FORTY YEARS OF UNION COLLEGE HOCKEY
THE INSIDE STORY
Just 22 when I joined the Union College News Bureau in Schenectady, New York, I was grateful to find a job right out of college in 1975. And what a great time to be there! Achilles Rink had just opened and Ned Harkness, the winningest coach in college hockey, had just arrived to launch an NCAA Division III program. Harkness's team of freshmen and sophomores stunned the University of New Hampshire when in early February, 1977, they came into Achilles Rink ranked Number 1 in the East and Number 2 in the country. The Dutchmen defeated the Wildcats 8 to 4 in an upset so huge that Sports Illustrated ran this three-page feature on Harkness, his players, and the college.
Ten months later it all fell apart. Amid an admissions scandal and intense faculty opposition to upgrading the college to Division I, Ned Harkness quit in the middle of the 1977-78 season as four of his players were declared academically ineligible. That was the first blow -- and then his entire team walked out along with him. Thomas Bonner would soon also resign in what the college today calls the Hockey Crisis of 1977.
"College Try for New Image Fails" is the way The New York Times reported it.
I saw and participated in the entire drama as it hurtled toward its perhaps inevitable conclusion, keeping a detailed journal along the way. In the 40th anniversary year of the crisis, I think the time has at last arrived to return to Union, connect with old colleagues, and, to the best of our collective ability, tell the whole story -- not just the collapse of the Union College hockey program but its revival and flourishing as well. In 1990, Union went Division I. In 2014, Union scored three goals in less than two minutes to defeat the University of Minnesota in the NCAA Men's Division I Hockey Championship. My son John, a 2003 Union graduate, was there.
January 20, 2017
Tell YOUR Story
Were you also there in 1977? Have you participated in rebuilding the program? Do you have a story about Union's hockey program that you'd like to share?
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