November 4, 2022
Bright-Landry Hockey Center (Capacity: 3,095)
Harvard Crimson vs Brown Bears
Final Score: 5 – 2
A couple years after seeing the football team, I was back in the area to see Harvard Hockey. While the rink is technically in Boston, the University is in and mostly associated with Cambridge. This city of over 100,000 has its own distinctive character and was once quoted as “A city where counter-culture still lives, classic culture thrives and multi-culture is a way of life”. As a former industrial center, Cambridge is considered a great place to live, work and learn as it has become a center for prestigious higher education and a boon for technological companies. Cambridge’s history mimics the University that is at its center as Harvard’s founding in 1636 makes it the oldest in the country. This private, Ivy League school is among the world’s elite and features a remarkable depth of research, areas of study and elite alumni. The hockey program is one of the oldest in the country and they have been quite successful too as Harvard has a winning percentage over .600. They’ve made the NCAA Tournament 26 times, won 11 conference titles, have had 4 Hobey Baker Winners and took a home the 1989 National Championship in dramatic fashion. Most coaches remain with the program for awhile and Ted Donato is going into his 18th season. He last led them to the Frozen Four in 2017. The old Watson Rink became outdated and a new arena was created on essentially the same site in 1979.
Prestige Ranking: 2.5 out of 5
As mentioned earlier, the Bright-Landry Hockey Center is actually in Boston, specifically the neighborhood of Lower Allston. The arena is within a large area comprising all of the school’s athletic facilities, while also nearby are other academic buildings, including the business school. Further south into Lower Allston is a quieter section of the city that features housing for a diverse mix of people. To get back into Cambridge, it is a walk up John F. Kennedy Street over the Charles River. It’s about 15 minutes to reach the city center, which features Harvard Square and the diverging varying streets that lead to a hodgepodge of restaurants and taverns. Visitors should walk around to see both the city and university. A couple options exist for a campus tour, plus art aficionados can sample one of the three museums that Harvard owns. The Museum of Natural History is also a great place to spend an afternoon.
Location Ranking: 7.5 out of 10
Accessibility / Parking
Boston is a notoriously difficult city to drive in as the street grid is ancient and complex. Cambridge is just as bad, if not worse. The Bright Center’s location makes it a little easier to get to as the Mass Pike (I-90) minimizes the amount of non-highway roads needed. Parking is quite limited to a handful of spaces once you get into Gate 8. I’m not sure the availability of spots, but I saw a few open when I took peak around not long before faceoff. I opted not to drive and instead use the subway system, known locally as “The T”. This was easy and quite accessible as Harvard Square has a stop on the Red Line, which is a 10-15 minute walk to the athletic complex. We got the train three short stops away at the Alewife Station, which is where we parked. The garage isn’t in the best of shape, though I had an easier time departing for hockey than the football game. It took 30 minutes from the time I walked out of the arena to when I reached my car.
Accessibility / Parking Ranking: 4.5 out of 8
The rink itself is a triangular building made with brick that very much looks like it is from the era that it was built in (the 1970s). A newer entry vestibule is attached and though it features glass and red tiles, it does fit in. Also combined with the complex is an indoor track facility. The rink is on the second floor as stairs are needed to reach the main entrance.
Exterior Ranking: 5.5 out of 10
The facility may be named after a person, but the name fits well as this is indeed a “bright place”. Once past the main entrance, you see the ice surface and seating bowl as there is plenty of room above the seats to walk around. Walls are white and floors are clean. One side features a lot of width and this is also the direction of the adjoining indoor track. I was surprised when I saw a lot of people going through the double doors, thinking “are they going out there to warm up?” (it’s cold in the rink)…and then I saw it: Beer. The separate walkway overlooking the track features alcohol sales so that technically they aren’t selling it at the game (stupid). Lots of folks were hanging out here between periods and they had to finish their drink before coming back. Returning to the Bright-Landry Hockey Center, some will choose to stand and watch, so they should install a few more drink rails to make that experience more comfortable. Missing drinking fountains and limited bathroom space also are downfalls. Outside of that, this walkway behind the seats is a good use of a “concourse”.
Concourse Ranking: 4 out of 5
Both concession stands have the same refreshments and the menu is quite limited. A Hot Dog is pretty much the only thing beyond a snack that you can grab. The beer on the other side is at least pretty good as cans from Sam Adams, Harpoon and Wormtown Brewery are a few of the decent choices.
Food Ranking: 2.5 out of 8
This is a simple rink as 7-8 rows of seats oval around the ice surface. The small number of rows means that sightlines aren’t spectacular because you are almost too close (and the grade is average, maybe even a touch shallow). Otherwise, the red seats themselves aren’t bad. They are wide and not too scrunched with the row in front. Sitting in the backrow, you get a little obstruction from the banners when it comes to completely seeing the scoreboard. In a couple corners, there are some extra back rows, which look out of place as they protrude over the walkway. Looking up above, plenty of beige beams partially obscure the wooden triangular roof. The roof doesn’t fit the vibe of the recent renovations, but it goes back a long way in age and speaks to the older era from which the building originated. Seat color, dasher board design and the banners give the rink character and there is also a “Harvard Hockey” sign on each end wall. One of those ends features the unusual location of the press box.
Interior Ranking: 8 out of 14
The four-sided scoreboard looks well enough hanging above center as the black base features game information in the lower third and a video screen above that. The display does have issues though as many distorted pixels give a “bug on it” appearance. Size and clarity is good enough otherwise.
Scoreboard Ranking: 2.5 out of 4
The walls of Bright-Landry Hockey Center have some really well done murals that articulate the history of both Men’s and Women’s Harvard Hockey. Coaches, arenas, players and team titles all have a spot here, plus the 1989 NCAA Trophy is proudly in a display case. On the other side of the rink are team pictures that go all the way back to 1899. Repeat: 1899! How amazing is that! Banners on the side rafters feature the years of each ECAC Title, NCAA Tournament Appearance, Frozen Four, and Beanpot title. National Championships banners are white instead of black, with their own spot at the end of the rink. The only bad thing is they haven’t kept up-to-date as some recent annual achievements have not been added.
Displays Ranking: 4 out of 6
Getting to the game will be around $13 for mass transit (Alewife to Harvard Square) or $20 if you decide to park at the rink. That’s a lot for ECAC, but not abnormal for a city the size of Boston. Tickets are generally $20, going up to $25 for top opponents and $40 for Cornell. Again, on the higher side for the league. Don’t forget about the secondary market, as I was able to snag a seat for just $11. The few concessions were expensive too (ex. $5 for coffee).
Cost Ranking: 5.5 out of 8
It was a weak crowd on this Friday Night as fans were slow to filter in and they only added up to less than a thousand. Despite a successful program, it seems the hockey team is in the back of both school and city consciousness. Harvard ranks in the middle of the ECAC Attendance standings and getting to that point is helped by a guaranteed sellout when the team hosts Cornell. Things also get a little better late in the season.
Fan Support Ranking: 3 out of 8
Harvard may have had the most despondent college hockey crowd that I have seen yet. Applause was tepid when the team scored and when the PA announced the goalscorer, nearly nobody gave a clap. Noise pretty much all night was from whatever was happening on the ice as the crowd continued to have limited “Ooohh’s” and minimal acknowledgment of important plays. Maybe the crowd expected a win? Late goals got a little more noise and I watched the broadcast the next night against Yale and atmosphere improved somewhat (it is a rival though). Hard to shake how blasé these folks were. The most random thing about the game experience was the team’s choice for a goal song: Eminem’s “Without Me”. Now that says hockey!
Atmosphere Ranking: 4 out of 14
Everyone thinks Harvard-Yale when it comes to an Ivy League rival, but in hockey, the bigger deal is Harvard-Cornell. They perennially are at the top of the ECAC Standings and games between the two are usually heated and in front of a packed house…..Harvard competes in College Hockey’s most prestigious in-season tournament: The Beanpot. Four Boston area schools (Harvard, Northeastern, Boston University and Boston College) compete on consecutive Mondays in February at TD Garden for the coveted title and bragging rights…..Season ticket holders can visit the Boynton Lounge in the corner of the rink where they can hang out and enjoy drinks/food before the game and during intermission…..Harvard’s shield logo is at center ice with the Latin phrase “Ve Ri Tas”. It feels very uppity and elitist to me to put that there.
Harvard came into this season loaded with the most NHL draft picks out of any college team. Their class showed against Brown as the Crimson jumped out to a 3-0 lead. Brown got one back in the 2nd period and they actually controlled play in the 3rd, but Mathieu Caron let in a softie and any hopes of a rally were gone. Alex Laferriere scored twice for Harvard.