Cold comforts

Winter on ice, past and present.

It’s been an emphatic winter so far in Chicago, and for some Hyde Parkers the silver lining is more of a steel lining—skate blades etching a pleasingly hard sheet of ice. The rink on the Midway Plaisance was hopping in January at open skates, drop-in lessons, stick-and-puck skates, pond hockey, and rat hockey. (It takes a true connoisseur to distinguish between the fine gradations of hockey sessions.)

On a 12-degree Saturday afternoon, a friend and I snaked our ways through a crowd, weaving around the slow, giving a wide berth to the unsteady, gaping at the sure-footed young figure skaters soon to be dreaming gold medal dreams. One similarly frigid Tuesday evening, the only others on the ice were a clutch of boys who’d claimed center rink for sprints and falling down. Perfect for a rusty skater like me to practice my halting backward stride around the outer oval without too constant a head swivel.

On weekends, morning hockey hours let the puck-devoted ply their skills without hauling equipment downtown or to the suburbs. But 70 years ago, I learned nosing through the Magazine’s archives, there was UChicago league hockey—played on Stagg Field.

In “Mayhem on 56th Street” (Feb/50), Edwin Diamond, PhB’47, AM’49, a former Chicago Maroon writer and future Newsweek writer, chronicled the ups and downs of his UChicago “rink-war” squad from its origins in 1946 to the winter of 1950.

Some of the teams the Maroons faced off against sketched a rough map of the city: Southwest Falcons, 75th Street Buzzards, Oak Park Acorns, Back of the Yards Aces. One night when the Polish-American Flyers were visiting, fists flew in a dustup that spread to the benches before a rink attendant shut off the lights. “Unable to distinguish between friend or foe,” Diamond reported, “the rhubarb ended.”

“For ice hockey here,” he added, “there are no crowds in the stands, no letters or numerals, … no professional contracts waiting, no recruiting by alumni, no radio hookups or Bowl bids or marching bands.” Like today’s Midway skaters, the 1950 Maroons were there for the love of ice.

Warm welcome

The year began auspiciously for the Magazine: early in January, Andrew Peart, AM’16, came on board as alumni news editor. A doctoral candidate in English and former editor of the graduate-student-published Chicago Review, Andrew is finishing his dissertation on the influence of folklore collecting, sound recording, and popular song on 20th-century American poetry. He will work with the College class correspondents on their columns among other editorial duties, and will be the friendly voice on the other end when you contact us by phone or email. We’re delighted he’s part of the team.