Danbury Ice Arena - Danbury Jr. Hat Tricks
Photos by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.00
Danbury Ice Arena 1 Independence Way Danbury, CT 06810
Year Opened: 1999 Capacity: 3,000
Hat City Junior Hockey
The former Scranton/Wilkes Barre Knights of the Tier II junior North American Hockey League relocated to Danbury, CT for the 2020-21 season. The team came under the umbrella of DP 110 LLC, the owners of the Danbury Ice Arena, who also own the Danbury Hat Tricks of the Federal Prospects Hockey League and the Danbury Jr. Hat Tricks of the Tier III NA3HL.
No story about hockey in Danbury and more specifically, the Danbury Ice Arena, can be told without first mentioning James Galante and the Danbury Trashers. In 2004 Galante was awarded an expansion hockey team in the United Hockey League. Needing a place to play, he renovated the local community rink, the Danbury Ice Arena, using three million dollars of his own money. He named the team the Trashers after his waste management company and installed his 17-year-old son A.J. as general manager. 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. 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. Sports Illustrated, ESPN and the Atlantic have done features on the Galantes and the Trashers, and rumors circulate that there is a movie in the works about the Trashers.
Food & Beverage 4
*Stadium Journey took in a game in the COVID-ravaged 2020-21 season. At the time of our visit, the concession stands were not open. For purposes of this review, we will try to reflect normal operations at DIA. If you visit during the 2020-21 season, some drinks are sold at the front desk. Fans are welcome to bring in their own snacks.
Community rinks often have sneaky-good concession options, and the Danbury Ice Arena is no exception. With the facility in use almost continuously, the need for all kinds of snack and beverage options is obvious. The “Rabbit Hole” does not disappoint.
The menu offers a good variety of arena fare, including hot dogs, burgers, chicken fingers, pizza slices, chicken strips, nachos and Jersey Mike’s subs. Any item can be turned into a combo meal with the addition of fries and a drink. Fans looking for just a snack can choose from pretzels, popcorn, mozzarella sticks and French fries. Fans looking for something simpler can select from an array of cookies, candy, pop-tarts and numerous other snacks.
Coca-Cola products are featured at the Danbury Ice Arena in both fountain and bottled form. Fans looking for an adult beverage can select from a wide selection of beers and mixed drinks at both the concession window and the Rabbit Hole bar in the lobby. Budweiser, Bud Light, Amstel Light and Coors are available on draft. Connecticut hockey fans will definitely want to try the New Haven Nighthawk Light beer sold at the Rabbit Hole bar.
*Stadium Journey visited DIA during the 2020-21 season with coronavirus restrictions in place. Limited crowd size and social distancing were in effect during our visit.
The gameday staff at the Danbury Ice Arena put on your typical minor league hockey experience. The small size of the facility does affect what they can do, but Danbury hockey fans are known for their frenzied support of their local teams. Although the halcyon days of the Trashers are long gone and the atmosphere is much more relaxed and family friendly, there is no shortage of enthusiasm for the home team.
New scoreboards on either end of the rink display basic game stats. The long-dormant video board on the north end of the rink is now finally operational, but it severely underused. With many events going on simultaneously at this community rink, there is a serious buzz at the Danbury Arena.
In addition to games and/or public skating at the two rinks, there is a full-service bar (see above), an arcade, and if the website is to be believed, an axe-throwing bar is planned and there is even live music at times in the lobby.
Danbury is a small city with a population of just over 85,000 located on the Connecticut/New York state line. For a while in the late 19th and early 20th centuries Danbury was known as the center of the American Hat Industry. In 2015 USA Today named Danbury as the second-best city to live in the United States.
The Danbury Ice Arena is located downtown, near several points of interest for visitors. The Danbury Railway Museum is located nearby, as is the campus of Western Connecticut State University. Fans looking for a good pregame spot to eat should check out Two Steps Downtown Grille located near the arena, or TK’s American Café, which features over 70 flavors of chicken wings.
With 2020-21 being the inaugural season for the Jr. Hat Tricks, it’s difficult to get an accurate gauge on attendance at this point. The team opened up for a limited number of fans late in the season, and early response appears strong.
Fans in attendance appear to have a strong connection with the team, either as billet families or fans of the other Danbury teams. Many fans already sport the orange and black of the Jr. Hat Tricks, as the branding across the three teams owned by the arena group is identical.
*COVID precautions are front and center during Hat Trick games in 2020-21. All guests are required to sign a COVID liability waiver. Capacity is limited to about 200 fans. Several rows of seating are blocked off and social distancing is in effect throughout the building. Masks must be worn at all times in DIA.
The city of Danbury is located in southwestern Connecticut on 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.
Interstate 84 passes through Danbury about 2 miles from Danbury Ice Arena. The rink is well-connected to public transportation, with several routes of the Housatonic Area Regional Transit system running near the facility. The Metro North Railway has a stop near the Arena, connecting passengers to south coast Connecticut cities and New York City. For fans driving to Danbury, there is ample parking in the Terrence E. McNally Patriot Garage across the street from the facility.
The Danbury Ice Arena consists of two rinks, so the facility is in constant use. Fans coming to see a Hat Trick game will enter into the main concourse, where a table selling tickets and merchandise is located. The facility is a busy one, with youth hockey, birthday parties, public skating and even live music all going on at the same time.
Fans enter the arena at ice level, with the majority of the seating located on the opposite side of the ice. Seating consists of metal bleachers, with some sections covered by molded plastic. There are some seating sections, including a luxury box, on the near side of the facility. These sections are located above the ice and are accessible via staircases in the lobby. Seats in these 200-level sections offer obstructed views of the ice surface. Visiting fans may be interested in the two humorously small seating sections at one end of the rink. Section 108 seats a whopping four fans! There is a good amount of standing room available around the ice surface, which fills up quickly.
With all the activity going on at DIA, the lobby can get crowded at times and long lines may form during intermission. Restrooms in the lobby are more than adequate for the needs of the facility.
Return on Investment 3
All seats at Danbury Ice Arena for Jr. Hat Trick games are sold as general admission for $17. Parking is available in the Patriot Garage across the street from the arena for $4.50. There is some on-street parking available in the facility for those willing to search for it. The team warns visitors not to park in the surface lots nearby, as these lots practice an aggressive towing policy. Concession prices are reasonable when compared to other facilities in the area.
An extra point is awarded for the colorful history of the Danbury Ice Arena. New touches include banners honoring all the teams that have called Danbury home, from the Trashers to the Titans.
A second extra point is awarded for the many extra things to do at Danbury Ice Arena, from the arcade to the axe throwing bar to the Rabbit Hole bar. A hockey game may not be the sole focus of your time here.
The Danbury Ice Arena may not be the prettiest or most comfortable place to catch a hockey game, but it sure is a fun place to visit. Danbury is a great hockey city with an interesting past and a promising future. You may come to the Danbury Ice Arena for a hockey game, but you may end up staying for any number of reasons.