Ice Hockey

No one on Syracuse ice hockey wants to wear the orange helmet

Andrew Graham | Asst. Copy Editor

The team hands out the old helmet to that week's loser of the weekly shootout competition.

UPDATED: March 1, 2017 at 9:43 p.m.

An orange helmet tucked away in Syracuse’s locker room might not seem special. The color and word “orange” is synonymous with the university and all its sports. Except ice hockey helmets, which are navy blue.

The old orange cap is a Cascade, which no longer produces hockey gear. The hockey and lacrosse goods manufacturer had sent it to SU head coach Paul Flanagan years ago as a bid for the team’s business. Now, it serves as a punishment.

“It’s pretty uncomfortable,” junior forward Stephanie Grossi said. “Pretty large and just not good at all.”

The chipped, marine-paint orange face mask is hard to see out of and makes the wearer “cross-eyed,” senior defender Larissa Martyniuk said. The old padding is worn and saturated with the sweat of many scalps past. A zero decal sticks on the back, just above the nape of a player’s neck, ironically detailing why the player must wear the helmet in the first place.

Every Thursday at the end of practice, Syracuse (15-12-5, 14-4-2 College Hockey America) holds a shootout competition. The last skater to score becomes the next player to stride out on the ice Friday night with an orange top among a sea of navy blue.

The competition started with Erin O’Brien, one of Flanagan’s first assistants at Syracuse. She had brought the idea from previously coaching at Plattsburgh State and originally, the loser wore the helmet for only next Thursday’s practice. Eventually, the competition ebbed.

Public shaming seemed a decent way to reinvigorate competition. Now, the last player to beat one of the three goalies in the shootout must wear the orange headgear for the next day’s warm-ups. “This is getting a little stale,” Flanagan told his players, “so we’re gonna raise the bar here.”

The punishment goes beyond the helmet. All the members of the loser’s year in school must clean the bus together after road trips. In the past, the helmet wearer had to take a picture with it. Most included a funny face, and the photos went on the wall with its corresponding week.

“Like you can hold it,” junior forward Emily Costales said, “or do some funny sh*t with it.”

The goalies are neutral in the competition, not worry about the dunce cap—for now. Flanagan mentioned changing the rules, but currently the most difficult decision for goaltenders is how hard to try. Goalie Abbey Miller usually feels torn between tiring herself out with effort or allowing it to finish quickly and getting “lit up.”

The usually bipartisan variable also sometimes chooses sides. Two weeks ago, at a practice just before senior night, redshirt junior Brooke Avery and senior Laurence Porlier were the final two scoreless skaters. Miller didn’t want Porlier to have to wear the helmet on her senior night, so the goalie moved mostly out of the way. Porlier still shot it into Miller’s body twice before scoring.

“They can cheat for their buddy,” Flanagan said. “I think it happens occasionally, but it’s part of the game.”

The players enjoy the shootout, if for different reasons. Grossi tries out new moves. Alysha Burriss goes quick to the five hole. Martyniuk uses only one move: fake a forehand before firing a backhander.

But the universal agreement is that no one wants anything to do with the orange Cascade.

“I absolutely hated it,” Martyniuk said. “I just dread it.

“It’s like the worst thing ever.”

CLARIFICATION: In a previous version of this post, the status of Cascade was unclear. The company still exists, but no longer produces hockey equipment.

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