Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Tradition Is Dead

On Friday night, January 25th 2008, the infamous Plattsburgh/Oswego tennis ball tradition came to and end.

For 18 years, it was a Cardinal Hockey tradition for fans to throw thousands of tennis balls on to the ice after the first goal is scored against the Oswego Lakers. The tradition began in 1990 but the exact reasons are up for debate. Some say that the Cardinal Boosters Club chose tennis balls simply because the Oswego uniforms were an ugly yellow. Others claim that it was because the Lakers' Head Coach was also the school's tennis coach. Perhaps both reasons contribute to the origins of the choice of tennis balls.

In 1998, Oswego Goaltender Carl Antifonario shut-out the Cardinals in Plattsburgh. This sparked a new tradition for Lakers fans to throw bagels on to their home ice with Oswego's first goal against the Cardinals. As with Plattsburgh's tennis balls, it wasn't long before the tradition got out of hand and objects were thrown after every home goal. But in February of 2006, a bagel-induced penalty in a playoff game led to a Plattsburgh power-play goal, costing Oswego a shot at the NCAA tournament. In October of the same year, Oswego moved into a new arena but left the bagel-tossing tradition behind.

SUNY Plattsburgh has always discouraged the Oswego tennis ball tradition, yet were unable to stop it for 18 years. In part due to Oswego's success in ending their bagel tradition a few years earlier, SUNY Plattsburgh decided to get serious about ending the tennis ball tradition this year. Other reasons for the increased crackdown is that Oswego is the reigning NCAA Division III National Champions and currently ranked in the top 10, and Plattsburgh can't afford unnecessary penalties. Another reason is that Plattsburgh is currently ranked #1 in the nation and they want to end the tradition now, before it jeopardizes their post-season hopes come SUNYAC time.

Head Coach Bob Emory wrote this open letter to all Cardinal Hockey fans, which was also signed by all team captains. Then to enforce the ban, Plattsburgh State hired extra security to search fans, and brought in extra police officers to possibly charge anybody caught throwing objects on to the ice with disorderly conduct.

After the first Plattsburgh goal, less than a dozen tennis balls were thrown on to the ice (substantially less than the typical thousands). Those individuals were promptly removed from the arena by security, and two individuals were arrested for trespassing after attempting to reenter the building. The Cardinals scored two more times, including an exciting over-time game winner to keep the Cardinals a perfect 10-0-0 in conference play - but no more tennis balls were thrown. The tradition is dead.

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