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  • Writer's picturePaul Baker

Hobey Baker Rink - Princeton Tigers

Photos by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.43

Hobey Baker Memorial Rink

200 Elm Drive

Princeton, NJ 08540

Princeton Tigers men’s hockey website

Hobey Baker Memorial Rink website

Year Opened: 1923

Capacity: 2,092


Making Hobey and Patty Proud

Hobart Armory Hare “Hobey” Baker is considered to be the first American ice hockey star. Perhaps the best athlete of his time, Baker starred for both the Princeton hockey and football teams and is the only person enshrined in both the Hockey and College Football Halls of Fame. Baker was one of the first nine inductees into the Hockey Hall of Fame, and the only American in its inaugural class. Baker was a member of three championship teams while enrolled at Princeton, for football in 1911 and hockey in 1912 and 1914. Baker died in service during World War I when the plane he was test-piloting crashed just hours before he was due to leave France and return home. The award for the best college hockey player in the country is named in his honor.

Hobey Baker Memorial Rink is the second oldest facility still in use today. Opened on January 5, 1923, only Matthews Arena on the campus of Northeastern University in Boston is older. In addition to serving as the home to Princeton’s men’s and women’s varsity hockey teams, Baker Rink hosts club and intramural hockey, figure skating, broomball, and various local recreational skating programs.

Hockey has been played at Princeton since 1912. Today the team competes in the ECAC hockey conference, as well as the Ivy League, which operates within the ECAC. The Tigers have won two conference championships and have appeared in the NCAA Tournament three times.

Food & Beverage 3

There is a concession stand at the far end of Hobey Baker Rink which offers a limited menu. Fans will find some items to tide them over during a Princeton game, not nothing too substantial. Hot dogs, crispy chicken sandwiches, pretzels and nachos are sold here, along with some snacks, including popcorn, cotton candy, chips and assorted candy.

Coca-Cola products are featured at Hobey Baker Rink. No alcohol is sold at this on-campus facility.

Fans who frequent Princeton athletic events should consider purchasing a souvenir mug. The mug costs five dollars, and can be refilled for one dollar at all Princeton games at any venue “in perpetuity.”

Atmosphere 3

When you are taking in a game at a rink as historic as Hobey Baker, you wouldn’t expect the typical presentation. In this regard, Princeton doesn’t disappoint. A Tiger hockey game is presented in a fairly laid-back, relaxed manner. Missing are the non-stop shenanigans present at so many college hockey games across the country, as it should be here.

From the 1970’s era dot-matrix scoreboard to the bleacher seating to the displays on the walls of the rink, everything about a Princeton hockey game at Hobey Baker Rink screams “historic.” It is kind of jarring to hear Jay-Z or Linkin Park blaring over the loudspeakers during play stoppages, though.

A disappointing aspect of the game day atmosphere here is the lack of any kind of support from the student body. There was no pep band present on a Friday night during my visit, even with traditional Ivy League rival Dartmouth in town. Even more disturbing was the almost total lack of representation from the student body, which left the entire student section empty. This section, which hovers over the opposing goalie for two periods, could produce incredible amounts of noise and intimidation if it were filled with rabid Princeton students. Instead, it sat empty and unused.

Neighborhood 4

Located roughly halfway between New York and Philadelphia, the town of Princeton is consistently ranked among the top places to live in the United States. Princeton University, established in 1756, is the fourth oldest institution of higher learning in the country. Known as one of the more attractive campuses in the nation, its legendary Collegiate Gothic architecture attracted some of the most prominent architects of their day.

Downtown Princeton is located a short walk from Hobey Baker Rink. Several bars, shops and restaurants line Palmer Square and Nassau Street. Locals tout Hoagie Haven as one of the best places in New Jersey for a sub sandwich. The Alchemist and Barrister boasts 28 beers on tap in a building that dates back to the 19th century.

Visitors from out of town will find plenty of places to stay near the Princeton campus.

Fans 3

Attendance at Princeton hockey games has been in a steady decline over the past few seasons, from an average of over 2,000 fans per game in 2012-13 to under 1,500 fans halfway through the 2017-18 season. Games against Ivy League foes are generally better attended, but getting tickets on gameday does not appear to be a problem. Fans in the building are a mix of locals and alums who know their hockey and are enthusiastic about the action on the ice.

Conspicuous by their absence is the student body. Only a handful of students are present at games, and the student section sat empty during Stadium Journey's visit early in December. This did not appear to be an aberration.

Access 3

From the exterior, Hobey Baker Rink hardly looks like a hockey arena, and it can be very difficult to find on a dark winter night if you are not familiar with the area. The rink’s total lack of signage doesn’t help visiting fans find the place. Speaking from experience, it is possible to be standing right in front of Baker Rink and not know you are there. There is a small plaque and ticket booth on the exterior of the building, but nothing else to advertise the second oldest college rink in the country.

There is a parking garage a short walk from Baker Rink, and ample on-street parking in the vicinity of the facility, but fans are not able to drive directly to the arena. For best results, drive behind the Princeton Commuter Rail Station and park in the West Parking Garage. It’s a short walk from there Baker Rink. If taking public transportation, the Princeton Commuter Rail Station of the New Jersey Transit is located only about a tenth of a mile away.

Hobey Baker Rink is a cozy, intimate facility. Fans will enter into a hallway on either side of the arena that runs the length of the facility. Several doorways lead into the seating area, which consists entirely of orange metal bleachers with backs. There are only six rows of seats surrounding the rink, meaning that no matter where you sit at Baker Rink, you’ll be close to the action. A steeply-pitched second deck is located at the far end of the arena and doubles as the student section.

Return on Investment 5

Tickets to Princeton hockey games are quite affordable, priced at $12 for adults and eight dollars for children under 12. Purchasing tickets on gameday costs an extra three dollars. Free parking is available in the West Parking Garage next to Baker Rink, and no item at the concession stand costs more than five dollars.

Extras 3

Hobey Baker Rink oozes with history. From the displays that honor Hobey Baker and Patty Kazmaier to the banners honoring conference champions and tournament teams to the photos of every Princeton squad to ever represent the school, over a century of Tiger hockey is chronicled throughout the building. Photos of alumni to make the NHL and National teams frame the portals into the arena and decorate the lobby.

The awards for the outstanding player of the year in both men’s and women’s hockey are named after Princeton alums. Both Baker and Kazmaier tragically died in their 20s.

Final Thoughts

At a time when many college rinks are being built with more and more bells and whistles designed to distract one’s attention away from the ice, it’s refreshing to find a game day experience much as it was decades ago. As Hobey Baker Rink approaches a century of use, it remains a most unique venue at which to take in a college hockey game and should be on any hockey fan’s bucket list.


Follow Paul Baker’s stadium journeys on Twitter @PuckmanRI.

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