In the Locker Room with Cortland Hill

This week the Review sat down with Cortland Hill, a Chemistry professor and the faculty advisor for Oberlin’s club ice hockey team, the Plague, to discuss the unique team, his hockey experience and the team’s recruiting tactics.


Effie Kline-Salamon

Ice hockey player and chemistry professor, Cortland Hill

Rose Stoloff, Sports Editor

What is the history of your involvement with the Plague?

I became the faculty advisor for the hockey team probably in about 2003. I came here in 2000. That’s when I started playing on the team too. The club team had been sort of a political hot potato for the previous advisor, so it was handed off to me.

What got you interested in joining?

Well, I played hockey in college. I went here as a student. It was a varsity sport when I was a student, and I played on the team because that’s the beauty of Oberlin: No matter how bad you are, you can play the sport. So I played on the team, though I didn’t get much playing time because I’d never been on a team before. I thought I was a pretty good skater, but putting the stick-handling and the skating together was a lot harder than I thought it would be. I played three years on the team and then studies became too much and I couldn’t do it anymore.

What is your favorite OC ice hockey memory?

I guess one of my favorite memories is just playing in the outdoor rink when it was really cold. The ice was really hard and fast, and the sound of skates and the pucks in the rink really sticks out.
Where did you play?

We played in the old [Williams] field house. It used to be an outdoor rink. They enclosed it. It used to just have that arcing ceiling with a roof and all around the outside it was open.

What is your favorite thing about the club team?

Well, it’s always fun to see how the team comes together. Every year we have different people, and people suddenly pop out of nowhere who had been here but didn’t know anything about the team, and they decide to join. It’s always fun to see how it develops

Does the team have any interesting traditions?

We have an alumni hockey game every year. I think this year will be the ninth year we’ve done it, and that’s a great time. Alumni come back from as far back as graduates from the ’60s. It’s a lot of fun, and actually a lot of my teammates, who I wasn’t really able to play with when I was a student here, come back, and now I have improved enough so that I can actually play with them. So that’s nice.

What do you think makes Oberlin ice hockey a unique sport?

One thing I love about the team is that we’re the Plague. I love the fact that we have our own name. We have our own logo, which is the biohazard sign with a carbon monoxide inside it for the “OC.” I love the freedom of the team. We’re very free-form; it’s coed and it’s non-checking and that’s what really makes it fun. We can be free and not be constrained by a varsity sport regime.

Where did the name come from?
I don’t know, but I love the name. I think it developed in the ’80s or ’90s. I think it’s fantastic and I much prefer it to Yeomen or Yeowomen. I mean, I used to be a Yeoman, and it was not something I was proud of. It’s an incredibly outdated team name.

Any suggestions for a new mascot?

The Plague I think would be good.

Do you have a favored position?
I play defense. I don’t know what to do on offense, so I’ve always been a defensive player.

How do you get players for the team?

We encourage people to wear our jerseys around so that people might see the jerseys and ask. There’s an ExCo that’s going on this semester that’s made the club more visible. We have a number of players from the ExCo involved in the team this semester. A couple students in my labs heard about it and asked me about it. And apparently a number of the lacrosse players have played hockey before and now they’re interested in playing. I guess the assistant coach of the lacrosse team is a hockey player. The word sort of spreads, but it never spreads as fully as I would like it to spread. I have to say though, in the past two years, I’ve had prospective students contact me about the hockey team, and the hockey team ended up being the thing that tipped their decision to Oberlin over another school. These people are good hockey players and one of them is running the hockey ExCo right now, [College sophomore] Ty Wagner. He’s a really great hockey player, and he’s someone who called me to ask about the club team. He decided to come here based on that.

What’s it like playing with your students?

It’s great. It’s fun to see them in a different setting, and they see me in a different setting. Its a whole different situation when you’re on a team. When I’m on the team I go by my first name rather than some other name I go by in lab. It’s a lot of fun, and I’ve gotten to know students very well from the hockey team. Last year, I would play hockey with one student twice a week and he would often ride with me to the games, so we spent a lot of time in the car and on the ice together.

Any last words?

The hockey team is always looking for more players regardless of skill. We welcome all players, and we’re always looking to get more people to join the team. And the alumni game is a fantastic event. This year its going to be March 8 and 9 in the Elyria Rink. It’s a lot of fun. And to sum it up I would just say that the fact that we’re the Plague is fantastic. I love it.