Opening Faceoff: Union nickname debate stirs up passion

Former Union men's hockey standout Mat Bodie offered his thoughts on the college's potential nickname changed. (Gazette file photo)

Former Union men's hockey standout Mat Bodie offered his thoughts on the college's potential nickname changed. (Gazette file photo)

Article Audio:

Last week, without much publicity, Union College created a firestorm when it announced on its website that it was considering dropping the Dutchmen nickname for something new, and is asking the public for help in picking a potential new nickname.

Judging by the comments after I posted the story on Facebook and Twitter, no one is happy with this. Last Friday, I spoke with one of the top Union athletic alums, former Dutchmen men’s basketball player Sen. Jim Tedisco.

“It’s very disturbing,” Tedisco said. “It falls into the category of if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Listen, I’ll be a Dutchmen for life. I don’t care what they start calling the athletes or the Union College people who are students there.”

Tedisco, who later posted on Facebook and Instagram a picture of taking a jump shot and saying, “Union College Dutchmen for Life!!!”, isn’t the only one upset with the college. I reached out to people associated with the hockey program to get their thoughts on what the college is doing.


Bodie was a defenseman for the Dutchmen from 2010-14. He was the team captain for two seasons and helped lead the Dutchmen to the 2014 NCAA title over Minnesota.

“I was pretty surprised to hear the college was looking to change the name,” Bodie wrote in a text message. “I know all the guys I played with enjoyed being a Dutchman.”


Hornick called the Dutchmen hockey games on WRUC-FM, including the memorable four-overtime victory over RIT in the 1984 NCAA Division III tournament semifinals. He is a 1986 graduate.

“Very disappointed to hear that Union is considering a change to the Dutchmen nickname, which in part honors the founding of Schenectady back in 1661,” Hornick wrote. “In part due to our national championship hockey team, the name Dutchmen is now well known throughout the Northeast and the country.

“Changing a name does not seem appropriate or warranted.”


Menhall played for the Union hockey team from 1988-92, and was on the first Division I team his senior season. He is a member of the Union Athletics Hall of Fame.

“I understand why it’s a debated topic, meaning I understand why people are probably upset at the potential to change the nickname,” Menhall said in a telephone interview Thursday. “And I also understand why some people might say it’s time for us to consider something that we choose versus something that was chosen for us. I hate to try to be Switzerland [neutral], but I I consider myself a Dutchmen. But clearly my affinity and love and passion is for the school. It doesn’t necessarily reside with the nickname, although I identify with it, and I like it and I enjoy it.

“I guess as I get older, I sort of feel like I understand why, especially at this point in the college transformation that President [David] Harris is leading. I don’t think it’s an unreasonable thing to get feedback back on, to reflect on. If thouands of alums are upset and want to keep it and all of a sudden, there’s this tremendous outpouring, I can see the school saying, ‘Ok, look, we’re not going to change and we’re glad we asked.’ But if there’s an affinity to [having] a chance to chart our own course and come up with something that we love and believe in and we can build a brand around, to me, that’s kind of exciting, too.”


Unger is a 1993 graduate and is the Dutchmen’s TV analyst on ESPN+.

“After hearing the college’s rationale for changing the name, none of it makes sense to me,” Unger wrote in a text message. “A school that is as old as Union should be steeped in tradition. What happens when their updated brand is no longer impactful 10 years from now? Are they going to change the name again? Keep the name of the Dutchmen. This is not a difficult decision.”


Like Hornick, Wykoff called Union hockey on WRUC. Wykoff, a 1985 graduate, played for the junior varsity soccer team. He was a two-term WRUC General Manager, and a sportswriter/columnist for Union College student newspaper Concordiensis.

“I’m not going to lie, I was caught a little off guard by last week’s email from Union’s VP for Communications and Marketing reaching out to me as a former student-athlete at Union to let me know the school was actively exploring alternatives to the Dutchmen/Dutchwomen nickname,” Wykoff wrote in an email. “But after reading it and the full message that was shared with the Union campus community, that moving forward if the school that I love so much and that has done so much for me believes that it is an important action that needs to taken to help update the Union brand in a way that will benefit the school and its future students, then I’m all for it and I can’t wait to find out what our new nickname will be!”

“I truly believe that my Union education has helped me learn that while often difficult and maybe even unpopular at times, change is an important reality that can be a very positive thing and if finding a new nickname for our school and teams can help to both elevate and broaden Union’s reputation and reach, and by doing so share its amazing story with so many others, then I am ALL IN!”

My thoughts on this is that the college is making a major mistake. I haven’t heard anyone complaining about the nickname. It’s a unique nickname, so why change?

I also believe the timing of this potential nickname change is poor. Next season will be the 10-year anniversary of the NCAA championship. I’m not sure what the athletic department’s plans are about celebrating the anniversary, but do you want to change the nickname while celebrating a major accomplishment like that? Union won that title as Dutchmen. To call them something else while celebrating that magical season is plain wrong.

Keep the nickname.


Union has had several blowout losses this season, but what happened in last Saturday’s 10-1 rout by Cornell at Lynah Rink was shocking.

In some of the games where Union wasn’t competitive, Dutchmen head coach Josh Hauge would say the team felt sorry for itself and cheated the game.

Cornell never gave Union a chance to feel sorry for itself. A six-goal first period, highlighted by five power-play goals, put the game away. Four of those power-play tallies came during a five-minute major penalty to Union defenseman Nick Young.

I will agree with Hauge. He should have called a timeout during that stretch where every Cornell shot was going in the net. The first-year head coach will learn from that.

I’ll be interested to see how the Dutchmen bounce back from the Cornell game. They are still in the hunt for home ice for the ECACH tournament sudden-death first-round game, as they are tied for eighth with RPI.

Union will need to win its games against Yale on Friday and Brown on Saturday at Messa Rink. Those two teams are just a point behind Union and RPI.

Looking at the schedule, I don’t see Union winning against Harvard next Friday and Quinnipiac on Feb. 24, just by judging that it lost 5-1 to Harvard and 8-1 to Quinnipiac earlier this season. So, the Dutchmen must win their games this weekend, next Saturday against Dartmouth and the regular-season finale against Princeton on Feb. 25.

“We’re focusing on Friday right now,” Hauge said “We’ve got to try to find a way to win Friday, and then we’ll have to regroup and try to find a way to win Saturday. For us, we’re going to have to probably play about .500 hockey if we want to host a playoff game. That, for us is the bare minimum of what we’re shooting for.”


Union defenseman John Prokop and RPI forward Sutter Muzzatti are two of 27 players named to the Tim Taylor Rookie of the Year Award, the Hockey Commissioners Association announced Thursday.

Prokop is second on the Dutchmen in scoring with four goals and 13 assists. Muzzatti leads the Engineers in scoring with six goals and 12 assists.


The Cornell student-body hockey fans at Lynah Rink can be loud, ignorant, rude and childish.

Case in point. Hauge confirmed to me that the Cornell fans were chanting “Cornell dropout” to former player Ben Tupker. Hauge declined further comment.

Tupker entered the transfer portal at the end of last season and chose to attend Union. But before he came to Union, Tupker graduated from Cornell with a degree in industrial labor relations. Took him three years to get that degree. I would say Tupker’s a pretty smart student.

I can’t imagine that Tupker’s twin brother, Cornell forward Zach Tupker, was thrilled to hear that chant. I’m not sure if the Tupker’s parents attended the game, but if they did, I can’t imagine of they were happy.

If you’re going to chant at some, do some research. Ben Tupker isn’t a Cornell dropout. You sounded like fools chanting that he was a dropout.


Time for my latest ECAC Hockey men’s power rankings.

1) Quinnipiac — Takes control of ECACH race with a weekend sweep at Harvard and Dartmouth.

2) Cornell — Takes care of business against RPI and Union to move into second place in the standings.

3) Harvard — Crimson get dramatic overtime win over Boston College in Monday’s Beanpot semifinal and will face Northeastern in the championship game.

4) Princeton — Tigers roll over Dartmouth

5) St. Lawrence — The Saints shut out Brown, but them get blanked by Yale.

6) Colgate Two tough losses. The way the Raiders lost to Union will haunt coach Don Vaughan.

7) RPI — Big win at Colgate.

8) Union — Dutchmen need to forget the Cornell game.

9) Yale — Posted consecutive 4-0 wins against Clarkson and St. Lawrence. Stunning.

10) Clarkson — After losing to Yale, the Golden Knights get much-needed bounce-back win against Brown.

11) Brown — A bad weekend for the Bears.

12) Dartmouth — Gave Quinnipiac a scare last Saturday.

Contact Ken Schott by email at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @slapschotts.

Categories: College Sports, Sports, Union College

Leave a Reply