Thursday, July 21, 2011

Breakout Past: La Vie of Penn State Hockey (Part I)

Last weekend, as all Penn Staters know, was Arts Fest. One of my favorite things to do while walking the sidewalk sale is a quick stop at the Hintz Family Alumni Center - where every La Vie yearbook ever exists for public consumption - to see my dad, a former student manager for our basketballers.

And so a great family tradition of wearing a tie while others play sports was born.

Anyway, this past weekend, I did something different, when it suddenly occurred to me that hey, I write a blog about Penn State hockey, and I bet they have stuff about old hockey teams in these yearbooks. So that's how I ended up photographing a bunch of 70-year-old pages in Hintz's large reception area. I felt like a spy until they tried to set up some lemonade and water on the table I was using.

Here's the text of everything about PSU's original varsity team in the yearbooks. There were pictures too, but you can pretty much see how that goes above. Also, I altered my usual style to make this easier to read - my commentary is in italics (and between rows of periods). I'll try to resolve all discrepancies between La Vie and that time I read a bunch of old Collegian articles as well. From this point on, I'll refer a lot to "my records" (or similar phrasing), meaning the end result of putting together the old Collegian articles, shown here.

1940 La Vie (1939-40 season)


William Stohldrier, Manager
Oscar Smith, Captain

J. Dufford, P.R. Dowler, D.M. Irwin, M.J. Gates, J. Bachman, R.P. Johnson, Larry Lightbody, C. DeLong, M.P. Fedock, G.S. Wolbert, W.C. Garrett, R. Omalecki, S. Matula, J.C. Robbie, C.S. Herrick, R. Magerum, F.G. Bowman, A.W. Bitner


                                                     P.S.  Opp.
Dec.  8 – Hershey.........   1     4
Jan. 12 – Hershey Junior Hershey.........   1     4
Jan. 27 – Hershey Junior State College...   1     6
Feb.  2 – Hershey Junior Hershey.........   3     7
Feb.  3 – Princeton.......   0     4
Feb. 10 – Huntington, W. Huntington......   3    12
Feb. 11 – Charlestown, W. Charlestown.....   3     9
Feb. 16 – Johnstown.......   1     4
Feb. 27 – Hershey.........   7     2
Mar.  1 – Hershey.........   8     2
Mar.  8 – Carnegie Johnstown.......   4     1


Right up front, we have one missing piece of information filled in (the score of the game actually played at PSU) and a number of conflicts, mostly concerning dates. I'm sticking with the Lafayette game on March 12th, as opposed to February 27th. The March 1st Penn State Collegian indicates that a Lafayette game was scheduled for the 27th but it "was called off when the Leopard outfit was unable to travel on the dangerous highways" (it seems likely that the 3/12 game was a makeup for that). Likewise, I'm going to maintain that the score of the March 8th game with Carnegie Tech was 4-0 as reported in the March 12th Collegian, not 4-1.

As a general rule, I'm going to side with the thing written within a few days of the games over the thing written at the end of the academic year on items like scores and dates. So it probably shouldn't come as a surprise that I'm also sticking with the Charleston game as having happened on the 9th instead of the 11th. But the yearbook wins on the date of the Duquesne game - it was reported as taking place at "8 p.m. tomorrow" in the 2/16 Collegian, but the recap of PSU's defeat referred it as taking place "last Friday," and the 16th was a Friday.


PSU succeeded in playing a home game on these tennis courts in 1940.

1941 La Vie (1940-41 season)


G.S. Wolbert, J.M. Dufford, B.D. Anthony, L.N. Lightbody, M.P. Fedock, R.P. Johnson, G.H. Gates, E.J. Maslow, J.E. Fowler, A.W. Bitner, W.C. Garrett, C.S. Herrick, R.W. May (Manager)


Dec.  6 – Penn State.............3 Carnegie Tech..........1 Away
Jan. 17 – Penn State.............6 Temple.................1 Away
Jan. 25 – Penn State.............3 Carnegie Tech..........1 Away
Feb.  7 – Penn State.............5 Temple.................3 Away
Feb. 28 – Penn State.............2 John Carroll...........3 Away
Mar.  6 – Penn State.............3 Hershey Junior Bears...5 Away
Mar.  8 – Penn State.............4 Georgetown.............4 Away
Mar. 15 – Penn State.............4 Lehigh.................1 Away
Mar. 21 – Penn State.............2 Georgetown.............3 Away
Mar. 28 – Penn State.............5 Franklin and Marshall..
3 Away

In its first year as an official college team, Penn State’s ice hockey squad concluded a successful season in spite of many handicaps. The squad again had the misfortune of losing valuable practice on account of unfavorable weather conditions, and were therefore forced to journey to Johnstown for scrimmage sessions.

The season was highlighted by victories over Temple, Carnegie Tech, and Lehigh, and by the game with John Carroll, in which State held the unbeaten Clevelanders to a 3-2 victory.

Throughout the season, John Dufford and Peany Gates led the puck chasers in scoring, closely followed by defense star Fowler. Goalie Harry [sic] Lightbody turned in many brilliant saves throughout the season and was given the Outstanding Player Award. George Wolbert was elected honorary captain for the year.


This season is the biggest mess of the lot, and I'm not talking about the fact that we're bragging about losing to John Carroll by one. The yearbook contains two games not included in my research, while I have two games they don't.

First up, let's tackle that Temple game on February 7th. There was definitely a game scheduled for the next day as a part of a Winter Sports Carnival (along with figure skating, skiing and ice sculpting), but it was called off due to weather. A game between the same teams on the 7th was never mentioned in the Collegian. But what's more likely, the yearbook fabricating a game out of thin air, or the Collegian overlooking one in the buildup to the Carnival? I'll count it.

I'll also include PSU's 3-1 win over Carnegie Tech on January 25th. The Collegian didn't publish between January 19th and February 2nd of 1941. Hockey articles appeared on the day before (recap of the 1/17 Temple game) and after (previewing that carnival) the hiatus with no mention of an additional game between the two. So I'll again assume that the yearbook staff didn't simply invent a game.

On the other side of things, evidence for my two extra games appears a little flimsy on second look. The 2/21 game against Carnegie Tech was based on a preview article, coupled with a later mention of PSU's undefeated record. I should know better than to assume that game took place with circumstances being what they were back then.

I need pictures to explain the 12/13 Lafayette game in my records.

The left-hand article, from November 16, 1940, mentions a game with Lafayette to be played 12/13. On the right is a passing reference to a "Lafayette triumph," published on January 8, 1941. But there's a problem. Look at what came out just eight days after that last article.

Idle since beating Lafayette on December 6th? Opening triumph? Everyone is in agreement than PSU beat Carnegie Tech on 12/6 by a score of 3-1 to open the season. The Collegian even published a box score (John Dufford scored twice, Peany Gates once). My suspicion, therefore, is a simple case of mistaken identity after the fact. It's not like the writer could do a quick fact-check on the internet. This theory, of course, means that the Lafayette game on the 13th never happened.

It all adds up to good news, since the April 23, 1941 Collegian and all other accounts I've seen insist that the team's record was 6-3-1 for the season.

Two other minor issues were resolved in favor of previous work. The score of the March 6th game was 5-2 for Hershey instead of 5-3, and the March 21st and 28th games were flip-flopped here, as F and M was played before Georgetown.


So there you have it. Your takeaway: it's pretty hard to get a handle on all of this stuff. I'll hit the last four yearbooks, and their decidedly smaller number of issues, next week.

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