My Dartmouth experience

by Mitch Yashiro | 5/31/00 5:00am

To tell you the truth, I couldn't skate four years ago.

So when I arrived in New Hampshire in a Minicoach in September 1996, I had no idea that a French-Canadian winter sport "- ice hockey -- would dominate my college life. But now as I'm counting my days till graduation (10, by the way), I could probably say that ice hockey was the core of my Dartmouth experience. I even scheduled my D-Plan to be "on" all four Winter terms.

Born and raised in Tokyo, a land of skyscrapers and crowded concrete roads, I didn't grow up skating or playing hockey. In my high school, baseball, soccer, rugby and martial arts were the popular sports, while hockey, lacrosse, "American" football were just some novelties. Hockey meant field hockey, not ice hockey.

As you could guess, I'm not a varsity player or anything, I'm not even on the club team. But let me explain how hockey has changed my career.

Big part of it was my friends. One of my best friends was a Czech-born, Mexico-raised Lukas Cadil '00. You know how crazy the Czechs are about hockey, winning Gold medal in Nagano and all. Also, two other close friends were hockey crazy -- Gordon Fu '99, a club member, and Peter Horowitz '98, a five-year manager for the Dartmouth men's hockey team.

Aside from these friends, one event in November of my freshman year had one of the biggest impacts on my life.

Lukas casually took me out to one of the varsity games that night. The game was against Dartmouth's perennial rival University of Vermont. The nationally ranked Catamounts were huge favorites over the last place Big Green, and Vermont fans filled the arena. I don't remember the details of the game (which I believe Dartmouth won 4-1), but one thing I do remember is Dartmouth's goaltender " Jason Wong '00. Wong not only withstood a flurry of shots, but he made this one save that is still burned in my memory. Sprawled on ice after making the initial save, he raised his glove hand and snatched a wrist shot by a Vermont player from the circle. With that save, the whole arena went nuts. Even the opposing team fans joined the Dartmouth fans in a standing ovation.

Well, that was the beginning of my hockey career.Since that hockey game I was hooked on the sport and I spent most of my first year trying to skate or just to stand up on the ice. I frequented public skating sessions at Thompson Arena. As the winter approached, I signed up for a hockey PE class, while not being able to skate more than five feet without falling down.

With friends from that PE class, we formed a team called "The Blades." First year, we got destroyed, as most of us had not played hockey before. Second year, we did better, advancing several rounds in the playoffs. Last year, my junior year, The Blades went on to win the C-league championship and our co-ed team "Pucker up" won a championship as well.

This year, we knew we were better than the C-league, so we formed a new team called "Samurai Seven" in the B-league, which refered to seven Japanese-Canadian players who played for Japan in Nagano (the original name is from a Kurosawa movie). The team had a bunch of guys from the Blades as well as several 03s I recruited. After a 1-1-1 regular season, Samurai Seven went on to beat three graduate school teams in playoffs " Tuck, the medical school and the computer science department -- to capture the B-league. In the championship game, I flew in from a job interview in Memphis 20 minutes before the game.

As I reflect on my days at Dartmouth, the biggest accomplishment I made was going from not being able to skate my freshman year to winning the B-league championship in my senior year. When I think of Dartmouth, I think of all those late night games at Thompson, taking shots in my throat, countless shots that I allowed and some I saved, and above all, winning the championships.

Finally, since this article puts an end to my three-year career at The Dartmouth, I just want to say thank you to all the past and present sports editors -- Kevin Demoff '99, Lou Scerra '01 and Austin Zalkin '02 -- for helping me become a better sports writer.