November 5, 2021
Thompson Arena (Capacity: 3,500)
Dartmouth Big Green vs Colgate Raiders
Final Score: 3 – 2
A clear, cool and pleasant Friday greeted me on a return visit to Hanover as I had to chance to catch both a hockey game and the tail end of a football game. Located in the Upper Valley region of New Hampshire, the small college town of 11,000 is quintessential New England. With the surrounding hills, nearby Connecticut River and charming downtown, Hanover is a great place to stroll through. Dartmouth takes up much of the town and the relatively small (6,000 students) Ivy League school has done quite well after humble beginnings. The history on Dartmouth’s hockey team goes back to 1906 and it is a program that has not historically done well. They’ve only made the NCAA Tournament four times and their last appearance came all the way back in 1980. Furthermore, in 60 years of ECAC hockey, the Big Green have just 1 co-regular season title and 0 tournament titles. Regardless of the product on the ice, they have a beautiful rink created by a famed architect and it looks way better than its age (46 years).
Prestige Ranking: 3 out of 5
Main Street is the heart of town and it is filled with many local shops and restaurants. Integrated with the town is Dartmouth as they blend together nicely, almost feeling like one cohesive unit. Campus is eye-pleasing with historic buildings and the famed Baker Library that is made for a postcard. There isn’t much to do, but the small town scenery makes up for it. Thompson Arena is on the southeast side of campus and it is a lengthy walk from the core of town/school, but at least a walk nonetheless. While the rink is near other athletic facilities, it is unique to have a few houses along Park Street essentially have the arena in their backyard.
Location Ranking: 6.5 out of 10
Accessibility / Parking
There is a dedicated parking lot for the building, however other fields share this lot. With it not being used solely for the hockey game, the likelihood that it fills up is high. You’ll then be stuck having to drive to the Dewey Field lot and then take a shuttle bus over. Certainly not a fan-friendly set-up. Parking in town is an option as well, but you’ll have at least a 15-minute walk and have to pay for the lot or garage. At least traffic in the area will not be a problem and getting in and out of Hanover is effortless as there are two major interstates (I-91 and I-89) that cross nearby. You will be far from any metropolitan area as cities like Albany, Worcester, Manchester and Boston are a good 1-2 hours away.
Accessibility / Parking Ranking: 5.5 out of 8
Famed architect Pier Luigi Nervi designed this building and he has designed many famous structures, including several sporting facilities in Italy. He was an innovator in using reinforced concrete. While the side is all brick, a lot of what you see on the outside is this long row of large wooden blocks that look like they are holding up the concrete arcing roof. It’s an interesting design, especially since you get a close look given the short stature of the building. The blocks are connected into cement sections at ground level. The end face of the arena is flat and in the shape of a half circle. It is a cold, drab appearance due to the gray, concrete look throughout. Small letterings for “Rupert C. Thompson Arena” are off to the right side.
Exterior Ranking: 7 out of 10
Concourse and Food
A small, closed-off entranceway is not enough space if there are more than a few people going to buy tickets, otherwise that is the only issue with space in the entire building. Even though there is no concourse, the walkway surrounding the top of the seating bowl has plenty of room to move around. Plus, you have a view of the rink throughout. A light-colored brick is the material for the walls and there are a fair amount of team displays to liven it up. There are bathrooms in only two of the corners and they are quite cramped as I would not want to be in one if there’s more than 1,000 people here. Unfortunately, only one concession spot was open and it was mainly a snack stand (though you could get fruit). A hot dog or a pizza slice was the best that could be had. They did have several drink options (non-alcoholic). A local Tex-Mex stand that may offer burritos/tacos/etc. was closed this game.
Concourse Ranking: 4 out of 5
Food Ranking: 2 out of 8
Thompson Arena is a very bright rink thanks to its most distinctive feature, the roof. This curved structure is completely made up of hundreds of white, connecting triangles and it is almost hypnotic if you stare at it for a while. The unique light fixtures combine to really light it up and the aesthetics of the arena are also great thanks to the all green seats. It’s a simple design as the bowl circles the rink with 11 rows going from the glass to the walkway. Each row goes up by two steps and that makes for great sightlines as the pitch isn’t too flat. Most sit in the top rows for the best vantage point. Heads don’t get in the way much of your view, nor do the railings. The only spot that is poor is near the openings to the locker room as the nearby seats are obstructed and sub-optimal. Even though the seats aren’t chairs per se, they do have curved backs and are generally comfortable. The press box hangs over a portion of the walkway and center seats.
Interior Ranking: 9.5 out of 14
A center-hung scoreboard contains the typical hockey information that you’d expect to see and the numbers are clear. There is no video and the message display looked dead. Panels are green and “Dartmouth College” is labelled up top.
Scoreboard Ranking: 2 out of 4
The walls at Thompson Arena feature a good mix of logos and displays. Each NHLer that wore the green has a large photo along the side wall. Team displays are reserved for the corners and that is a subtle nice touch as there is more room there for people to read and look at them. I loved the timeline of Dartmouth hockey as it was informative, thorough and complete with some remarkable historic pictures. A trophy case in a different corner complements the timeline and both Men and Women are treated equally. Adding another nice touch are a couple of wooden panels that honor former great coaches and Hockey Hall of Fame members. Finally, the tall wall above each end contains a green banner for each league championship.
Displays Ranking: 4.5 out of 6
Tickets go for $15 to $20 and there’s really not much reason to get the higher priced seat. That cost is generally in the middle when it comes to comparing to the rest of the league. Parking is free and concessions are cheap ($3.50 hot dog, $3 soda, $1.50 hot chocolate).
Cost Ranking: 8 out of 8
It was a very sparse crowd on this night and they were lucky if crowd size reached 500. Excuses were there since this was an odd start time at 5:00 PM and the football team was playing a couple blocks away. So, I checked out the game on ESPN+ the next night (Saturday at 7:00 PM) and the crowd grew, but by maybe 200-300 (and a lot of them were Cornell fans). I also went back to watch a random game from a few years ago and the atmosphere/number of fans was only slightly better. Recently, the Big Green have ranked #6 out of the 12 ECAC teams in terms of attendance.
Fan Support Ranking: 2.5 out of 8
The atmosphere for my game was dead inside Thompson Arena as the sounds of the game were all that you really heard. Initial goals were met with a muted “Yeah” and brief clapping as most stayed seated. The “Yeah’s” became more emphatic at least late in the game and the parents or those close to the program stood up. Otherwise, the few students on hand made little noise and there was no acknowledgment for anything good that the home team did outside of goals.
Atmosphere Ranking: 3 out of 14
They say that capacity is 4,500 when accounting for standing room. That means 1,000 people can watch from that perspective. Take a look at the surrounding walkway and if there are even 500 people around those railings, I’m sure you have a fire hazard…..The facility is named after Rupert C. Thompson, a benefactor for the building of the arena…..Thank you Dartmouth for having a Game Program! I lost hope that the pandemic would completely wipe this collector’s item away……Annual when the Big Green play Princeton at home, the first goal features a barrage of tennis balls from fans. This tradition began after a Princeton fan threw a tennis ball at the Dartmouth goalie back in 1998.
After getting the first goal on the power play, Dartmouth was lucky to stay in this one as they managed just 6 shots on goal in the first 30 minutes of play. Colgate could only muster one during that time and the game was knotted up heading into the third. They traded goals in that last frame, then Sean Chrisholm deflected in what would be the winning goal midway through the period. The final minute was frantic as Colgate threw everything at goaltender Clay Stevenson. He persevered and it was a jubilant Big Green that celebrated after the horn sounded.