When the Boston Bruins open their 2012-2013 NHL season October 11, a decidedly less professional version of the hockey league will already have a several-week head start about 125 miles north of Boston's TD Garden.
Nearly half of the 550 full-time students, as well as some of their partners, at Dartmouth College's Tuck School of Business in New Hampshire lace their skates up for one of the school's three leagues.
Tripods, named for a skater's two legs and stick, are the beginner men's and women's intramural teams, while an intermediate B team and advanced A team play other schools. "It's the fabric of the school," says Jeremy Sporn of the hockey games, which tend to occur at 11 p.m. or midnight on school nights—the only opportunities for students can get ice time.
Not only do games go into the wee hours of the morning, but students flock to the local bar, Murphy's on the Green, after the final whistle, says Sporn, a 2008 Tuck MBA and a senior associate at Oliver Wyman, a New York consulting firm that is part of the Fortune 500 company Marsh & McLennan.
Ice hockey teams are common on East Coast business school campuses, but the sport seems to be a particular obsession at Tuck. At the Cheesesteak Chalice, an ice hockey tournament hosted at the Wharton School at University of Pennsylvania that Sporn participated in, Tuck brought more teams than the much larger b-schools, he remembers. And Mike Lutzky, a 2006 Tuck MBA and principal at Oveo Solutions, a Washington, D.C.-based management consultancy, says hockey is contagious at Tuck.
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"It's not New York, Chicago, Philly, or Boston, where people have networks outside school. This is rural new England. It's 40 below [zero] with wind chill on winter mornings," Lutzky says. "People don't leave for the weekends. Your network is your classmates, and hockey is a strong part of the culture."
LinkedIn data seems to corroborate widespread interest in ice hockey among Tuckies, as students and alumni are known. "Tripod Hockey" references appear on 75 LinkedIn profiles, and 310 self-identified Tuckies mention the word "hockey" in their profiles.
The few hundred dollars Tuck students shell out to purchase used hockey equipment is a drop in the ice bucket compared to the more than $56,500 they pay annually in tuition and fees, and Tuckies say the cost of hockey is worth it. They disagree, however, on whether late-night puck handling has academic benefits.
"There are no academic merits to it, but it's certainly a social atmosphere," says Sporn, the 2008 alumnus. Mike McFadden, a 2010 Tuck MBA who served in a leadership Tripod role, agrees that Tuck hockey "is purely a social thing."
McFadden, a Canadian who grew up in England and Hong Kong, where he learned the "basics of skating" on Hong Kong's only rink, says being a Tripod "was sort of like the childhood I never had." It also gave him the opportunity to get to know his Tuck classmates, says McFadden, a manager at Bain & Company in Boston.
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