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Official Review by Marc Viquez, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Hobey Baker Memorial Rink is a 2,092 seat hockey arena that is home to the Princeton University hockey program. Construction began in 1922 and the rink opened on January 5, 1923, making it the second oldest facility used in college hockey after Matthews Arena on the campus of Northeastern University in Boston.
The arena’s namesake is for former Princeton star Hobey Baker who is considered the first American hockey star and was one of the first nine inductees to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1945. Hobey was an all around athlete on campus also excelling on the gridiron for the Tigers. A World War I veteran, tragically Baker lost his life after a plane he was test-piloting crashed hours before he was to leave France and return to the United States in December 1918. The annual Hobey Baker Award is given to the best NCAA men’s hockey player.
The rather unassuming structure is nestled into campus and blends in quite well with other buildings. The gray, rough-hewn stone walls and arching roof look more like a class building than a hockey rink, but the angled, curved glass windows provide a glimpse inside the rink’s ice and stands. It does not feature a marquee entrance or even signage, and perhaps one might think it looks like an entrance to a church. However, inside lies a first-class ice rink, perfect for collegiate hockey.
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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 rink features one main concourse for concession items of hot dogs, popcorn, pretzels, nachos, and candy bar varieties. Coca-Cola products are available. However, all of these items make for a nice snack during the game rather than a meal. It would be wise to grab dinner somewhere in town before the game.
The arena is very small and compact with seats no more than five rows from the ice and balcony seats that sit rather steep over the end of the ice. The fans do not pack the house, but many in attendance are there to cheer on their Tiger heroes on the ice. It is a crowd that can get very loud throughout the game and the metal chairs they stand on create even more noise once banged upon from a few feet and hands.
The multiple banners and retired numbers of Baker and Patty Kazmaier, who also died tragically young from a rare bone disease, are both stitched with the phrase "Make Hobey and Patty Proud". Perhaps that is what most in the crowd want to do as they make sure they are heard throughout the building. However, there are more trophies, plaques, and portraits of these two Princeton icons in the main lobby that show us why we should be proud of these two legends.
A simple electronic scoreboard hovers over center ice similar to the one that hangs over center court in the nearby Jadwin Gymnasium basketball arena. A few more simple touches are the arched doorway entrances, Princeton shield logo, and the gray, rough-hewn stone walls that are visible at both ends of the rink.
Perhaps the best part of attending any Princeton hockey game is the campus and neighborhood. The population of the area exceeds 30,000 and offers a mix of suburban sprawl and vast open space. The fourth oldest university in the country offers historic buildings, open gardens, beautiful walkways, and spacious grounds throughout the 500-acre campus. It is easily accessible by bike, car, public transit, or walking.
The downtown section of Princeton is worth an endeavor before or after the game; shops, bars, and restaurants along Palmer Square provide visitors numerous opportunities to enjoy the ambiance of the city. The Alchemist & Barrister offers 28 beers on tap and is located in a historic building that dates back to the 19th century. There is open air and sidewalk seating where one can enjoy a drink or something to eat.
If you are looking for just a quick bite, Hoagie Haven is noted as one of the state's best places for a sub sandwich. The Sanchez, a chicken cutlet with cheese, mozzarella sticks, fries, and Sanchez sauce is a local favorite. The Infini-T Cafe is a small, quaint little restaurant offering vegan options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
There are plenty of lodging options in town and the surrounding area. The Westin, Courtyard, Residence Inn, Homewood Suites and Hampton Inn are just a few of the hotels a visitor will find when staying in the vicinity.
The fans make their presence well into the game and unlike some other college venues, there is not a lot of signature chants or cheers from the Princeton crowd. However, they are focused on the game, critical from the stands on certain plays, and rushed with emotion when a goal is scored by the Tigers. A great crowd that enjoys being at the game.
Hobey Baker Rink is somewhat tricky to find at first, but it is almost sitting on top of the New Jersey Princeton station a few yards away. Parking is available in a small lot for free adjacent to the arena, or in other lots on campus. There is also meter parking that is free after 8 PM on weekday nights.
Public transit might make for an easy way to get to the game from other parts of the state as Princeton is on the Northeast Corridor Line between Philadelphia and New York. Fees vary depending on time of day and distance. The rink is also easily accessible by car off of US-1.
Depending on the crowd, access throughout the rink is quick and easy. However, the balcony seats on top are extremely steep. All of the bathrooms and concession stands are located in the main lobby at the entrance of the building.
Tickets cost $10 for the main level and $6 in the balcony level. A very affordable way to spend the night watching collegiate hockey in a historic arena. The concession items are a simple, but make a light treat. Hobey Baker makes for an interesting game day experience and for less than a movie ticket, well worth watching Ivy League hockey at its finest.
One star for the various photos, plaques, and awards for the arena's namesake Hobey Baker. His legacy is well intact on the campus of Princeton University.
A second star for the photos and collages of former Princeton greats who once called the rink home during their collegiate days. There is a lot to look at during intermission or before the game in the main lobby or inside the rink.
Hobey Baker Memorial Rink is a historic facility in its 8th decade its service. It is somewhat surprising to know that somethings remain the same. The rink is effectively still serving its purpose as unique venue for collegiate sports and one that should leave an impression with anyone who watches a game in its cozy complex.
Member Review by BallparkEGuides on Nov 28, 2012
The Hobey Baker Rink in Princeton doesn’t look like a hockey rink from the outside. It’s a very old building built with a cobblestone-style exterior. If one were simply looking for a hockey rink, it isn’t the easiest thing to find based on outside appearance.
The first question you might ask is, “how old is this place?”
The Baker Rink doesn’t look like it was built for ice hockey—it looks as though it was built before the sport was invented. But indeed it was built expressly for hockey, way back in 1923. It is named after Hobart “Hobey” Baker, a Princeton hockey player that the Hockey Hall of Fame considers to be the first American hockey star. He was also a war hero, the commander of the 141st Aero Squadron in World War I. Baker died in a plane crash in France just before he was due to return to America.
So yes, it’s old, and yes, Princeton was once known for a championship college ice hockey program. There’s a lot more history at Hobey Baker Rink than one would expect.
Despite its age, the place definitely has a college sports charm about it, and there’s one thing that makes it great for college hockey: it is loud. NHL fans would need some time to get used to the echo of a puck whacking against the boards, and a crowd of 2,000 can sound like 20,000 when the Princeton Tigers score a goal. It brings home realness that tends to get drowned out at modern NHL arenas these days.
Wherever you sit at the Baker Rink, you’re right on top of the action. Most of the seating is five or six rows of benches with backs on the sides of the rink, and every seat is a good one, putting patrons just feet away from hard checks into the boards. A puck flying into the glass definitely produces a flinch factor.
On the Princeton goal’s end is an elevated press box; on the opposing team’s end is a balcony with a few extra hundred seats. These seats are just concrete steps with a hard padding on them, similar to Wrigley Field’s bleachers, and frankly, with the few railings to grab onto while getting to them, they’re a bit unnerving and even dangerous to get to. The seats aren’t any cheaper, but the balcony is popular, possibly because for the first and third periods Princeton goals are scored at this end. Even with designated seats, it’s almost treated as general admission by everyone.
Member Review by GaryButterworth on May 10, 2013
I firmly believe that if Princeton hockey did any advertising whatsoever, this would be the hottest ticket in the state of New Jersey.
That's a big claim, so I'll tone it down somewhat. I'm not saying Princeton is the next Minnesota, but there's a decent hockey market in Central NJ that has been properly served since the Trenton Titans folded the first time. Princeton is a few hours from the next closest D1 NCAA team (Army?), so there are no mixed allegiances. The hockey is good, and the arena's a gem. Princeton should be able to sell 4-5 thousand tickets regularly, especially with the ECAC on the upswing. But this little rink only holds 2k, and even then it doesn't sell out often. I can't think of any reason for this except for a lack of awareness.
The food is among the worst in sports, and the balcony is obstructed view. Aside from that, it's a great place to see a game. For once, pictures actually do a place justice. Take a look at some photos, realize how unique this place is, and pay it a visit some time.
Depending on the mood I'm in, Baker Rink may even sneak into my top 10.
Member Review by Blonders on Mar 22, 2016
28 Witherspoon St
Princeton, NJ 08542
Princeton, NJ 08542