player who's worn number 14 regularly who qualifies in one of the above categories. So let's move outside the box again. Rich Scammell '69 was not only a team captain who led the team in scoring twice, he is at the Institute today as the director of research administration, and is the father of Heather Scammell '98 and Jennifer Scammell '02, both standouts with the women's program.

Milos Bubela #17 - Another number that isn't rich in national, NHL, or ECAC honors. A few team captains have worn the number, most recently Danny Eberly '03, but there's really not anyone who sticks out as an obvious choice. So it's time for another folk-hero option. Chuck Rancourt '70 grew up in Troy, playing in the city's pee-wee ranks and graduating up to playing for the Engineers. He's still very well associated with the program, and not only taught business statistics at RPI, he served as director of technology commercialization at the Institute from 1987 to 2008. He's currently an adjunct professor at Siena, and as with Macaluso and Scammell, proof positive that Engineer alumni succeed off the ice as well.

Travis Fulton #18 - As we get into the higher numbers, the options decrease, because earlier in college hockey history, higher numbers simply weren't used. But there are two very good options at number 18 in Jerry Knightley '65 and Nathan Marsters '04. Knightley was twice an All-American and an inductee to the Ring of Honor, while Marsters was an All-ECAC selection who put up some of the best numbers in net ever seen at RPI, his life tragically cut short in a car accident in 2009 at age 29. We'll give the nod to Knightley here on accolades, but not easily.

Mike Prapavessis #19 - This one's pretty easy. Matt Murley '02 was an All-American, in the top two on the team in scoring all four seasons in Troy, played in the NHL, was captain in his senior season, and grew up in Troy to boot - where he still works out with the team in pre-seasons. Mike Zalewski '16 is the only other 19 to have reached the NHL, but so far it has only been a cup of coffee with the Canucks. Other sentimental options include Dick Chiarelli '57, who once scored 7 goals in a game, and Doug Hearns '71, who arguably scored one of the most important goals in RPI history when he beat Ken Dryden of Cornell in overtime, a goal that may have saved RPI as a D-I program. But Murley's local roots and high honors give him the nod.

Jimmy DeVito #20 - This one's also a cinch. While Adam Bartell '95 was an All-ECAC choice and captained the team to the 1995 ECAC title, it's hard to overlook Joel Laing '00. The first and only Engineer to win the ECAC's Dryden Award as the league's top goaltender (first awarded in 1996), Laing was an All-American and Hobey Baker finalist in his senior season, setting numerous RPI records between the pipes. Another oddity - Murley and Juneau on the blue line, and Laing playing a physical forward position.

Bradley Bell #22 - Only really one option here. Mike Dark '86 was not only a captain his senior year and part of the '85 title team, he was also an All-American in 1986 and appeared in 43 games over the following two seasons with the St. Louis Blues in the NHL. No other 22 can claim that kind of resume.

Lou Nanne #23 - Now it starts to get really difficult. Several different players have worn 23, but few really stand out. So for this choice, let's go with a fairly recent sentimental favorite - Nanne's predecessor. Brock Higgs '14 would be, if nothing else, a connection with the very recent past. But he's also deserving of the honor for the number. A top four scorer in three of his four seasons, Higgs also was a crucial part of the 2011 team that went to the NCAA tournament for the first time in 16 years. He's also an inspirational story, returning to the ice after suffering a life-threatening injury as a freshman when he took a skate blade to his throat.

Chris Bradley #24 - Another obvious choice is this number, worn by the only Engineer to date with his name on the Stanley Cup - Mike McPhee '82, a former captain who won the Cup with Montreal in 1986 as part of an 11-season run in the NHL, one of the longest among RPI alums. His immediate predecessor in the number, Don Armstrong '78, was also a captain and was a top four scorer on the team in his final three seasons, but it's hard to overlook McPhee's pro career.

Drew Melanson #25 - Melanson has an opportunity to stamp himself as the best 25 ever at RPI, because the options for best alum with the number are paltry. The best known 25 is undoubtedly Kevin Constantine '81. He spent three seasons at RPI, starting in net as a junior before becoming known in the pro ranks as a head coach in San Jose and Pittsburgh. But there are two problems with Constantine. He wore 25 only as a backup, and he didn't exactly leave school under the best of circumstances. Bryan Tapper '98 was the first player to wear 25 for four seasons, and he had a pretty decent career, while the 25 after him, Steve Munn '02, was captain for two years. So here's an idea. Let's go with Tapper not only to recognize the defenseman, but also his younger brother Brad '01, the first and only Engineer to wear number 52 (25 backwards). Brad was an All-American who led the nation in scoring as a junior and appeared in 55 NHL games for the Atlanta Thrashers. There's a unique solution.

Mark Miller #26 - Another open and shut case for this one. Ken Hammond '85 not only was part of the national championship team his senior year, he also went on to play in the NHL as a journeyman, logging time in the pros for nearly a decade and suiting up for eight different teams. Along with Dark, Hammond was a captain of the '84 Engineers which was a pretty powerful team itself.

Jake Wood #27 - Time for a little more creativity. The 27 has only been worn full-time by a few Engineers. Jak Bestle '83, a Troy native and fan favorite, was the first, followed by Tim Regan '96, Mark Murphy '99, Mikael Hammarstrom '04, Andrei Uryadov '09, and Marty O'Grady '13. That's more or less it - solid players all, but not much distinction. An argument could be made for Hammarstrom or Uryadov to represent the handful and growing number of European alums, but here's another outside the box moment. Marc Cavosie '03 was an All-American and a Hobey Baker finalist as a junior before he signed a pro contract - not to mention a local hero, having grown up in Cohoes and a current assistant coach. Thing is, he wore three different numbers during his three seasons: 27 as a freshman, 11 as a sophomore, and 21 as a junior. It was in the 21 that he earned most of his accolades, but there's no #21 at the moment, and it's hard to say that two-time Hobey Baker finalist and All-American Chase Polacek '11 wouldn't be a more well-rounded choice for 21. So how about Cavosie at 27? It would help honor the entire Cavosie clan, including Marc's brother Eric, who played four years for the Engineers and later coached at Albany Academy, and their father Tom, who was a cherished part of the RPI family - close enough that his untimely loss in 2003 spawned a memorial patch on the RPI sweater the following season.

Jesper Ohrvall #28 - Another tough choice for lack of options here. There have been only a few full time 28s - Jeff Prendergast '86 was the first. Dave Casalena '91 the second, followed by Carson Butterwick '03 and Matt Tinordi '14, and that's the entire list. Prendergast won a national championship, and Tinordi served as team captain, and Butterwick an assistant captain, and that's about it. The best option? Probably Tinordi, slightly over Butterwick. Give him the nod for earning the C, and maybe some extra points for being part of a hockey family, with his father and brother both with NHL service to their names. That might be thin, but it's thin to start with.

Jason Kasdorf #33 - Almost impossible to make the argument that the best 33 in RPI history isn't wearing it right now. The only other players to wear it? Phil Kenner '91, currently awaiting sentencing on six federal felony fraud charges, Kevin Kurk '04, who backed up Nathan Marsters throughout his college career, and Jordan Watts '12, who left RPI after his sophomore season, transferring to D-III Adrian. Kasdorf is already an All-ECAC selection. Time for another fudge factor moment here. Rather than the number, perhaps celebrate the position. With Daren Puppa and the '85 crown already accounted for, why not honor Bob Fox as the backstop of the '54 Engineers?

Sam Goodman #35 - Very lightly used. In fact, the only Engineers that have ever worn 35 in a game are Will Neubert '08, Joey Harkenrider '12, and Jeremy Coupal '12 - like Goodman, third netminders all. Two options here. Coupal, a nod to the fact that both he and Goodman graduated to the varsity squad from the club team (that Coupal helped start). Or perhaps in a different nod to the practice netminder position, take perhaps the most well known third-string in RPI history. Bobby Farrelly '81 played in one game as an Engineer. He came on in relief of either Ian Harrison or Kevin Constantine, and saw 11:13 of game time. Allowed more goals (4) than he had saves (2) in that time. But he turned out OK. With his brother Peter, he's directed movies like Dumb and Dumber, Kingpin, There's Something About Mary, and Shallow Hal. He's getting by without hockey. Farrelly wore #31 in that game, but as with the 33, it's the spirit of the thing that counts here.

Lonnie Clary #37 - Clary is the first player to wear number 37 in RPI history. Options? Well, if he's allowed to change his number for a night, perhaps that might allow for the best player with an unused number to be honored - or we could just use the name. That would have to be a serious tossup between Garry Kearns '58 and his #10 - All-American, Ring of Honor inductee, and the only former player to become coach - or John Carter '86 and his #15 (basically, ditto Kearns, just with an NHL career in place of being an RPI coach). This one's almost a very literal coin flip. Kearns arguably helped save the program as coach, and that might be the extra push.

Alex Rodriguez #39 - Aha! This one's the easiest of them all! The only other 39 in RPI history is actually a player who falls perfectly into a category to be honored. Ryan Haggerty '14 was an All-American as a junior, leading the nation in goal scoring that season before signing a pro contract. Perfect! No fuss!

And, for the record, some of our choices for top numbers not currently in use.
0 - Don Cutts '74 (first Engineer in the NHL)
3 - Herb LaFontaine '53 (All-American gets the nod over the Kummu brothers, Ryan and Allen, who wore the number continuously for 8 seasons in a row from 1985 through 1993)
5 - Stephane Robitaille '92 (All-ECAC choice, 18-year career in Europe, chosen over fellow All-ECAC Brian Robins '62, far more honorees back then)
10 - Garry Kearns '58 (over Gordie Peterkin '55, who scored the OT winner against Minnesota for the '54 crown)
15 - John Carter '86 (beats out All-ECAC Ron Pasco '94 and twice All-American and once Hobey finalist Eric Healey '98)
16 - Dale Watson '69 (three seasons as captain, over NHLers Larry Landon '81 and Brandon Pirri '13)
21 - Chase Polacek '11 (as mentioned above, two time Hobey finalist and two-time All-American, over All-ECAC Patrick Rochon '96 and '85 captain Mike Sadeghpour '85)
29 - Nick Bailen '13 (twice an All-American, currently a KHL All-Star and possible future Olympian for Belarus)
30 - Allen York '12 (All-ECAC, NHL experience, led the Engineers back to the NCAA tournament)
31 - Mathias Lange '09 (Olympian for his native Austria in 2014, earned a win in net against Norway)
52 - Brad Tapper '01 (as mentioned above)

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