OK, I’m trophied out.
I’ve seen Union College’s national hockey championship hardware in so many places by now that its image in my mind’s eye is beginning to transmogrify from the simple, elegant wooden piece that it is into the Travelocity gnome.
I will welcome the point at which my trophy muscles are allowed to atrophy.
But that time is not yet.
With his staff and players on vacation, it was left to Dutchmen head coach Rick Bennett to suit up in jacket and tie on a hot Friday afternoon and accompany the trophy to the winner’s circle at Saratoga Race Course for a race named in honor of the national champs.
Even Bennett betrayed a hint of weariness with the process of parading around.
While everyone was milling about waiting for Javier Castellano to jog Saffron Hall to the circle, Bennett joked to the Gazette’s Mark McGuire that he’d rather “be over there, in shorts and a Def Leppard T-shirt,” gesturing toward the grandstand apron.
It’s a necessary process, though, a gold mine of promotional material for the program and the school, and Bennett happily made a rare trip to the track to show off the trophy and accept more accolades, even if “not for my [betting] winnings.”
“This is a tremendous honor,” he said. “Every time we do something like this, it’s very humbling, and you’ve got to pinch yourself.”
If not quite a Stanley Cup tour, the championship trophy has been to New York City, Fenway Park and now Saratoga, where they give out trophies on a daily basis.
It was on display at the College Day signup tent near the Big Red Spring, then brought to the winner’s circle for the third race, won by owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey, who probably could fill Messa Rink with all their racing swag.
Not one to let a microphone or TV camera go to waste, the voluble Ken Ramsey gladly joined the Union people for some palm-pressing and celebration.
“Sure, it’s a special one, getting all the paparrazzi up here,” he said with a laugh. “You’ve heard of Union College in Barberville, Kentucky? I’ve been on their board of trustees for 30 years, but I knew they had a good hockey team up here, so my hat’s off to them.
“Both of us are winners today . . . me, a small allowance race, and them, a national championship.”
Union officially announced its 2014 recruiting class just over a week ago, and it includes wing Tyler Hynes of Guilderland, who promises to inject some offense into a Dutchmen team that lost many key players off its national championship roster.
Bennett said the coaches are getting a little rest, then will start cranking it up for the 2014-15 season in August.
Union will be a marked team around the country, but Bennett said, “It’s the same target that’s been put on us the last couple seasons,” national championship or not.
As Tom Durkin announced the Dutchmen’s accomplishments and introduced Bennett to present the award for the third race to the Ramseys, the crowd gave Union, “from nearby Schenectady,” a nice cheer.
The perhaps incongruous intersection of racing and hockey on College Day made its way to the first race of the day, also, when trainer Abigail Adsit saddled a filly named Naughty Matilda.
The Albany native is a 2009 Union graduate with a B.A. in English who went to hockey games as an undergrad and followed the Dutchmen’s season as closely as she could while working through her second season as a head trainer at Aqueduct and Belmont Park.
Naughty Matilda finished last on Friday, but Adsit believes her career can mirror the rise of the Dutchmen.
“It’s unbelievable, and it kind of foreshadows a little bit of who I am, as far as them being in D-I hockey and kind of an underdog,” she said. “We have, what, 2,700 kids, 2,100 kids undergrad. Who would’ve thought that they could get there?
“It’s a little bit like me. I mean, I was a woman in the industry, started from the bottom and just kept working, and here I am.”
And here, again, was the trophy.
It’s inescapable, and that’s fine with Bennett, who can only grin and shrug at the non-stop attention it brings.
“If it goes on forever, so be it,” he said.