December 5, 2014
Ingalls Rink (Capacity: 3,500)
New Haven, CT
Yale Bulldogs vs RPI Engineers
Final Score: 5 – 2
My third trip to Yale was the first one on the central part of campus, as opposed to their sports facilities in West Haven. The prestigious university began in 1701 and can count five Presidents as part of its alumni. Along with the high-end academic allure, the amazing architecture also attracts visitors to walk the grounds, plus Yale is home to several museums and theatres. Intertwined with campus, New Haven is Connecticut’s second largest city with a population of 129,000 and the location is in the south-central part of the state right near the Long Island Sound. Yale’s athletics program is also historic and hockey is no different as the sport dates back over 100 years. While much of that time has been spent in futility (it took 47 years for Yale’s first ECAC tournament title), recent times have seen great success as the Bulldogs made four of the last six NCAA tournaments. Completing the run, was a historic march to the 2013 NCAA Championship as Yale became the lowest seed to win and the first to beat three #1 seeds on the way to the title. The team settled into a permanent hockey home in 1958 as Ingalls Rink was completed. With noted architect Eero Saarinen putting his stamp in the design, “The Whale” is a famed structure both on campus and in the hockey world and a recent 2010 renovation did a nice job to improve it.
Prestige Ranking: 4 out of 5
Yale’s bucolic campus offers an array of features that draw folks to visit for the afternoon before seeing hockey at night as just walking amongst the gothic buildings and amazing architecture is a treat. Museums are aplenty, including the Peabody Museum, which is a very short walk from the rink. New Haven itself has some character and includes many highly-rated restaurants, which are eclectic and diverse. It is the pizza that is famous and their old-world style apizza places are delicious. Some average eateries can be found within walking distance on Whitney Ave as it is further down on Wooster Street where the famed apizza places are. Ingalls Rink features campus buildings on one side and houses on the other.
Location Ranking: 8.5 out of 10
Accessibility / Parking
Two major interstates (I-91 and I-95) intersect at New Haven and it is surprisingly simple to reach the arena as Exit 3 from I-91 leads to Trumbull St, then it is a right on Prospect. A parking garage next to the rink makes for an easier parking search than what is normally the case when coming to New Haven. However, the garage is somewhat hidden and a look at Maps prior to coming is a good idea. The tight quarters mean that it gets backed up after the game, enhanced by stupid sign placement when trying to leave the area. When you realize you have to choose between the right lane (to I-91/I-95) and the left lane (Prospect St), you have almost no time to make a decision. Traffic is also inevitable on Connecticut’s highways, which are frequently congested. It is possible the garage gets full, where in that case, Lot 22 on Whitney Ave is available for surface parking.
Accessibility / Parking Ranking: 6.5 out of 8
Perhaps no other college hockey arena in the country is defined more by its outside look than Yale. The distinctive design has a whale shape with a backbone in the middle. The lined black roof then waves outward and along with the whale comparison, other resemblances include a brontosaurus. Underneath the roof is a short concrete wall, which at the ends give way to the doors opening to the arena. It is a small place and that can be seen on the outside by peaking through the windows near the entrance. Color-wise, the abundant concrete and gray it is not all that appealing, but the unique building structure certainly sparks conversation.
Exterior Ranking: 8 out of 10
The south end is the main entrance (despite the parking garage being on the other side) and you are essentially in the rink once past the initial doors. Cold, drab concrete lives throughout the inclining walkway which ebbs and flows around the arena, above the seating bowl. An odd digital board providing stats and team pictures sits on a wall. The north end (better decorated in blue with Yale logos), features a set of bathrooms and a concession stand. Back at the other end, stairs lead to a somewhat hidden area down below that includes a renovated hallway full of white and blue with great displays. This section, though still cramped, also includes a food and merchandise stand.
Concourse Ranking: 2 out of 5
As for the food, it is bare bones with hot dogs, nachos, popcorn, peanuts and candy. Beverages include coffee and hot chocolate in what is a cold arena.
Food Ranking: 1.5 out of 8
Certainly the wood-paneled undulating roof makes for a unique perspective throughout as the “ribs” and “backbone” can be seen supporting the structure. Ingalls Rink features an odd sombrero-shaped seating bowl with a flow that follows the rest of the arena. All of the seating is in the form of wooden bleacher, somewhat uncomfortable, but the renovation at least polished them up. On the sides, the number of rows increases as one approaches the middle and all of the seats face straight-ahead. Corner sections then give way to end seating, which also bulge to more rows in the middle. A press box is situated on both sides to accommodate each team. While I give some points to a design and set-up that can’t be found anywhere else, there is a big downfall in that sightlines are not the best. In fact, the best vantage point is reserved for those that decide to stand the whole game on the walkway that circles behind the seating bowl.
Interior Ranking: 5.5 out of 14
Above center ice is a four-sided blue board that came with the 2010 renovation and is a nice fit in the arena. A dot-matrix board at the top scrolls ECAC scores during the game. There are some advertisements, while the corner panels say “Yale” with the Y logo.
Scoreboard Ranking: 2.5 out of 4
Initially, I walked into the place seeing a small display case with championship memorabilia for the Men and Women thinking that was it. But my world was opened when heading downstairs and seeing all that was done with such little space. Panels on the right-side wall give an informative look at Yale hockey; from the coaches and players to the arenas, milestones and games. On a different wall is a yearly history of the program and for a team that dates back to the 1800s, that is a lot of space to fill. It is a terrific section and it’s too bad that it is not more visible. Back inside, two monster banners display the years of Frozen Four appearances and National Championships. In between and above the scoreboard is a string of team achievements followed by the year. The displays kept getting better the more I found and the final piece that I really enjoyed are the flags for every ECAC team, which include the school’s crest.
Displays Ranking: 5.5 out of 6
Parking is $5 and the program is $3, while concessions are expectedly cheap ($2 – $4) given the limited quality. Tickets have several pricing sections, surprising given the small capacity of the arena but understandable because there are stark differences between good and bad seats. I ended up stuck in the Visitors Band section (thankfully RPI didn’t bring one) and it cost $15. Ticket prices are hard to gauge because Yale has a confusing online ticketing system, plus the price changes for each game. On average, it seems to be in the range of $12 – $18 with the max price going for $25. This is a bit higher than average for the ECAC, while perennial top teams like Cornell, Harvard and Quinnipiac have a flat rate around $20.
Cost Ranking: 6.5 out of 8
It took awhile for fans to arrive, but by midway through the first period, Ingalls Rink was 80% full. A crowd like this around 3,000 is typical for the Bulldogs and that is good for yearly averaging around 25th (out of 59) for NCAA attendance. Within the small capacity buildings of ECAC, Yale is behind Cornell in terms of fan support, while on par with the next tier of teams like Dartmouth, Quinnipiac and RPI.
Fan Support Ranking: 5 out of 8
The overall noisiness of Ingalls Rink is due to the acoustics and not necessarily because of the crowd. Fans pretty much resorted to “oohs” “aahs” and the occasional roar of a goal. The game did get full attention as the crowd stood during breakaways and gave an extended ovation to a terrific save. Each goal was met with a horn that sounded three times and a student chant of “It’s all your fault!” The pep band in the corner occasionally jumped in between recorded arena pop music.
Atmosphere Ranking: 8 out of 14
Yale uses the term “aisle” to define each section and a cylinder at each stairway entrance oddly labels the number (and the number is spelled out…like “Twelve”). Rather strange…..Down in the lower-level area of the building is the Schley Room, a section only for Yale Hockey Association donors that includes a pre-game meal…..There is a lot of construction around the arena during this 2014 visit and I hope that any new building does not ruin the nice visual of the arena seen while driving up Prospect Street….Two names that are synonymous with the program: Murray Murdoch and Tim Taylor, both long-time coaches in the 20th century…..The school’s official nickname is “Bulldogs”, though they are frequently referred to as “Elis”, which comes from benefactor Elihu Yale…..The arena is named after David Ingalls Sr and Jr as both father and son captained the hockey team…. It took a long five years for the building to be completed.
After a boring start to the game, Trent Ruffolo put Yale ahead with just over a minute left in the first period. The Bulldogs took over control of play in the second, at one point having a 15-2 overall shot advantage. Immediately after a terrific Alex Lyon save, Yale went up two. That was big because twice RPI cut the lead in half, only to see the Elis answer with a goal of their own 1-3 minutes later. In the end, a 5-2 victory went to the home side as all goals were scored by a different player.