The United Airlines charter flight home the next day was both raucous and glum. While the Rensselaer team was accepting and then gobbling two celebration cakes presented by the airline, the Boston College team sat quietly in the back of the plane.
When we landed at the Albany Airport I looked out the window, Baum says. I thought I was Lindbergh landing in Paris. All I could see were lights in every direction.
Several thousand people greeted the team. And when Harkness appeared at the plane door wearing a 10-gallon hat and holding a three-foot high championship trophy, he was carried off on the shoulders of hundreds of well-wishers to the head of a 40-car motorcade.
They had a convertible for each player, Pope says. It sounds wonderful, but it was close to freezing outside. Its a long ride from Albany to Troy when youre sitting in the back of an open car in winter.
Thousands lined Congress Street waving torches and clapping as the motorcade passed by on its way to the Field House. One group of fraternity brothers even attempted to ignite a bale of hay but it was quickly extinguished by Troy firemen.
Inside the Field House, the 30-piece band struck up Hail, Dear Old Rensselaer when the players entered. After a three-minute standing ovation, the crowd began chanting, No school tomorrow. No school tomorrow.
President Houston quickly restored order when he took the microphone.
We are a professional institution, he says.
But I will talk to the dean and see if the team can get the day off.
The next day, Gov. Thomas Dewey paid tribute to the team in his executive chambers at the Capitol in Albany.
And with that, the 13 players brief time of glory concluded. They put away their skates and went back to their test tubes and note pads.
But 50 years later, their surprising championship season remains one of the defining moments of Rensselaers century-old hockey tradition and in the lives of a small group of players and their determined coach.
|Rensselaer Magazine: Winter 2003|
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