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Official Review by Brandon Gee, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Hidden in a rural part of southwestern Ohio sits one of the jewels of college hockey. Steve Cady Arena (named after the program's first coach), part of the Goggin Ice Center, has helped to signify the maturation of a hockey program that, though it has existed since 1978, managed only 3 NCAA tournament visits before the opening of their new facility in 2006. Since then, Miami has turned into a powerhouse, currently on a stretch of six consecutive NCAA tourneys. Not just a hockey arena, the home of "the brotherhood" is an important piece of this college community.
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All the basics are represented here, pizza, hot dogs, etc. which were all quality and at surprisingly decent prices. Hot dogs are $2.50, a 44-oz. pop (not soda, this is Ohio) will cost you $4.
The highest priced item at the main concession stands was local favorite Montgomery Inn barbecue sandwich for $4.75. One unique stand that keeps in line with Miami's reputation sold Tazo Teas and Starbucks coffee, along with fresh fruit. I didn't partake, but it's a nice feature to have if you want to avoid the standards. Also, no beer, so you'll have to find that elsewhere, luckily the bars are not far.
Upon entering the lobby of the Goggin Ice Center, you immediately notice the jerseys of RedHawk alumni who have gone on to play in the NHL, as well as special posters for the Stanley Cup winners. The concourse of the (main) Steve Cady Arena is adorned with team photos of every yearly edition.
"The Brotherhood" is an oath and code of ethics instituted by Coach Rico Blasi, and all the program history on display is there in some measure to convey to the players what is expected of them and who they represent.
Displays are setup for all the awards collected by the hockey team and also Miami's synchronized skating team (one of only two varsity programs in the nation), as well as areas for the arena's namesake and the esteemed donors who footed the bill for the place.
As you enter the seating bowl, under brilliant lights, you notice the NCAA tournament banners hanging from the rafters. I cringed at the sight of the one representing being a finalist in the 08-09 tourney. Again, in paying homage to the past, the old logo from when Miami's teams were still called the Redskins is emblazoned on an end zone wall across the rink from the modern RedHawk logo.
There's not a bad seat in the place, the highest sections are only twelve rows tall and are fairly steep so you can see down to the other end well. You're right on top of the rink, creating a great home ice advantage with the students standing the whole time in the six sections on the east side of the rink. The end zone on that side is elevated as there's a standing section below, right up against the glass. This was a feature from the old Goggin and I'm glad they kept it.
Something I found really interesting was that while the hockey game was going on in the main rink, the other parts of the center were just as active. Apparently a goal was to serve, not just the sports teams, but also the university and local community. In the attached practice rink, kids and students gathered for a public skate, complete with disco ball and pop music soundtrack. I was told by the facilities manager that Miami has incredibly popular intramural broomball and hockey leagues, and the practice rink serves as the home of the local high school hockey team.
Oxford is a small college town, so there's a good amount of quick service places along High Street, the town's main drag (a 10-15 minute walk from the arena). Chipotle, Jimmy John's and local chain Skyline Chili are all represented along with locals like Bruno's Pizza.
The bars are generally, you guessed it, college bars, so if that's not your scene, then I would suggest a place like the Quarter Barrel Brewery & Pub, a more low-key atmosphere, with an adventurous beer lineup. If you want to eat somewhere nicer, I would suggest Stella 12 Beech.
This may be the most pleasant game experience I've ever witnessed. Now don't misunderstand, the fans are loud, and into the game the whole time. It seems like the university really cultivates a family friendly environment, on each end of the rink there was the jerk hotline number in case people get out of line.
I didn't hear one expletive. The "worst" I heard was one agitated fan did yell out, "AW, HORSEPOOP!". In fact, people were so well behaved, a hat trick was scored by a RedHawk and not a single hat was thrown, I was told that activity was discouraged.
The band kept people engaged, and was a great change of pace if you're used to recorded music during breaks. Also, it was a nice touch for them to welcome the referees onto the ice with the Looney Tunes theme. The students bring a lot of energy and it's amusing to watch everyone do their "mashed potato" dance to House of Pain's "Jump Around' in the third period.
You can hunt for off-street parking (good luck with that), park near High Street if you're going to eat in that area before the game, or just park in the garage across a small lawn from the arena ($5).
Bathrooms are in the corners and it didn't appear the lines were ever bad in either the men's or women's restrooms. As far as the concourse, the lines at the concession stands between periods did clog up the walkway, but it's just a minor inconvenience.
$5 for parking, $48 for two tickets, $9 for a couple hot dogs and huge drink, not a bad deal. Great sightlines, lively atmosphere, decent concession prices. As a dad, I'll admit that I appreciated the lack of obnoxious (or drunk) fans. I wouldn't hesitate bringing my kid to a game.
A tip: Tickets sell out quickly, but if you call 1 or 2 weeks before a specific game, you can get great seats that the visiting school returned.
The pride the school shows in the history of the team is everywhere in the arena
A tip of the hat to the usher stationed next to the Miami bench, who after the game orchestrated a mass stick giveaway to the kids who waited patiently by the locker room tunnel. All the broken sticks that would be trashed were given to 15 or 16 kids, who got to leave with an awesome souvenir.
Goggin has become a blueprint for other schools to base their arena projects on. Penn State cited it as an influence for their soon to be constructed arena.
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