Rivalry and Memorials

Dedicated to all the men and women of Rochester
Who died for their country on land, sea or in the air

Americans by birth or adoption most of all by devotion
Rich in the joys and hopes and talents they sacrificed
Richer still with the honor and freedom so nobly maintained
Whose courage and faith laid the foundations of peace

These sons and daughters, neighbors, friends, whose noblest
Motive was the public good. They are not lost who are
Remembered nor dead whose work transcends their
Time whose fulfillment we in God’s grace may share

Those moving words are engraved on a plaque permanently mounted in a prominent corner of the Blue Cross Arena at the War Memorial, adjacent to an eternal flame and alongside extensive displays capturing the military service of residents from Rochester, N.Y. The building was named the War Memorial upon its original dedication in 1953 as a tribute to those soldiers, sailors, and airmen who had made the ultimate sacrifice during World War II.

So perhaps it is fitting that this building was the host tonight to two of the service academies battling on the ice for either team’s first ever Atlantic Hockey Association championship and also for their first automatic berth into the NCAA tournament.

“I think it is kind of neat for college hockey to have two service academies playing in a championship game, knowing that one of the them will be in the NCAA tournament,” said Army coach Brian Riley prior to the game.

The on-ice rivalry between the Army Black Knights and Air Force Falcons go all the way back to March 22, 1969, the first year of varsity hockey for the Falcons. That pair of games, officially designated as exhibitions, were won convincingly by the Black Knights by scores of 12-4 and 8-0.

But Air Force has greatly improved from those days, leading the all-time series 24-18-2.

Eternal Flame Monument at the War Memorial at Blue Cross Arena, site of the Atlantic Hockey Championships. (photo: Angelo Lisuzzo)

Eternal Flame Monument at the War Memorial at Blue Cross Arena, site of the Atlantic Hockey Championships. (photo: Angelo Lisuzzo)

“Inter-service academy rivalries have been there a long time and are part of our tradition,” said Lt. General John Regni, superintendent of the U.S. Air Force Academy. “Our teams always play hard but whenever we are going against another service academy, both teams seem to step it up a little bit. There are a lot of bragging rights involved, not only at the academies but across the services themselves.”

The rivalry runs deep throughout the long tradition of athletics at both academies and is followed closely by service men and women stationed around the globe.

“When you see these two teams play, it is quite a rivalry where guys leave it all on the ice,” said Riley. “In my wildest dreams, I would have never imagined the two of us playing for a chance to go to the NCAA’s. We could play for nothing and we would try to beat the heck out of each other.”

“It is bragging rights,” continued Gene Marshall, Deputy Athletic Director at Army. “It is always a chance of who gets to brag the most. We say we are the toughest. They say they are the toughest. And we try to settle it on the field of friendly strife, or the ice of friendly strife in this case.”

But even with the rivalry, and the bragging rights on the line, a deep rooted respect and support for all service academies permeates both the Army and the Air Force personnel.

“All of that aside, it is important to understand that we are proud of any service academy teams playing at this level of competition,” summed up Regni.

Both schools were also very aware of the history of the building that they were competing in, and the irony of playing such an important game inside a building dedicated to the memory of so many who gave their lives serving their country.

“When I walked in to this building, what an amazing situation to be at a war memorial and have two service academies battling for the right to go to the NCAA’s,” said Marshall. “It is a fitting tribute to what this country stands for.”

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