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Official Review by Sean Rowland, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
At Yale University, where history can be found at every step, it should come as no surprise that the hockey team is the oldest in the country. Contrary to the prestigious academic side of Yale, the first century of Bulldogs hockey was anything but. It took 47 years just to win their first conference tournament, and only twice from 1948 to 2008 did the school make the NCAA tournament. However, fortunes changed in 2009 when Yale put together a string of good teams that took home hardware. This was capped off with a historic run to the 2013 NCAA title, where the Bulldogs beat nearby emerging rival, Quinnipiac. Now, a competitive team can match a unique hockey experience as the Elis play at Ingalls Rink, a place like no other in college hockey. Completed in 1958, famous architect Eero Saarinen’s wavy design has a distinctive “whale-like” appearance both inside and out. Though it is more comfortable to stand and watch the game as opposed to sitting, the Yale hockey experience is a good one worth checking out.
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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".
With limited food options, it is best to grab dinner before the game. A pair of concession stands offer snacks in the form of nachos ($4), peanuts ($3) and chips ($2) to go along with a hot dog ($4). Various assortments of candy are also available, in addition to vending machines in the lower-level hallway. Drinks all go for $3, with Coca-Cola as the soda provider. It is nice to have coffee and hot chocolate available, as the rink is cold.
No other college hockey arena is defined more by architectural design than Yale's Ingalls Rink. Upon first glance, Eero Saarinen's undulating building is recognizable as a whale, and the look is distinctive. Inside, the roof is captivating, with the "backbone" arcing over the middle and the "ribs" supporting the roof. The seating bowl seems to flow with the design, as well, with the sombrero-like shape topped off by a walkway that surrounds the arena at the top. The seats themselves are a little uncomfortable as wooden bleachers. While all fans are close to the ice, sightlines become poorer when heading away from the sections towards the middle that increase with height. In fact, the walkway behind the seats provides the best vantage point, and many fans choose to stand instead of sit, which is saying something for the bowl below.
With excellent team displays and rafter banners, there is a lot at Ingalls Rink that honors the Yale hockey team. A mostly-filled building during game nights offers a decent college atmosphere, as a pep band takes turns with the piped-in arena music to provide entertainment.
Yale's campus is intertwined with downtown New Haven, and the rink is situated in the northern part of campus. I highly recommend either taking an official tour of Yale or just making a long walk around, as the history and architecture is awesome. One beautiful street to stroll down is Hillhouse Ave, as the tree-lined road protects the old houses and buildings that have been in place since at least the 1800s. Yale is also home to several museums within walking distance from the arena, and if you just have time for one, check out the Peabody Museum of Natural History and its Great Hall of Dinosaurs.
Ingalls Rink features academic buildings on one side and houses on the other, so for pre-game meals, it will take a walk to Whitney Ave. New Haven has become a dining hotspot, and there are many bars, lounges and restaurants to check out. The city's certain style of pizza (or apizza) is a must-try, as the neapolitan style with the seasoned thin crust unique to the local area. Wooster Square is the spot to head to, and though parking is a pain in the city, it is worth a visit to either Sally's or Frank Pepe's. The other pizza choice is Modern Apizza on State Street, which many locals tout as their preferred choice. After one slice, I can agree.
It took a while for fans to fill the arena at the game I attended. The seats were hardly half-full as the puck dropped on a Friday night game against a conference opponent. However, through the first period, the crowd filled in and Yale played to about 3,000 people. Though the building is noisy, that is more based on acoustics, as opposed to fan-generated sounds. Many in the crowd react to the play with "oohs" and "ahhs," until a goal or significant play generates applause and a decent roar. There certainly is a good deal of care exhibited by the fans, and much of the building is made up of long-time season ticket holders. As one would expect, games against Harvard lead to an early-arriving packed house that turns quite vocal.
New Haven is at the intersection of I-91 and I-95, thus making for easy access. Exit 3 from I-91 leads right into Trumbull Street, and then a right turn on Prospect brings those arriving by vehicle to the arena. There is a parking garage next to Ingalls, and it is found by turning into the surrounding access road. The $5 garage only opens 1.5 hours before game time, so for those spending the day in Yale, expensive alternate parking is needed. Also, leave some extra time for traffic, as Connecticut's highways are frequently congested, especially I-95. When departing from the garage, it does get a little backed up, and to avoid chaos near the entrance, use the left lane if turning left on Prospect Ave or the right lane if returning to the city and I-91/I-95 access.
New Haven is the last stop on the Metro-North Railroad; thus, anyone within the Tri-State area can use public transit and not need a car, as Ingalls Rink is about a mile walk from the State St station.
Inside the rink, there is not a lot of space. The opening entrance is only steps from the seats, and this leads to crowding near the front doors. Only the walkway around the top of the rink disperses fans, and that can be jammed at the intermissions. Down below, the Heritage Area does offer an additional spot to walk, use the bathroom or buy a snack, but again, space is limited. The other set of bathrooms is at the north end of the arena, and any formed lines at least move quickly.
Ticket price varies on the game, but for the most part they average around $12 - $20. With many of the seats reserved for season ticket holders and students, the available sections are not great, and a cheaper standing-room ticket may be a better option. Throw in $5 parking and a generally expensive city, and this college hockey experience is a little more pricey than normal. However, the history and uniqueness of the rink, along with the prestige of the university, make Ingalls a worthwhile visit.
The memorabilia display cases near the main entrance of the arena, along with a ceiling full of banners and achievements already give Yale hockey a great representation. However, the real story begins in a somewhat hidden lower level, where a relatively new "Heritage Area" features beautiful displays that perfectly showcase the long history of hockey at Yale. To go along with a timeline, blue and white panels describe various pieces of history that are focused on players, coaches, milestones, arenas and memorable moments. Be sure not to miss this section of the arena.
Worth another point is the building's design. In a league like the ECAC, where drab, uniform buildings are common, Ingalls Rink has stood out for more than 50 years. There are not too many sports facilities who receive mention in The American Institute of Architects, but Ingalls is one of them.
Attending a game at Yale is highlighted by being in an arena unlike any other, as The Whale is captivating. Sitting under the high-arcing, undulating roof is a seating area that certainly is old-school and though the best option may be to stand, it is definitively college hockey. The program is doing well and fans fill a good portion of the building to make Ingalls Rink a worthy Stadium Journey.
Follow all of Sean's journeys at Stadium and Arena Visits.
Member Review by puckmanri on Dec 09, 2013
Named after Yale alumni and hockey captains David S. Ingalls, Yale class of 1920 and David S. Ingalls Jr., Yale class of 1956, Ingalls rink was designed by famed architect Eero Saarinen, Yale class of 1934. In addition to captaining their respective Yale hockey teams, the Ingalls were the largest benefactors of the rink. The arena features a distinctive humpbacked roof supported by a 300 foot backbone meant to suggest the speed and grace of an ice skater. This roof gives Ingalls Rink its nickname, the “Yale Whale”. The building was included on the America's Favorite Architecture list, created in 2007 by the American Institute of Architects.
With an announced capacity of 3,500, Ingalls Rink consists of 16 sections of wooden bleachers with seat backs. Due to the unique design of the arena, every section is a different shape and size. Standing room is available at the top of the seating bowl for the entire circumference of the rink. Ingalls Rink hosts not only the Yale men’s and women’s varsity hockey teams, but also Yale Club Hockey, Yale College Intramural hockey, the Yale Figure Skating Club, Yale Youth Hockey, university skating, and many other recreational skating groups. This rink is almost constantly in use.
Member Review by diloveshockey on Dec 09, 2013
One of the greatest places to see a college hockey game. There's nothing more exciting, than being inside the Whale!!! Great architecture, and fabulous history in the basement. Not to mention the high tech training facilities for the teams.
Member Review by sportsroadtrips on Dec 08, 2014
If you want a cheap snack, try the vending machines on the lower level. Games last two hours, so avoid the food here and eat at one of the nearby bars or restaurants, I like Box63 about 10 minutes away.
The rink is cool on the outside and on the inside. Get there a little early and check out the downstairs displays dedicated to a growing program. Their 2013 championship banner is superb, a testament to how a relatively small school can succeed in NCAA hockey.
You can walk here from downtown New Haven, so no comment on parking. Tickets are cheap and well worth the investment. Places like this are what makes sports travel so rewarding.
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