WATERVILLE — Nathaniel Hawthorne never made it to one of these, and neither did Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Franklin Pierce or Elijah Lovejoy. But George Mitchell probably did. The same goes for Doris Kearns Goodwin and Robert Parker.
Bowdoin and Colby alumni both famous and obscure have been cheering for their school and booing the other for generations. The men’s ice hockey rivalry between the Mules and Polar Bears doesn’t go back two centuries to the schools’ foundings. That’s just what it feels like.
Colby and Bowdoin have been playing men’s ice hockey and encouraging hostilities against each other since 1922. On Saturday night at Colby’s Alfond Rink, the old rivals played against each other for the 200th time.
No other rivalry in Division III hockey comes close to Bowdoin-Colby in terms of longevity. Middlebury and Norwich, and St. Thomas and St. John’s, two Minnesota schools, are closest, each around 150 games.
Colby won that first game in 1922, 2-1. With Saturday’s night’s 5-2 win, Bowdoin leads the series 105-87-8. The Colby-Bowdoin series is so old, the first games were played outside.
Modern conveniences, such as four walls and a roof, were a boon to the Polar Bears in this rivalry. Since Bowdoin’s Dayton Arena (the predecessor to Sid Watson Arena, the school’s new rink) opened in 1959, the Polar Bears are 42-14-3 at home against the Mules. On Friday night in Brunswick, Bowdoin took game 199, 3-1.
Mark Landry of Fairfield was one of the first fans in Alfond Rink. He was in his seat behind the net, in the last row, his back against the cement wall, 55 minutes before the start of the game. His seat allowed not just a perfect view of the ice, but a perfect view of the crowd.
There was a game a few years ago, Landry recalled, when the fists starting flying and police escorted a few overzealous fans from the rink.
“This is where we see the rowdy people,” Landry said.
Security from both schools, along with Waterville police, prowled the aisles and kept the peace, depriving Landry of any quality shenanigan viewing. Landry grew up in Lewiston, and has no affiliation with either Bowdoin or Colby.
“I’m just a hockey fan,” Landry said. “This is good hockey.”
Waterville City Manager Mike Roy, Colby Class of 1974, joined Colby President Bro Adams in dropping the ceremonial first puck. What makes the Colby-Bowdoin rivalry great, Roy said, is its sameness. Players change, coaches change, fans change. Time shuffles forward, but the grudge is passed on.
“It hasn’t changed a bit. I think that’s what makes it so special,” Roy said. “I grew up in Waterville, so I watched these games as a teenager. There’s too many great games to remember.”
The older fans arrived early, as usual. The students arrived late, as usual. Colby students waved a United States flag and a Colby flag. One Colby student wore a sombrero. Everyone knows everything is better with a sombrero.
Colby senior Monica Davis and her friends held a sign. “Go Nick” it read. It was for Nick Kondiles, her roommate’s boyfriend and a senior forward for the Mules. Kondiles returned from injury just in time to play against Bowdoin.
“I never go to games except the Bowdoin game,” Davis said. “I go to the Bowdoin games because there’s fights. You’ll probably see one or two.”
In the stands or on the ice?
“Both,” Davis said. “It’s that kind of rivalry.”
Other than a little pushing and shoving on the ice, the 200th Colby-Bowdoin game was fairly tame. With 1:22 left in the game, a squid flew from the Colby student section on to the ice. It was intense, but not too chippy. It’s been that way for 90 years and 200 games. As long as Colby and Bowdoin continue to play hockey against each other, it will be that way forever.
Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242