ALBANY -- There are more pressing matters coming up this weekend.
That doesn't mean there wasn't time to press the flesh on Tuesday morning.
Union and RPI hockey gathered coaches and government officials at the Times Union Center atrium to push the seventh annual Mayor's Cup game, to played here Saturday, Jan. 19, in a doubleheader between the respective women's and men's teams. With trophies at stake.
Tuesday was for handshakes and backslaps; Jan. 19 will be about shoulder checks and slap shots.
All four teams will be in action this weekend against the North Country schools, Clarkson and St. Lawrence, with the Union and RPI women hosting and the men's teams taking a bus ride north.
The RPI women also played Tuesday, against Syracuse, and the RPI men have a game at UConn next Wednesday. That doesn't mean it's too early to get some competitive juices forming for the rivalry matchup at the TU Center Jan. 19. The women's teams will play at 3 p.m., and the men are scheduled for 6.
"Whatever average temperature to start a game is, add 15 degrees to it," RPI men's coach Dave Smith said. "Just add some fuel to that fire before the first puck drop."
"Once we're done talking, I'm going to get in my car, put a little Def Leppard on, head back to the rink and watch Clarkson film," Union men's coach Rick Bennett said. "Sunday morning it'll [Mayor's Cup] kick in. I'll go to breakfast, get some papers, read up and get after it."
TU Center general manager Bob Belber said he hopes to get a crowd of about 7,000-8,000 for the games.
Tickets are $18 for adults and $12 for students and youth, and are available at the box office or through ticketmaster.com.
With hockey no longer a regular tenant at the arena, the operations staff will lay down the ice three days before the Mayor's Cup, then bring in some youth teams to get in some skating and condition the surface. The TU Center will be available for Union and RPI to practice, but Bennett and Smith said they're not inclined to pack up their teams and drive to Albany for that.
The Dutchmen lead the series, which added the women last year, 4-2, and the games are usually interesting for one reason or other, even though, in the men's case, it won't count for ECAC Hockey points. RPI swept Union in two games in October, while the women will use the Mayor's Cup as Union's ECACH home game, a day after RPI hosts the Dutchwomen at Houston Field House.
The Union men won the Mayor's Cup 4-3 last year, while the RPI women took their trophy with a 2-1 win.
The Dutchmen led 4-0 before RPI made a comeback that fell just short.
Even though it won't count in the ECACH standings, the men's game shouldn't lack for intensity.
"I've heard that before. But if you're a true hockey player and love to compete, you would play this game in someone's parking lot," Bennett said. "And enjoy it. And I think we could sell tickets if it was in someone's parking lot. Because the players that want to compete in this game, it doesn't matter.
"We're playing for a trophy. That's something you'll remember the rest of your life. We still have guys I talk to that remember the Mayor's Cup games. It's a student-athlete experience that they won't forget."
"I would love this to be a sold-out building, and in order for it to get there, Union and RPI both need to be in the top half of the standings and fighting for NCAA at-large bids," Smith said. "It's going to take both of us to get to that. It can't be one without the other. That's the big vision.
"The vision right now is this is where the hockey community should be. This is the highest level of hockey in the area, this is the level young players should aspire to, this is a path to the National Hockey League. So I'm excited about the venue and being downtown, and it should be the talk of the hockey community."