Gen. Mark Milley ’80, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, shakes hands with Princeton captain Pito Walton ’23 after the ceremonial puck drop.
Beverly Schaefer
‘The whole idea of team sports, it’s much bigger than just putting points on the board,’ Milley says

It’s not easy to upstage a four-star general, but most of the crowd that filled the plaza outside Baker Memorial Rink on Jan. 7 was there to see the Stanley Cup, on loan from the Hockey Hall of Fame. That enabled Gen. Mark Milley ’80, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the nation’s highest-ranking military officer, to mingle quietly with his old friends.

Carol Brown ’75, left, and Elizabeth English ’75 stand in front of a wall of hockey team photos on a stone wall at Baker Rink.
Carol Brown ’75, left, and Elizabeth English ’75 were founding members of the women’s hockey team at Princeton.
Beverly Schaefer
Milley, the crowd, and the Cup were there for Hobey 100 Weekend, marking the 100th anniversary of the rink, one of the iconic venues in college hockey. At an afternoon fan village, the general milled around in Princeton gear, including a replica of his old hockey jersey, catching up with more than 30 ex-teammates who had come in for the occasion. Nearby, families waited patiently for their turn to pose with Lord Stanley’s gleaming hardware, more interested in silver than in brass, so to speak. One couple, apparently unaware of who Milley was, even handed him a phone and asked him to snap their picture. He happily obliged.

Nevertheless, when it came their turn to pose with the Cup, the general had no trouble rounding up his troops.

“Let’s go! Come on! Hit the beach!” Milley barked to his old mates, as a few dozen 60-somethings scrambled into formation.

A crowd of about 20 alumni gather around the Stanley Cup. Gen. Mark Milley ’80, is front row, fourth from right.
Gen. Mark Milley ’80, front row, fourth from right, reconnected with fellow Princeton hockey alums from the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Beverly Schaefer
That evening, Milley was indeed the center of attention, donning his full-dress uniform and receiving a warm ovation from the sell-out crowd as he walked to center ice to drop a ceremonial first puck for the men’s varsity game against Dartmouth. The game was also Salute to Service Night, honoring active duty and retired members of the armed forces, who stood and were recognized. The Tigers defeated the Big Green, 4-2, to offset an overtime loss to Harvard the night before. Princeton’s women’s team swept its games over the anniversary weekend, also against Dartmouth and Harvard.

Though he was not a star on the ice, hockey has been an important part of Milley’s life. A standout at Belmont Hill School outside of Boston, he was recruited to Princeton by then-coach Jack Semler. He also considered West Point, but Milley says that his parents, both of whom had served in the military, urged him to attend Princeton, then the only Ivy League school with an ROTC program, to give him a greater range of opportunities in later life. An older brother attended Harvard.

Four women stand on the ice, with one wearing a gold medal.
Princeton women’s hockey celebrated its Olympic connections. Pictured from left are Nikola Holmes-Kivett ’03, who played for Germany in 2006; Kelly Cooke ’13, an Olympic referee in 2018; and Canadian teammates Claire Thompson ’20 and Sarah Fillier ’24, who won gold in 2022.
Beverly Schaefer
As a student, Milley majored in politics, writing his senior thesis on guerilla warfare through the example of the Irish Republican Army. Besides ROTC, he pursued a broad range of interests that included (according to his Nassau Herald page), mixing drinks for the Student Bartending Agency and hawking hot dogs for the Student Weenie Agency. 

And, of course, he played hockey. A lifelong Boston Bruins fan, Milley was a defenseman like his hero, Bobby Orr, though not in the same high-scoring style.  “I was a goalie’s defenseman, pretty scrappy,” he characterized himself. “I would protect the goal, get the puck out of the corner, and get it up to the forwards on the blue line.”  

Cliff Lawrick ’80, who played alongside Milley and roomed with him for three years, remembered him in similar terms. “He was there to protect his teammates,” Lawrick recalled. “From the first time I met him I knew — this is a guy you want on your side.”

A Princeton men’s ice hockey player skates between a Dartmouth player and the Dartmouth goalie, with the goal in the background.
Ian Murphy ’24 scored twice in the men’s team’s 4-2 win over Dartmouth. Both Tigers teams wore throwback jerseys for Hobey 100 Weekend.
Beverly Schaefer
At the end of the first period, after giving an on-air interview to ESPN+, which was covering the game, Milley changed back into civilian clothes and returned to his seat and his friends. He stays in touch with many of them, sometimes participating in an online NHL fantasy draft. During a group Zoom call a few years ago, one recalled, Milley alluded to the foreign surveillance he is under, joking, “Congratulations, boys, the Russians and Chinese probably now have all of your IP addresses.”

Like many of those at the Hobey 100 games, Milley has warm memories of games and practices at Baker Rink, as well as lessons learned off the ice. “The whole idea of team sports, it’s much bigger than just putting points on the board,” he said. “It’s about resiliency. It’s about teamwork and learning how to get knocked down and get back up, and the camaraderie built from all that.”

Long an advocate for Princeton’s ROTC program, Milley has encouraged more Ivy League graduates to join the military. “We want more diversity in our officer corps,” he says. “We want officers coming out of OCS [Officer Candidate School], out of the ranks, out of civilian institutions, and out of the military academies, as well. You take all those officers, and you blend them together, so they’re representative of American society as a whole.”

Milley urged today’s Princeton students to give back in some form, whether in uniform or not. “Don’t just chase the almighty dollar,” the general advised. “Don’t just chase power. Serve the greater good of the society, the community, the country.”

David Mordkoff ’01, Jane Carr ’00, and daughter Charlotte Carr-Mordkoff were among the Princeton fans who posed with the Stanley Cup during Hobey 100 Weekend Jan. 7.
David Mordkoff ’01, Jane Carr ’00, and daughter Charlotte Carr-Mordkoff were among the Princeton fans who posed with the Stanley Cup during Hobey 100 Weekend Jan. 7.
Beverly Schaefer