Chapter Six: Hockey East Calls

A 23-year run as Hockey East Commissioner began in 1997 for Joe Bertagna. Chapter Six shares highlights and challenges of the job.

Rarely did I walk into the latest locker room renovation without thinking of my Harvard experience so many decades earlier. The modern Division I locker room is part work space, part sports museum. Athletes might enter through a changing room that leads into the actual locker room. The weight room is likely in close proximity and perhaps there is a mini-amphitheater where videos can be viewed and discussed.

In the early 1970s, we had loose benches in front of antique metal lockers inside the history-drenched Dillon Field House. The hockey team had to wait for the football team to vacate the room, and the baseball team had to wait for our season to end. And, whether for daily practice or on game nights, we had to take our bags and walk across a patch of lawn to the cinder block and bleachers of Watson Rink to don our skates in a tiny skate room.

I thought of Watson Rink the first time I watched a game at BU’s Agganis Arena. I could get a glass of white wine and snack on some sweet potato fries while sitting in a soft movie theater-style seat. At Watson, you would be sitting on a hard bench, the only concession product being the hot chocolate served up by Danny Crane and his brother Kevin, two undergraduates from Cambridge, whose father had once been the city’s mayor.

Legend has it that the hot chocolate was made with hot water from the Zamboni bay, the powdered mix stirred with a broken Northland stick.

Those thoughts also cue the memory of how much the game night experience had changed over the years. We would hear the starting line-up through scratchy speakers, the Harvard Band providing the soundtrack for the evening. In fact, how quaint it now seems that we let the visiting school’s band into the building most nights.

There was no Jumbotron providing a pump-up video of the home team or deafening music alternating with the home school band. There was no dimming of lights with a mascot carrying a huge school flag. The starting line-up was not introduced with individual players, their exaggerated “game faces” and raised sticks aimed at the camera. There were no videos of great goals just scored. Or video review. If a puck went in the net, it was a goal.

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