Outdoor Practice Helps Yale Hockey Players Recall Their Love for the Game

The Yale men’s hockey team took a break from normal practice on Jan. 19 and ventured outside to skate on the pond next to the clubhouse on the University’s golf course.

It is believed to be the first time a Bulldog varsity team has done anything official on natural outdoor ice since the 1920s.

“It was great for the guys to get out there and play outside,” says C.J. Marottolo, associate hockey coach. “It brings you back to the days of playing all day on the pond. It also makes you realize why you love the game and how you fell in love with the game.”

The Bulldogs skated on the pond between holes No. 3 and 4 from 4 to 5:20 p.m. Two areas were cleared of nearly a foot of snow. One section, where the Elis rotated players for 3-on-3 games, had a pair of nets brought over from Ingalls Rink. The image was classic hockey, notes Marottolo: a fully-geared college team with goalies on a pond surrounded by snow and wilderness.

A roaring fire burning inside a 50-gallon metal can just off the larger skating section warmed everyone. Hot chocolate and Powerade sat on a table with a sign designed by Yale athletic trainer Rich Kaplan that read “Operation Pond Hockey 2009” sitting in the snow below.

The idea of going outside for one practice was the brainchild of Wayne Dean, senior associate director of Yale Athletics, and Keith Allain ‘80, the Malcolm G. Chace Head Coach of Hockey. They surveyed the pond the night before making the final call. Dean and Scott Ramsay, the superintendent at the Course at Yale, spent most of the day plowing the pond and building the fire.

Pucks were flying all over the place, landing in snow banks, wet spots along the edges and in goalie gloves. Not having boards didn’t stop anyone from snapping off an errant shot or pass. Ed Maturo, Yale’s director of equipment services, had plenty of pucks to accommodate the conditions but admits that he wasn’t thrilled to see hockey gloves and sticks being warmed inches away from the flames.

“It brought back great memories for me,” said Yale player Patrick Brosnihan ‘09, sporting the type of eye black the Chicago Blackhawk players wore at Wrigley Field on Jan. 1 for a game with the Detroit Red Wings. “We get caught up in the season and being so focused on winning. It’s easy to forget why you love this game. This slowed things down for us and helped us realize why we love it so much.”

— By Steve Conn, Yale Sports Publicity

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