Traditions: Rensselaer has quite a few, and some have changed over the years. For example, as someone who was here in the late ’70s and early ’80s, I noticed that the Grand Marshal Week tradition of eight beers for a dollar is no longer in existence. The first tradition I was exposed to in my freshman year was Hockey Line. As an avid fan of the game, the existence of Division I hockey at Rensselaer was very appealing. A junior I knew from back home had a group of veteran Hockey Line sitters who allowed me to sit with them as a freshman. Back then, the line rules allowed eight tickets per person who sat on line 24/7. However, you were able to do whatever you wished to make it feel like home, which included pitch tents, lay out mattresses, setup foosball tables, add lights, and just about anything else. It was a great place to meet people and bond with a group of friends. In future years, each of my dorm floors participated as a group, and we became closer as friends and even ventured on hockey road trips together.
You might be wondering why I would spend an average of two weeks on hockey line each year when you can just walk into the Houston Field House and get a good seat. That was not always the case. As a current season ticket holder, I see that besides obvious rivalry games such as Clarkson (yes, they still suck) and Cornell, plus feature weekends like the Freakout, the crowd sizes are down from my days. At that time, hockey was much more front-and-center on campus. Everyone knew the players and buzzed about Steve Stoyanovich’s booming slap shot and such; tests were even scheduled around the occasional weekday game. Today, with all the technology and toys abound, I think there are many other distractions and options for students. I encourage you to go and see a game if you haven’t—hockey, football, or whatever sport you like. School spirit is important, and your classmates spend a lot of time and effort to represent Rensselaer in competition at any level.
I remember the biggest motivation for anybody to sit on the Hockey Line were the infamous steel poles in the Field House. Keep in mind, this building originally was a WWII airplane hangar in Rhode Island that was moved to Troy to become our arena. Unfortunately, down the sides obstructing views for a good number of seats were poles, roughly four more per side than now. People had seating maps of the Field House and would go scout unobstructed seats, put x’s through seats that had a pole line up with a goal view, and use the map when selecting seats. Sitting on the Hockey Line ensured you got a good seat.
The Field House has undergone several renovations over the years, but in 1981, I was privileged to be the student rep on the committee deciding how to spend the allocated funds. I advocated that no renovation would matter unless the sight lines were improved by removing the poles. I am proud every time I walk into the arena and see a much better viewing experience. That change made Hockey Line unnecessary for choice seats, yet the tradition stands today for the fun and bonding experience that it is.
So I encourage you to learn and embrace some of the traditions at Rensselaer like Hockey Line. They will provide good memories, fun times, and lasting friendships. With progress and change, traditions might morph over time, but that makes the ones you experience as a student that much more special and unique.