May 22, 2014

Original 6: New England's best college arenas

By Joshua Kummins


In a region full of great arenas, these college barns are the best. Clockwise from top left: Vermont's Gutterson Fieldhouse, Northeastern's Matthews Arena, Yale's Ingalls Arena, New Hampshire's Whittemore Center, Quinnipiac's TD Bank Sports Center, and Maine's Alfond Arena.
 

New England is a hotbed for college hockey, and there’s no shortage of rinks to get your passion up. Below is our list of the six best college barns in the region.

1. Alfond Arena, University of Maine


(Maine Athletics photo)
 

Character oozes from Maine’s Alfond Arena, a college hockey institution since the late 1970s and one of the most feared buildings in the nation for opposing teams to enter. The arena and the campus’ football stadium are named for late Black Bear booster Harold Alfond, the founder of the famous Dexter Shoe Company. Its multi-angular roof design is very unique and can only be found at a few other collegiate sporting venues. The Alfond is known for its rabid fans, who have been known to brave the harsh Orono winter mornings and wait for tickets for the upcoming weekend’s games. Throw in the great University of Maine pep band and you have a raucous atmosphere on Friday and Saturday nights.

2. Ingalls Rink, Yale University


(Photo by Dave Arnold/New England Hockey Journal)
 

The honor for unique design certainly goes to the building affectionately known as “The Whale.” Yale grad Eero Saarinen designed the arena which, as the New York Times described, has a “soaring, humpback-shaped roof” (hence the nickname) and seats 3,500. A traveling rink rat is unlikely to find any other arena, old or new, as distinctive as this New Haven institution on the beautiful Yale campus. There’s not a bad seat in the house, but the best view might just be from the standing room ramp that circles the ice surface. Believe it or not, Yale is the oldest program in college hockey, as its history dates back to 1896 and the first-ever collegiate game played against Johns Hopkins.

3. Whittemore Center, University of New Hampshire


(UNH Athletics Photo)
 

Dating back to 1995, the Olympic-sized Whittemore Center is in the middle ground of college hockey venues. It’s not an old barn (like the adjacent original home of the Wildcats, Snively Arena) or a brand new building, but has character and plenty of memorable moments. One of the greatest traditions in hockey resides here, and the Whit cracks the list because of it. After UNH’s opening goal of each game, a fish is thrown onto the ice, signifying the opposing team “fishing” the puck from the net. The tradition dates back to the 1970s at Snively, and has caught on since. A local fraternity has kept it alive today. 

4. Matthews Arena, Northeastern University


(Northeastern Athletics photo)
 

Tucked away on St. Botolph Street in Boston, Northeastern’s Matthews Arena is one of the most historic establishments in collegiate sports and is home to Huskies hockey and men’s basketball. Born as the Boston Arena on April 16, 1910, the building is almost exactly two years older than Fenway Park, located just over a mile to its northwest. Matthews is a consistent favorite among college hockey fans, and the view from the front row of its balcony is also regarded as one of the best. The arena, which served as the original home of the Bruins and the Beanpot Tournament, underwent a multi-million dollar renovation for its 100th birthday featuring new seats, a four-sided videoboard center hung, refurbished lobby and new locker-room suites.

5. Gutterson Fieldhouse, University of Vermont


(Vermont Athletics photo)
 

Known simply as “The Gut,” Albert L. Gutterson Fieldhouse is the largest indoor arena in Vermont and is another historic New England gem. Catamount teams thrived in the ECAC for many, many years and now compete formidably against the nation’s elite in Hockey East. The Gut rocks to a sold-out crowd of just over 4,000 on most nights and is a barn in every sense of the word. It has hosted numerous memorable competitions, including exhibitions featuring the U.S. men’s and women’s Olympic teams, the 2012 IIHF Women’s World Championships, and the annual Vermont Principal’s Association high school tournaments. The building is named for UVM’s first Olympian, Albert Lovejoy Gutterson, a member of the class of 1912.

6. TD Bank Sports Center, Quinnipiac University


(Photo by John Hassett)
 

Quinnipiac has some of the most unique athletic venues in the Northeast, from the baseball field in the shadows of Hamden’s beautiful Sleeping Giant State Park to TD Bank Sports Center, which houses hockey and basketball in separate arenas under one roof. The hockey facility, officially called High Point Solutions Arena, seats slightly over 3,000 and is one of the nicest in the ECAC. It opened in January 2007 and sits on QU’s York Hill campus. Every game night, the arena comes alive with students clad in gold T-shirts and an excellent local crowd. It also served as very successful host of the 2014 NCAA Women’s Frozen Four won by Clarkson in late March.

Twitter: @JoshuaKummins
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