Shrine Game Goes Prime Time
All-Star Event Will Be Played at Night
Hanover — As a football spectacle steeped in history, the Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl will get to add to that tradition this summer, when the 60th annual game kicks off under the lights for the first time on Dartmouth College’s Memorial Field.
“It’s a good thing ... beyond good,” Rick Ellis, president of the Shrine Board of Governors and stadium director, said yesterday following a partnered announcement by Shrine officials and Dartmouth administrators. The All-star football game, involving 72 graduated seniors from Vermont and New Hampshire, will begin at 5:30 p.m. “I can’t say enough to thank the Dartmouth people for allocating one of their night dates to us,” Ellis continued.
“It’s just going to make for a fantastic experience.”
New Hampshire Shrine coach Ray Kershaw was also excited about the prospect of playing under the lights.
“It’s going to be great,” said Kershaw, who led Mascoma to the Division VI title game last fall. “It’s going to be so exciting for the kids. You know some of these kids might never get to play under the lights in their career, so this will be very special.
“Plus it will help with the weather, playing later in the day when it’s not so hot. And that, hopefully, will also help with the crowd.”
If using last year’s Dartmouth experience as a guide, the later starting time should help the Shrine crowd. Against Butler in the season opener under the lights, Dartmouth drew 9,089. In the second night game against Harvard, the attendance was 10,138.
“Dartmouth is extremely proud to be hosting the Shrine Game for the 50th time,” Dartmouth Athletic Director Harry Sheehy said in a news release, “and we hope that the later start will help make it one of the most successful events in its history. It is truly an honor to partner with the Shriners in support of such a great cause.”
The decision to play under the lights was made three weeks ago, but required a vote by the Shrine’s Board of Governors to make it official. The vote, at the group’s monthly meeting on Tuesday night, was unanimous, with all 15 members giving their assent.
According to Ellis, the idea of playing under the lights had been in the long-range plans for a number of years — beginning back when Lebanon High School installed its lights. There was talk when renovations at Memorial Field forced the Shrine Game to find a temporary home that the game might move to Lebanon, where it could have been played at night, but in the end the game was shifted to Windsor High for three years, and talk of lights was put on hold.
Until this year.
Once talks got to the serious stage, Ellis met with college, town and law enforcement officials to iron out all the details. It was the same kind of preparations that allowed last summer’s game to seamlessly continue after an electrical storm forced the start of the second half to be pushed back by 90 minutes.
“This has been such a win-win for us,” said Ellis. “The people at Dartmouth have been wonderful. They have really stepped up. We’re really grateful for all they’ve done.
“They are absorbing all the costs for the game, including the lights. That will help us maximize the amount of money we can turn over to the hospitals... and the children.”
In the past 59 years, the game, which is the second oldest of its kind in the country and third largest money raiser behind the college East-West Shrine Game and the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas, has raised more than $5 million for the research and care of burned and crippled children at the hospitals and burn centers at Boston, Springfield, Mass., and Montreal.
Last year, the game was able to send checks for $3,300 to each of the hospitals and burn centers. The hospitals provide free care to children up to the age of 18.
New Hampshire currently leads the series — which played its first game in Nashua in 1954 — by a 44-13-2 margin after last season’s 62-24 victory.
While the game time has changed, the parade will still step off in downtown Hanover at its regular noon starting time. The later starting time for the football game will allow the players to march in the parade along with all the alumni being invited back for the Diamond Jubilee festivities.
“We’re looking forward to a spectacular day,” Ellis said. “If I had one hope, it would be that we could overfill the stands.”
Don Mahler can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3225.