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Official Review by Paul Swaney, Stadium Journey Co-Founder
There’s so much wood surrounding you that you feel like you’re in a forest. Or perhaps the benches will make you think of church pews. For me, it feels more like a hockey arena was built inside a ski lodge. Whatever the image that the pine seating conjures, you surely can agree that this is some of the most unique seating in all of sports, and those benches give Appleton Arena its character.
Opened in 1951, the 3,000-seat arena is home to the men’s and women’s ice hockey teams for the St Lawrence University Saints. The school is located in Canton, New York, a little more than two hours north of Syracuse.
The Saints have a long hockey history. They have been members of the ECAC since the conference was founded in 1961. The program has made nine appearances in the Frozen Four, including four consecutive appearances from 1959-1962. Their last Frozen Four appearance came in 2000, and they have not made an appearance in the NCAA Tournament since 2007, which is also their last conference championship.
Appleton Arena is unparalleled when it comes to beauty and uniqueness, but there is just something missing when you see a Saints hockey game here.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
There is poutine here. Is it good poutine? Not really, but I'll take bad poutine over the typical arena nachos or pizza any day. Plus, it's only $3, and well worth that.
Outside of the poutine (Canton is only about an hour from Quebec after all), there aren't any special or regional items, but the prices are less than most college hockey arenas. You'll find hot dogs ($2.75), hamburgers ($3.25), and nachos ($2.75 or $3.75) along with the usual assortment of arena snacks.
Pepsi products cost $1 or $2, and you can refill that large size later in the game for just $1.50. Hot beverages include coffee, hot chocolate, tea, and cappuccino ($2 each). This may be something you may need as this arena is colder than most hockey venues.
As is the case with most on-campus venues, no alcohol is served at Appleton Arena.
The acoustics are fantastic inside of Appleton Arena due to the bending wood that makes up the ceiling, and the wooden bench seating surrounding the ice. The thing is, as beautiful as the arena is, it really isn't that intimidating because it just doesn't have that collegiate feel that you hope to find with ECAC hockey. While it may not give you goose bumps, it certainly is a really good venue to watch the game.
The student section is ill-defined with no real unity in cheers or the wearing of team colors, although they do pick up steam as the game goes on. The pep band consists of two students who have bass drums with them at the game. The students stand the entire game, but there just isn't that magic that you see at other venues (see Clarkson and Cheel Arena).
There are two scoreboards in the arena. Both are located at either end behind the nets and the concourse. They are very basic with only the score, time, period, and power play information shown. There is a silver lining here though. With no center-hung scoreboard the game presentation is very clean and really focuses the attention of the fan on the on-ice action.
You'll see banners hanging from the rafters commemorating the Frozen Four appearances, NCAA Tournament appearances, and conference championships.
The arena is small enough that any seat should provide you with a good view. The ushers don't do a very good job of holding people out of the seating area while the puck is in play, so this may be a good arena to try and sit as close to the glass as possible, so you don't have to endure knuckleheads getting up and down while you're trying to enjoy the game.
One final note, this arena is colder than most hockey arenas, so dress appropriately.
St Lawrence is located in Canton, New York. It's a town of about 11,000 residents according to the most recent United States Census. There's no doubt that it is a small town, but from the arena, you're just a short drive away from some bars and restaurants that are certainly worthwhile to visit as part of your experience.
St. Lawrence Brewing Company has four beers on tap year round with a couple of rotating seasonal varieties. They serve food only on Fridays, so if you're hungry you may want to look elsewhere, but breweries tend to be a great spot to strike up conversation and get to know the area a little better. They also do tours of their operation on Friday nights from 7pm-9pm. There is a foosball table, darts, and checkerboard tables. They offer half pitchers of light and dark beers along with 24 shot glasses, in case you want to have a go at a game of beer checkers.
The Blackbird Café is located in downtown Canton, and focuses on local, organic, and fair trade ingredients. They have a quality beer selection, sandwiches and dinner entrees, as well as serving Sunday brunch. If you're in town for the weekend, then you'll want to make a stop in here at some point.
The American Theatre is across the street from the Blackbird Café, and has five screens of current movies playing, including weekend matinee shows. Some of the theatres are very small, making for an intimate movie-going experience.
If you're willing to travel just a little further, then I would highly recommend 1844 House for dinner before the hockey game. They are located about halfway between Canton and Potsdam on US-11 (about a 10-12 minute drive from Appleton Arena). If you are seated between 4:30-5:30, then you can choose from the "Early Dining" menu and get an appetizer, entrée, and dessert for only $20. The food is absolutely fantastic, and it is one of my favorite restaurants that I have encountered on my travels.
The student section is rather hit or miss. I was surprised that this was the case as I saw a great turnout for the women's basketball Liberty League championship game, which was held in Burkman Gymnasium earlier that afternoon. In general, the fans at a St Lawrence hockey game seem to be more casual about hockey, and it is disappointing to see how many of them don't respect the hockey fan etiquette of not moving around while the puck is in play.
It is not uncommon to see attendance in the triple digits in this arena with a capacity of 3,200. For the 2013-2014 season, the average attendance at Appleton Arena was just over 50% of capacity at 1,688 per game.
There is a parking lot right across the street from Appleton Arena, and it's free of charge, so that's definitely the good news. The bad news is that if it is a big crowd, then there is not enough parking in that lot, and you'll find cars parked down the street. This is not a huge inconvenience however, and in the end you're not paying for parking which is certainly a good thing. The takeaway here is to make sure you arrive at the game at least 30 minutes before the puck drops to ensure you get a spot in the lot.
Inside the arena, things get a little cramped, especially along the sides of the arena as the concourse devolves into a narrow hallway. It certainly can get a little crowded, especially in between periods.
If you have ever been camping, you'll recognize the smell of the men's restroom at Appleton Arena, as it smells a lot like the latrine that you might find at a campsite. This is certainly an area where the school can make improvements to the overall experience.
It is an absolute bargain to see a game at Appleton Arena. Reserve seats are only $11, or you can get general admission for just $7. There are further discounts for seniors, and children aged 5-17 ($5). Children under five are free, as are all St Lawrence students and faculty with their ID card. Even with an enrollment of only 2,100, this venue should be sold out every night. Add in the very reasonable concession prices and free parking, and this is one experience that is worth every penny you spend.
The wood bench seating throughout the arena is absolutely unique and is worth an extra point.
The St Lawrence women's hockey team has been very successful in recent years, including four consecutive Frozen Four appearances from 2004-2007. Tickets for women's hockey are an even better deal, with $4 being the most expensive seat. The women tend to be playing at home when the men are on the road, so there is almost always one of the two teams playing should you find yourself in Canton on a winter weekend.
Finally, an extra point for the food and drink experiences in and around Canton. Whether it's the poutine at Appleton Arena, a fantastic dinner at 1844 House before the game, or a growler of Skinny Dip IPA from St Lawrence Brewing Company, you'll be sure to find many culinary delights as part of your experience of traveling to St Lawrence for a hockey game.
College hockey is growing in popularity, but is still well out of the mainstream. This means that you can still get in on this growing sport and claim to be cutting edge. A trip to the northern reaches of the state of New York to see St Lawrence and Clarkson hockey over a weekend is a great idea for sports fans. These may not be the best experiences in all of college hockey, but they are well worth your time and money.
Member Review by newco113 on Jan 09, 2015
Great arena with a classic old school feel. The atmosphere is tremendous here and it can get very loud, almost thunderous at times. My favorite place to watch a hockey game.
107 Main St
Canton, NY 13617
19 Commerce Ln
Canton, NY 13617
6000 US 11
Canton, NY 13617