Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Best Rink in the NESCAC: A Primer

The other week, Colby coach Blaise MacDonald tweeted out the following, which ESPN personality John Buccigross (he of #bucciovertimechallenge fame) subsequently re-tweeted.

With hockey not yet here to occupy our time and the ice now down at the rinks, what better time than now for a rink poll? From the oldest sheet of ice in all of Divsion III to a municipal rink and the first green certified hockey arena, there's plenty of variety among the ten NESCAC schools. Below is a primer so you can vote in our "Best Rink in the NESCAC" poll that will be up until opening night on November 15th. Rinks are listed in alphabetical order by school.  Poll located on left sidebar.  If you are viewing in mobile format, you need to switch to full site view in order to access the poll.

Amherst - Orr Rink 
Amherst's Orr Rink, built in 1954 and remodeled in 1997, seats 1,050. Like many of the rinks in the 'Cac, it's a barn style structure. Earlier in the aughts, Amherst initiated an energy conversation project to help the environment and save some money. As Amherst Magazine explains, "A reflective ceiling reduced the amount of heat transferred to the ice, more efficient lighting slashed electrical use, and computerized sensors increased refrigeration efficiency."

In 2012, Amherst released a time-lapsed video set to bluegrass music of the base coat being put down for Orr Rink. For those that don't know, the base coast is exactly what it sounds like: a coat of white paint at the bottom of the rink floor on which you lay the ice. 


Bowdoin - Sidney Watson Arena 
The newest rink in the NESCAC, Sidney J. Watson Arena opened on January 18, 2009. Named after Bowdoin legend Sid Watson, the $20 million, 70,520-sqaure-foot, 1,900 seat (plus standing room for several hundred more) state-of-the-art facility became the first newly constructed ice arena in the United States to earn LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification. To read all about the features that earned the rink this prestigious designation, click here.

In addition to efficiency, the rink also sports history. The hall around the mezzanine level features panels with moments from Bowdoin hockey lore. For history of the building of the arena, check out pictures of the construction process, from floor plan to final product here. As you enter "The Wat," you will find an atrium with more pictures of Bowdoin hockey, as well as an homage to Bowdoin hockey's previous home, the 1956 Dayton Arena. On top of a display pedestal over the arena' entrance sits the 1956 Zomboni Ice Re-Surfacer 400 Model F that the college purchased when Dayton Arena opened.

Bowdoin Sports Info put together a YouTube piece (embed below) of pictures of The Wat,  from the training rooms to game action and the atrium. You should also check out this student created highlight video, set to The Hours infectiously catchy "Ali in the Jungle", of the first NESCAC playoff game at the Wat, a 2-1 overtime win over arch-rival Colby in 2010.

Bowdoin will be hosting the 2014 NCAA D-III men's hockey Lewiston, ME at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee. Unfortunately, as nice as the Wat is, the NCAA now has a minimum capacity of 3,000 for championship sites.

Colby - Alfond Rink
Courtesy Dustin Satloff Photography
Built in 1955 and upgraded throughout the 2000s, Colby's barn style Alfond Rink seats 1,750. Center ice features Colby's "Lux Mentis Scientia" (Learning is the Light of the Mind) seal. 

If the name Alfond looks familiar, it's because everything in Maine is named after philanthropist Harold Alfond, who helped fund the building of Alfond Rink. Alfond founded the Dexter Shoe company in Maine and gave over 100 million to charities in his lifetime, including sizable sums to Maine sports. The University of Maine's football and hockey stadiums are named after the businessman, as well as the new hockey rink at the University of New England and various other buildings throughout the Pine Tree State.

Some Colby students put together this "Hockey Night at Colby" video in 2007, covering the biggest game of every regular season for Colby, the home match against intra-state rival Bowdoin.

Connecticut College - Dayton Arena
Former NHL player Doug Roberts came to New London to start the Camels hockey program when Dayton Arena opened in 1980. According to the profile for Phil Siena, the Rink Maintenance Supervisor for Dayton, he " takes pride in maintaining a sheet of ice that is as level as a pool table and as smooth as silk." Siena has logged 14,000+ revolutions of the rink on the Zamboni in the pursuit of a perfect sheet of ice. 

Siena was nice enough to provide us some info about Dayton. The playing surface is 200' x 85' and has 20' corners ("old school" as Siena puts it), that eschew the 28' radius corners that are popular at rinks today. Daniel F. Tully Architects - the same company that did University of Maine's Alfond Arena - built the arena. The rink was originally designed to be sunk into the ground but due to ledge rock and escalating blasting costs, the rink ended up being built at ground level, resulting in a tight footprint that left little room for anything besides the ice. This resulted in inadequate locker rooms, a "problem that still haunts visiting teams to this day," as well as limited seating capacity (600 with standing room). On a wonky note, it might be the only rink in the US that has its re-surfacer room, header trench and compressor room all located at the front of the building. So there's that. 

Video of the interior of Dayton Arena is provided by  the Conn College club team's promo video, complete with mock fights, trip hop and players pounding beers on the bench, as bros are wont to do. 

Hamilton -  Russell Sage Arena 
Built in 1921 (opened 1922), Sage is the second oldest indoor college hockey rink in use, behind only D-I
View from press box (courtesy Roaming the Rinks)
Northeastern's Matthews Arena. The rink has been renovated several times, with the most recent upgrade coming in 1993 when it received structural enhancements as well as upgrades to the lighting system, ice-making equipment and the extension of the playing surface (210' x 85'). 600 individual seats were added on the mezzanine level behind the goal nearest the entrance and on the sides, with the side seating featuring lovely obstructed views because of the 
foundation polls. 

In 1921, Hamilton hockey coach Albert l. Prettyman (also coach of Team USA in 1936 Olympics) convinced the school to use $130,000 of a $1,000,000 donation from the Russel Sage Foundation to build an indoor hockey facility. The Utica Observer-Dispatch has a cool photo gallery of Sage back in the 1920s and now, including pictures of the building's construction. Roaming the Rinks, a website dedicated to visiting the hockey rinks of North America, made a stop at Sage in 2010 and posted a write-up as well as a photo gallery for the visit. Their biggest critique of the rink? The photo banner for former NHL player and Hamilton alumnus Guy Hebert ('89) is a little too big, with Hebert's head being "almost as big as the zamboni."

If you take the virtual tour of Hamilton's campus, you can see that structures such as the Scott Field House, which houses the team's indoor track and basketball/volleyball courts, have been built since Sage's completion to connect to the rink.

Middlebury - Chip Kenyon Arena 
Completed in 1998 and named after the alumnus,Richmond "Chip" Kenyon '85, that helped fund it, Middlebury's Kenyon Arena sports a wide 200' x 95' playing surface and seats 2,600 spectators.  Fans enjoy a comfy 55 degree rink and some of the best lighting and sound in the NESCAC, while the press gets to sit in a sixty foot press box, the largest in the 'Cac.  There's also a 3,200 square foot lounge that overlooks the scenic Green Mountains. 

One of Middlebury's record eight NCAA D-III men's hockey championships came on Kenyon ice in 2005 against St. Thomas. Kenyon also hosted the final four in 2002, but the Panthers lost to arch-rival Norwich in the semifinals.

Middlebury is the only school in the 'Cac to charge admission for regular season games with tickets for last year's games costing $5 for adults and $3 for children ( free for Middlebury ID holders). Lucky day, Panthers fans, Middlebury will not charge for men's hockey tickets in the 2013-14 season due to the construction of a new field house around the athletic complex.

You can see scenes from all over Kenyon, including of the locker room, training rooms and lobby, in this 2012 highlight video set to Cold Play's "Life in Technocolor II." When it is working, Middlebury also has a 24/7 webcam image of the arena updated every 15 or 30 minutes.

Trinity - Williams Rink (Koeppel Community Center)
Panorama of Williams Rink (source)
Located in Trinity's Koeppel Community Center (opened in 2006), the Albert Creighton Williams ('64) rink has a 200' x 90' foot playing surface and seats 1,350 fans. Prior to the construction of the Koeppel Center, Trinity played their home games at Kingswood-Oxford school and various other facilities throughout the program's history. Besides the giant Bantam at center ice and Trinity NESCAC champion banners afloat in the Koeppel Center, you know this is Trinity's home by the yellow benched seating.

You can see good photos and video of the rink, from the locker rooms to the playing surface, interspersed throughout the 2012 interview with Bantam head coach Matt Greason embedded below. Besides Trinity and youth hockey, the Koeppel Center now has an Inline hockey league during the summer. Williams Rink has also hosted some Connecticut Whale (now Hartford Wolfpack) AHL pre-season games, including this 2012 game against the Worcester Sharks that featured a nice fight and a hat-trick from Chris Kreider, fresh off his NCAA title win with BC and playoff run with the New York Rangers.

Tufts - Malden Valley Forum
The only team in the 'Cac not to have their own rink, Tufts hockey plays at the Malden Valley Forum, a 500 seat, 200' x 85' municipal skating rink about 15 minutes from campus. Tufts has been a tenant of the Forum since its opening in 2001, and while it is not as ideal as having their own rink, it's better than what they had before. Prior to '01, Tufts used to practice and play wherever they could get ice time, leading to the Tufts Journal calling them "Greater Boston's Team" in 2001.

Wesleyan - Spurrier-Snyder Rink
Constructed in 1970 as the Wesleyan Arena and renamed in 2004, the 1,500 seat Spurrier-Snyder Rink is located in Wesleyan's Freeman Athletic Center. The rink underwent a facelift at the time of the re-naming with new dasher boards, a refurbished rear walkway and concession area, and a fresh coat of paint. The 1,500 red bleachers are entirely on one side of the ice, facing the benches.  You can see scenes of Spurrier-Snyder in this recruiting video from Wesleyan head coach Chris Potter. 

Williams - Lansing Chapman Rink 
 USA vs Williams (source)
Built in 1953, Williams' 43,121 Sq. Ft. barn style rink serves as a hockey rink in the fall and winter and an indoor tennis facility in the spring and summer. The rink seats 2,500 for hockey games and has a 200' x 85' playing surface. 

Ever wondered how much oxidizers for a hockey rink will set you back? Williams provides a log of all the major construction in the building's 60 year history, including how much each project cost ($100,000 to build it in 1953). 

The photo of Lansing Chapman comes from a December 2006 Williams game against the United States Under 18 national team. James Van Riemsdyk, now on the Toronto Maple Leafs, scored two goals en route to a 4-0 Team USA victory.  You also get some good pictures and videos of the rink from the Williams Alumni and Parents "Pond Hockey 4.0" video  below set to a nifty instrumental metal song. 

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