It has been a fantastic stretch of weather here in the Northeast recently as we’ve had frosty mornings followed cool, but sunny and calm afternoons. There have been some real gorgeous landscapes at sunrise and sunset. It also set a great backdrop for a road trip up north to add a few stadiums to the belt. The first destination was Hanover, NH and since I was there in 2013, I decided to spend the pre-game somewhere else. On the way along I-91 was Holyoke, MA as this rustic old paper mill town housed the International Volleyball Hall of Fame. Incredibly, this became my 9th sport hall of fame that I got to see, all by happenstance as I never set out to make it a goal. Volleyball proved to be the smallest of them as I spent less than an hour walking around the large room. Props to the guy at the front desk though that just let me wander and didn’t ask for an admission fee. Before leaving town, I took in a walk around the canals and the rest of Heritage Park. This gave me a chance to test out the camera on my new Samsung S21, which lived up to my expectations as I took awesome shots and fell in love with the wide-angle lens feature. I did however run into an internet connection problem and for a little bit, had to rely on intuition before Google Maps returned. The rest of the trip found my limited spare time fiddling with a remedy.
Once the arrow was back on my screen, I drove a few more hours to get to Dartmouth College in Hanover, it was an unusual 5:00 PM start for the hockey game (more on that later), so I went right to the arena. At least I had daylight for pictures. Thompson Arena is a unique venue as the fascinating use of reinforced concrete by famed architect Pier Luigi Nervi makes for a stunning interior look thanks to a white, triangular-paneled arcing roof. The building is polished, clean and bright as a simple bowl looks down at the below ground-level ice surface. The green seats are a nice touch too. It’s one of the top buildings in the ECAC and the Big Green completed the night by getting the win over Colgate. Making the win more impressive was the fact that Dartmouth only had 6 shots on goal in the first 30 minutes of play. They turned it up in the 3rd period and held on to a 3-2 during a frantic finish. The crowd was sparse and lacking energy, which was a shame as the arena and game deserved more.
The reason for the early start and very small crowd was that the football team was hosting Princeton just a few blocks away. That game began at 6:00 PM and with both squads at the top of the standings, it was a great matchup. Having been to Memorial Field before, I wasn’t too concerned about getting there, but being that this was the stadium experience that I rated highest in the Ivy AND that the game mattered, I certainly had interest. First, some dinner. After hockey ended, I made the long walk into town. It sounds cheesy and only a few with this passion may really understand, but that’s a walk I’ll remember for a while. Cold and calm, but with the lights of the stadium glowing, the crowd occasionally roaring and the PA giving info after each play, it left me with a permanent smile on my face. Timing was perfect for dinner as I got to Ramunto’s right before it started filling up, so I grabbed a couple slices of pizza and then walked to the football stadium. At this point, we were halfway through the third quarter and they weren’t checking tickets, allowing me to walk right in. The atmosphere was great and the students were jacked up as Dartmouth controlled throughout, knocking off Princeton from the unbeaten ranks. The 31-7 win included a Pick-6 that I got to see, making the brief return well worth it.
The next day, I drove 2.5 hours from Hanover to Albany. Leaves were past peak, but it was still a scenic drive through Vermont. Once in the Capital District, I made my way to the State University of New York at Albany. Oh, wait, I’m sorry, UAlbany is what they’d like me to say. Despite the hundreds of schools that are University of ______, for some reason, Albany insists to put the capital U in the front of their name and make it a one-word thing. Why!? It gets better (or worse from my perspective)…their tagline is “UA, U Know”, which was used frequently during the football game. Ugh. Anyway, before getting to football, I walked around campus for a while and the quad is quite unique. Despite the concrete and somewhat brutalist look, the very expansive centralized building has a fascinating structure and the centralized fountain is a great touch as well. I wouldn’t call it pretty, but it is quite cool. Back to the stadium. Outside of the school having you park way far away, this is a great experience as the relatively new Casey Stadium features character. Expect a lot of purple and yellow as the facility checks off a lot of boxes in what I look for. The upper-deck was my preferred seating section and they had some of the widest rows I’ve ever seen at a stadium. The Great Danes played the part too as they got their first win of the season, defeating New Hampshire 20-7.
The final game of this trip is for a stadium that isn’t on The List because it doesn’t meet capacity thresholds. However, it is a College Hockey arena and I’m inching my way in trying to see all 59 DI programs. A 20-minute drive from (U)Albany is Schenectady. I wanted to like this small city as there were plenty of local restaurants, unique architecture, historic districts and even a pedestrian-only street. However, I just left kinda creeped out because it was dead. Nobody was out and I got pan-handled twice. Just look at Jay Street, where everything was closed before 5:00 PM on a Saturday. I decided to pass on walking around the Stockade Historic District. The other thing I hated was driving around this place. There were many roads that didn’t have ANY lines and I couldn’t tell if there were two lanes or one lane. On Liberty Street, I ran into a scare as two lanes immediately became one after the stoplight. Not a fan.
What I did really like was Union College. This small private school has a beautiful campus and there were many spots that I was jealous I didn’t have in college. The Nott Memorial is an incredible 16-sided building, both outside and in. The Dutchmen hockey team plays at Messa Rink, another cool facility on approach thanks to the wooden domed roof. Inside is a different story as this rink is pieced together in a disjointed fashion. It’s crazy that this place is just as old (1975) as what I saw a night earlier in Dartmouth. Bleachers are along the side and access is awkward with varying staircases. Rickety handrails also get in the way of your view of sitting a few seats from the aisle. I’ll have more in a detailed review soon, but there are a lot of negative quirks here (terrible parking, no food, etc.). The atmosphere at least made up for it as the crowd provided a college hockey experience that I’ve been craving. Nothing crazy, but better than the quiet I’ve seen of late (Brown, Army, Dartmouth). Going up against Saint Lawrence, the Dutchmen tied it up with just over a minute left and the noise was great. They went through a boring 3-on-3 overtime which has done the exact opposite of it’s intent. SLU had the puck for three minutes straight and had just one shot on goal as they regrouped what felt like a dozen times. The Saints were able to take the shootout, spoiling an undefeated home team record this trip. As I left Schenectady, the famous General Electric sign lit up the forefront and an enjoyable and successful stadium tour concluded.