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Official Review by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The Danbury Titans are a first year team playing in the low level Federal Hockey League. The Titans are the third professional team to call the Danbury Ice Arena home. While leagues at this level of minor league hockey can be nomadic, and the rinks that dot these circuits are generally nondescript, the Danbury Ice Arena has a history that transcends your typical small community rink.
Back in 2004 the United Hockey League awarded an expansion team to Western Connecticut waste management magnate James Galante, a local businessman with a history of tax evasion and rumored underworld connections. This team, which was nicknamed the Trashers after Galante’s business, would play out of the Danbury Ice Arena, which received over three million dollars in upgrades directly from Galante. The team’s general manager was Galante’s 17 year old son, A.J. The roster resembled something from the movie Slap Shot, and the team soon became known for their physical, intimidating style of play and frenzied fan support.
Soon Sports Illustrated came to Danbury to write stories about the Trashers for their magazine. During the NHL lockout in 2004, several NHL players inquired about playing for the Trashers.ESPN Magazine wasn't far behind.
Unfortunately, things unraveled when Galante became the focus of an FBI investigation for fraud, extortion, racketeering, tax fraud and conspiracy. The Trashers were found to be guilty of salary cap violations, and the team folded when Galante was sentenced to 87 months in federal prison. ESPN Magazine's post-mortem on the Trashers can be found here.
In 2010 the Federal Hockey League moved into Danbury, naming their new team the Whalers to capitalize on the popularity of the departed Connecticut National Hockey League team. While successful both on and off the ice, the Whalers were evicted from the Danbury Ice Arena in 2015 for alleged lease violations. New ownership was brought in, and Danbury was awarded another expansion team to begin play for the 2015-2016 season. The team was named the Titans.
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Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
The concession stand at the Danbury Ice Arena has a surprisingly large menu for a community rink.
All your arena staples can be found here, including hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken fingers, grilled chicken sandwiches and nachos. Sides, including French fries, onion rings and macaroni and cheese can be selected as well. A wide variety of snacks, from the usual popcorn, pretzels and chips to the seldom seen pop tarts and cup O' Noodles dot the menu. Unique items such as cereal, hash browns and power bars can also be found here. Prices are reasonable, and quality seems decent.
For Titan fans seeking out something a little more out of the ordinary, the Danbury Ice Arena offers a few combo meals that bring the fire. The Titan's Wrath cheeseburger is a bacon burger loaded with jalapeno peppers. The Titan Puck is a grilled chicken sandwich loaded with onion rings, curly fries and cheese. The Titan Tenders are chicken fingers smothered in hot sauce. All these specials sell for six dollars.
Pepsi products are featured at the Danbury Ice Arena in both bottled and fountain variety. For thirsty hockey fans looking for adult beverages, Coors Light, Yeunging and Sam Adams are sold both at the concession stand and at the Penalty Box Lounge in 16 and 24 ounce sizes. Fans looking for a warmer beverage can select coffee, tea, hot chocolate or cappuccino.
Back in the days of the Trashers, team management cultivated an atmosphere of extreme rowdiness and hostility towards the opposition modeled after the Black Hole at Oakland's O.co Coliseum. While the atmosphere for Titans games is much more civil, Danbury fans still pride themselves on being as loud and intimidating to visiting teams as possible.
For a small arena with a small crowd, there is an amazing amount of noise generated at the Danbury Ice Arena. Traditions that started with the Trashers continue to this day, with Section 102 behind the visitor's bench packed with the loudest fans in the arena. Fans in the 200 sections that hang over the ice stand for the majority of the game. While Danbury fans may be a bit salty and bloodthirsty, their support and volume makes for a lively and intimidating home ice advantage.
Aside from the noise generated by the crowd, there is little in the game day presentation here that will be new to any seasoned hockey fan. The team holds a chuck a puck contest, along with the standard 50/50 and jersey raffles. There is a small scoreboard on either end of the rink, and the usual rock music blaring over the PA system. A small souvenir stand is located on the main concourse with a variety of Titans gear.
Danbury is a small city of just over 80,000 residents located on the Connecticut/New York State line. The Ice Arena is located downtown, with a few local establishments within walking distance of the rink.
Many Titan fans will head over to Two Steps Bar and Grill for pre or post game celebrations. Fans of the chicken wing should seek out TK's American Café, which features over 50 different flavors.
The Titans averaged 734 fans per game for the 2015-2016 season, which was a decrease of about 50% from their lowest average during the Whalers years, and less than a third of what the Trashers averaged in their two seasons. 2015-2016 also marks the first season that Danbury did not lead the Federal League in attendance.
What the fans in Danbury may lack in numbers, they make up for in enthusiasm. Fans in Danbury have traditionally had a reputation as one of the more rowdy and toughest crowds in the low minors, and this is a reputation they are most proud of. While the fans here may be a bit salty for some tastes, this is a group that fully supports their team. The team's most diehard fans congregate in Section 102, directly behind the visitor's bench, and spew their venom in that direction.
The city of Danbury is located in southwestern Connecticut near the New York State line. New York City is located about 70 miles to the southwest, and Hartford is located 60 miles to the northeast. The Connecticut coastal cities of New Haven and Bridgeport are about 30 miles to the south.
The easiest way to arrive in Danbury is to take Interstate 84, which passes right through Danbury about two miles from Danbury Ice Arena. The best way to get to the rink is to take Route 53, also known as Main St. Take exit 5 off of I-84, then a left onto Liberty St. The arena will be a block up on the left.
The Danbury Ice Arena is basically a community rink, and it will look the part as you enter the facility. Fans will enter directly into the main concourse of the arena. There are no ticket booths here, just a couple of Titans staffers manning a table. The concourse is a large hallway that runs the length of the building, and contains a skate rental booth, concessions, lockers, and restrooms. There are two rinks here, with the rink the Titans use located on your left.
Fans who have purchased 200 level seats will climb the stairs to their sections. Other fans will enter the arena at ice level and circumnavigate the ice to the 100 level seats. On the way to your seats, take note of the most unique seating sections, which were shoehorned into tiny spaces when the rink was upgraded for professional hockey. One of the sections seats a whopping four people! Also of note is the wheelchair seating located at the top of a bunch of stairs.
Most of the seats at the Danbury Ice Arena consist of metal bleachers without seat backs. There are some premium individual seats at center ice of the 200 section. Fans who would like an up-close hockey experience can take in the action from ice level, as one entire side of the rink is available as standing room.
Tickets to a Titans game cost $15.50 for adults and $10.75 for children. Parking in the lot directly across the street from the arena costs $3.50, with additional parking available in a large garage on Independence Way. Locals will seek out the limited free on-street parking available in the neighborhood surrounding the rink. With modest food prices, taking in a Danbury Titans game is an affordable option to the higher-level minor league hockey in the area.
There isn't a whole lot that can be considered extra about the Danbury Ice Arena as a venue for professional hockey. The arena's colorful history and unique seating options qualify for an extra point.
The Danbury Ice Arena offers little in the way of creature comforts that most professional hockey rinks feature today. Still, this small arena holds an interesting place in the annals of lower level professional hockey. If traveling through the greater New York City area, the Danbury Ice Arena may be worth a visit.
Follow all Paul Baker's stadium journeys on Twitter @PuckmanRI.
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