Friday, June 28, 2013

Guest Post #2 from tAnonymous

Editor's note- Another solid post from our boy tAnonymous. You can read my recap of road venues here but to be honest, tAnonymous' is much more entertaining.

Top 5 “Arenas Away From Home”
Last season, I made sure to complete my very ambitious goal of visiting all of the hockey arenas in Hockey East, and there were a few other trips out of conference as well. I would challenge everyone to do the same if they really want to understand why college hockey is so great and why fans around the country are really into the game as well. Jack Parker Rink at the Agganis Arena is my one true home. Obviously.  I figured I’d put that out there in case anyone had some doubts.  In order to avoid the dreaded BIAS (brought to you by Scott McLaughlin) I decided that it would be better to let you guys know about some of these other places where they play college hockey.  Honestly, road trips are one of the best parts about being a sports fan anyway.  Win or lose, you get to see the crazy support (or lack of support) that some schools get, and you are going to make some great friends in the process.  A huge win on the road is always a fun experience to have under your belt though. As a fan in enemy territory, you basically are forced to make friends pretty quickly, and you will hear some pretty ridiculous things thrown back and forth between fans. BU games are just about always premium games as well, so you’ll at the very least get to participate in a “chuck-a-puck” contest as a reward for your dedication.

My sophisticated system of ranking took a lot of factors into account.  Some of the major things I kept in mind were atmosphere, history, location, seating, sight lines, availability of alcohol, Zamboni performance, degree of high school vibes one gets from the rink, and price of tickets.    

5. Matthews Arena (capacity 4,666), Boston MA: So Northeastern is lucky enough to play in an arena that opened before the sinking of the Titanic, and it really shows at times. The sight lines from the upper deck of the arena are atrocious, and I feel bad for both the Dog House and the House Formerly Known as the Dong House.  Still, if you are a fan of any local Boston team, you should know that your team probably spent some time here at one point or another.  So that’s pretty cool. It’s honestly kind of watching a hockey game at Fenway (who would do something ridiculous like that…oh wait), but there is also the added benefit of getting hit with a puck or empty water bottle from the upper balcony on almost every play of the game. The concourse has probably the best acoustics I’ve witnessed in a hockey arena so make sure to get some chants going and piss some people off.  I give Northeastern fans some credit too for standing behind their irrelevant team with bags over their heads and pride in their hearts, but it’s too bad that there always seems to be a game here when students are home for spring break. Every BU student should find their way down Mass Ave to this arena, making sure to buy some beekeepers from the Mass Ave Tavern on the way(Editor's note: I endorse this message).  I’m fairly certain that tickets barely make it into the double digits, just like their team in the points column. To any Northeastern fans that might be reading this, I have one thing to say to you:  The “Hey Song” (Rock and Roll, Part 2) is dumb, unoriginal (See UMass, UMass Lowell, UNH who do the same exact thing), annoying, and you are better than that. According to a reliable source, Gary Glitter, the creator of the song, was arrested for kiddie porn. Come on. Get a new goal song/cheer (See Zombie Nation or any other song affiliated with the city of Boston).   

4. Ralph Engelstad Arena (capacity 11,643), Grand Forks ND: Going to North Dakota any time soon? No? Well you should really make sure to stop by this arena at least one time in your lifetime.  Then you should make sure to never go back to the state of North Dakota again.  There are some pretty amazing college hockey rinks out west, and it’s amazing the kind of atmosphere you can get at a college hockey game when there is nothing else to do for the next 300 miles in all directions.  In all serious though, going out to the middle of nowhere for 2 hockey games is a lot more fun than it might sound.  At “the Ralph”, you’ll get to sit in premium quality seats no matter where you are in the arena.  Just make sure to watch out for the fireworks that go off after every goal for the (team name removed because it is racist).  I can basically guarantee that all of the 11,000+ seats will be filled(Editor's note: unless it's the first day of hunting season) with fans who occasionally clap/silent-chant in unison. The student section is basically a huge party from what I could tell, and I’m still not sure if they actually watch the game at all.  At the end of the day, the alumni are what really make this experience worthwhile. There are some of the most knowledgeable fans around when it comes to knowing the college game and its intricacies, but you should probably stay away from conversations about religion, politics, and the fact that Ralph Engelstad was a Nazi supporter.  If you get a kick out of intolerance and ignorant rants, then you can just ignore that last part and go for it. “Chelsea Dagger” is a gem of a goal song, and it must be appreciated likewise. Anyway, the price of travel and $40 tickets might steer you away from the (team name removed because it’s still racist), but definitely go if you can afford it.      

3. Gutterson Field House (capacity 4,035), Burlington VT:  “The Gutt” is an enjoyable blast from the “ECAC past” in my opinion, and there’s just something hilarious and awesome about this rink at the same time. Honestly, I’m a huge fan of the whole “barn” atmosphere thing. It kind of feels like you are watching the college game in a time capsule or old movie.  Almost all of the seats a.k.a. numbered benches are right on top of the action, but there are some funky sight lines in the corners that basically make one side of the ice a giant blind spot.  The drive from BU to UVM is less than 3.5 hours and not extremely exciting, but you can make a lot of jokes about how the capital of Vermont (Montpelier) just looks like a bunch of trees and keep things interesting. Seriously, get four of your friends together and go for a good weekend road trip without even leaving New England.  It’s possible.  I’d also recommend a stop by the downtown Burlington area if you have some time to appreciate the beauty that is the Earth-Line. I’m a huge fan of the straight back endzone seating for the “student section” that apparently exists, and the band plays some of the most random songs I’ve ever heard (the Pokemon Theme Song and Catamount Shuffle Cheer Thingy being my personal favorites). The fans are equally creative with their cheers and trash talk.  How can you manage being called a “flatlander” and not laugh? “Enjoy our clean air?” Why yes, I did enjoy the air.  Thank you very much. To top it all off, the locals are completely enraged when they are referred to as “woodchucks”.  I can’t make this stuff up people.       

2. Alfond Arena (capacity 5,124), Orono ME:  Alfond Arena is about as far away from BU as the Gutt, and it’s probably the most unique rink I’ve seen in college hockey so far. You can replace Montpelier jokes with “Bangor, I barely know her” jokes and the trip will be just as entertaining. There have been some renovations since 2011 as well, so make sure you make a trip up there if you are a longtime fan of the game and haven’t been up to Maine recently. There really is no difference between the alumni and student sections here because I’m fairly certain that it is either impossible to graduate from the University of Maine or that fans don’t really know that they graduated 15 years ago and still live in Maine. This helps out the atmosphere a lot though because everyone chants and gets into the game, and it’s hard not to get caught up in the excitement. The arena manages to look like a much smaller venue than it actually is because of the balcony section, and the student section also looks a lot smaller because of this. DISCLAIMER:  Don’t be alarmed when they first lynch a ref doll thing! They are about as racist and intolerant as they come up in Maine. They have a mascot named Bananas who is basically a big black monkey. Let me just remind you that they are the Black Bears.  The name apparently originates from a black bear that wondered onto their football field, and the crowd went “bananas”. Yeah, Maine is terrible.  At the end of the day, almost everyone in the arena is wearing a jersey and the place you can literally feel the place moving when the game is getting intense. What more could you really want from the good old hockey game?   

1. Tsongas Arena (capacity 6,496), Lowell MA: If you are a tax paying citizen in the state of Massachusetts, you should seriously risk travelling through the city of Lowell and stop by this state of the art arena as soon as possible. It cost the state of Massachusetts $20 million to build it, so I guess it’s worth the risk to get out to a game here.  Tsongas has a “Blue Agganis” feel to it, and the concessions/ alcohol selection in this arena is second to none.  Besides being in the worst city around, the location really has few drawbacks because it is so close to Boston and relatively easy to get to by car and commuter rail. Once safely inside the arena, make sure to ignore the stupid blimp that flies around and drops off coupons/food stamps for the locals and you should be fine. I’ve never had a bad view of a game here, and the seats are comfortable enough if security makes you sit down.  The main appeal to this arena though is the competitive hockey that’s been played here for the last few years.  Lowell has officially made it known to Hockey East last year that they were not a fluke, and the fan base has responded to the recent success of the program by coming out in force.  Their sitting student section is less interested in the game than most, but you’ll remember that they are actually there when Lowell scores.  If there’s one place that any BU fan or Hockey East fan should manage to get to next season on a road trip, it’s this place.  Also, the Hey Song sucks. Seriously Lowell, there are better songs out there. I’m not getting into this again.

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