SI Vault
Whitney Tower
February 21, 1955
Some fifty colleges turn their enthusiasm for a great winter pastime into one of America's fastest-growing sports. Artificial ice has helped—so have hundreds of fine Canadian skaters
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
February 21, 1955

U.s. Colleges Take To The Ice

Some fifty colleges turn their enthusiasm for a great winter pastime into one of America's fastest-growing sports. Artificial ice has helped—so have hundreds of fine Canadian skaters

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue


The thermometer was dipping toward 10� below zero, but the attraction was hockey—college hockey—and the town of Canton, N.Y. (pop. 4,379) bulged last Saturday night with hockey fans who won't be put off by 10 below.

Some spectators drove from Water-town over 60 miles of icy roads. Others walked to the arena from campus dormitories and fraternities of St. Lawrence University (enrollment 1,250). On their way, hockey addicts passed the football field where the St. Lawrence Larries drew crowds of 2,000 last fall. They also passed the gym where, earlier in the week, the St. Lawrence basketball team trimmed the University of Rochester in the full view of less than 50 fans.

When St. Lawrence squared off against Boston College on the ice of the $400,000 Appleton Arena Saturday night there were close to 3,500 in the stands to watch. Most of them saw the kind of game they came for. The Boston boys were fresh from a 3-2 victory over a strong Clarkson College team, but St. Lawrence went into a furious first-period offensive which gave the Boston goalie nothing but fits. The attack paid off after 17 minutes when a pair of 21-year-old Canadian boys, Leland Fournier and Ron O'Brien, scored for St. Lawrence within the space of eight seconds. Later in the game Bill Meehan from Arlington, Mass. and Paul Swancott from Rome, N.Y. also scored for the home team and the final score, much to the satisfaction of every citizen of Canton, was 4-1 in favor of Coach Olie Kollevoll's well-balanced Larries.

Had all this happened a few years ago it would have prompted nothing more stimulating than a few remarks around New England to the effect that Boston College must have had an off night to have lost a game to little-known St. Lawrence. Today no such remarks are warranted. College hockey is one of the nation's growing sports and its "big league" is thriving. The sport is growing without help of any kind from Notre Dame, Ohio State, UCLA, Duke or Southern Methodist. None of these football powers indulge. Neither do such perennial basketball stalwarts as La Salle, Duquesne, San Francisco, Kentucky or Dayton.


Instead, the big league of college hockey is a curious geographical mixture—as it is in college basketball—of big-name universities such as Michigan, Minnesota and a few Ivy Leaguers and a handful of lesser-knowns—St. Lawrence, Clarkson, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (all in upper New York State), North Dakota, Michigan Tech and Colorado College. Artificial ice is being installed wherever hockey-minded students are enrolled—in recent months rinks have gone up at Amherst, Williams, MIT, Middlebury and Penn State. Still more are planned for Nebraska, Colgate and elsewhere where hockey has captured the imagination of sports-loving college officials and alumni.

To many of these campuses are flocking hockey-crazy students from dozens of New England prep schools and from more than 300 hockey-playing high schools. Last year the three-day Minnesota state high school hockey championship drew a record 24,465 people to the St. Paul Auditorium.

If U.S. schools are helping to build hockey into a respectable position in the jealous hierarchy of college sports by sending well-coached and enthusiastic skaters to the campuses of our colleges, this help is regarded in some quarters as strictly secondary. Of primary importance, say many who know the score of college hockey, is the annual invasion by hundreds of Canadian students, a good many of whom, by some fortuitous chance, also happen to be cracker jack hockey players. Most of the Canadian boys on top U.S. teams are standouts. They should be. This is their game and they've been at it, in many cases, since the age of eight. Nevertheless, a hot debate over the invaders is already raging.

Last year, after his team was soundly whacked by Denver and Colorado (whose teams are loaded with Canadians), Harvard Coach Cooney Weiland publicly moaned that Canadian athletes were ruining U.S. college hockey. He found a supporter a few weeks ago in Dartmouth Coach Eddie Jeremiah, who complained that the wholesale imports of Canadian stars to some colleges are making a farce out of the NCAA championships. A reply from the West came screeching in like a true slap shot. Johnny Mariucci, who coaches an all-Minnesota-born team at Minnesota (as opposed to the all-Canadian team at Michigan) said: "Those Ivy League schools think their campuses stretch around the globe. If they get a boy from the North Pole to play hockey, he's there for an education. If we get a boy from Wisconsin to play hockey, he's a hired man. So long as the boys get a little of that ivy on them they're all right." Colorado College officials quickly took up their cue and reminded Coach Jeremiah that Dartmouth—once the greatest power in U.S. college hockey—should not be so critical of other schools when its own National Championship ski team is led by stars from Japan (see page 40), Norway, South America and also Canada.

Continue Story
1 2