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  • Writer's picturePaul Baker

Matthews Arena - Northeastern Huskies Hockey

Photos by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.00

Matthews Arena 238 St. Botolph St Boston, MA 02115

Year Opened: 1910

Capacity: 4,666


You’re in the Doghouse

The city of Boston has a rich sports history, and its venues are some of the most revered in the nation - Fenway Park, Boston Garden, and Harvard Stadium. But there is an arena that pre-dates all of them that is still in use today-Matthews Arena on the campus of Northeastern University.

Originally named Boston Arena, the facility was named for George and Martha Matthews in 1982. Mr. Matthews, class of 1956, serves as chairman emeritus of the Northeastern Board of Trustees. The arena was the original home of both the Boston Bruins in 1924 and the New England Whalers in 1972, as well as the occasional home of the Boston Celtics in the 1940s and 1950s. Virtually every college hockey team in the area, including all four Beanpot schools, has called this arena home. Matthews Arena is the oldest indoor hockey rink in the world still in use today.

Muhammed Ali trained here, and many of boxing’s biggest names, such as Gene Tunney, Joe Louis, Marvin Hagler, and Jack Dempsey fought here. The Frozen Four was held at Matthews Arena in 1960, as was the original Beanpot hockey tournament. More recently, the World Junior Hockey Championships were held here in 1995.

Matthews Arena has always been more than just a sporting venue. Every president from Theodore Roosevelt to John Kennedy visited the site, as have Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton. Charles Lindberg and Amelia Earhart hosted events here. Concerts by artists as diverse as The Doors, Jerry Lee Lewis, Marvin Gaye, Ludacris, Bob Dylan, The Roots, Chuck Berry and Phish were held at Matthews Arena.

Today, Matthews Arena serves as home to Northeastern men’s and women’s hockey teams, as well as the men’s basketball team and the Wentworth Institute of Technology hockey team. Various area high-school teams also call Matthews Arena home.

The Northeastern men’s hockey team is the least decorated of the four “Beanpot” schools that compete in NCAA Division One hockey. Northeastern has won the prestigious Boston hockey tournament seven times, the least among the four participating schools. The team has qualified for the NCAA tournament eight times, advancing to the Frozen Four in 1982. 26 former Huskies have played in the National Hockey League.

Food & Beverage 3

There are a pair of concession stands in the lobby. A larger stand offers a full menu while the second, smaller stand in the back only serves snacks. Hungry Husky fans can choose from hot dogs, veggie burgers, chicken fingers, and grilled chicken sandwiches. Sides including French fries, nachos, pretzels, and popcorn are also available. Coca-Cola products are featured at Matthews Arena. In the past, the Varsity Club sold alcoholic beverages during games, but it is unclear if that is still the case.

While the menu at Matthews Arena is not extensive, the prices are affordable, and the quality of food served is decent.

Atmosphere 5

The driving force behind the game day atmosphere of any self-respecting college arena is the presence of student sections and pep bands. Northeastern does not disappoint in either of these areas. The student section, known as “The Doghouse,” dominates the atmosphere at Matthews Arena. Students fill the balcony sections on both ends of the arena, hanging over the ice and filling the old barn with noise throughout the action.

Armed with a repertoire of chants, traditions, and routines, the students are as much part of the action as the players on the ice. They are supported by an excellent pep band, who perform during all play stoppages. Not content with letting the band play alone, the students continue singing when playing continues. The overwhelming feature of Matthews Arena is the video board installed in 2019.

The sight of this gigantic scoreboard in this historic venue can be quite jarring. Measuring 50 feet long by 13.5 feet high, the scoreboard is put to good use throughout the game with replays, game stats, promotions, and media shout-outs. Fans with old-school sensibilities may not enjoy the intrusion of modern technology in the old barn, but Northeastern staff has done a nice job integrating modern technology in this historic location.

Neighborhood 5

Northeastern University is located near Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood, one of the city’s most popular tourist destinations. The Fens neighborhood and South End are also within walking distance of the University. Many of Boston’s major attractions are located just fairly close to Matthews Arena.

Fans looking for a place to eat before or after the game will have no trouble finding a spot within a short walk of Matthews Arena. Dos Diablos Tacos and Darryl’s Corner Bar & Kitchen are favorites of the student body. Visiting fans looking for some local flavor will gravitate to The Westland, Boston Shawarma, and 465 Bar & Restaurant.

Fans visiting from out of town will want to check out the Prudential Center and Copley Place, located just a few blocks from Matthews Arena.

Symphony Hall is just around the corner from the venue, and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts is a short walk away. While walking around Boston during the cold winter months may not be recommended, most of Boston’s attractions are easily accessed by a short subway ride.

Fans 4

Husky fans can be a fickle lot, avoiding less glamourous matchups while packing the old barn for marquee games. Average attendance for the 2021-22 season was about 2,100 fans per game, marking a slight dip from pre-Covid seasons and placing Northeastern right in the middle of all Division One hockey schools in the country.

Northeastern’s membership in Hockey East guarantees that many nationally ranked teams will visit Matthews Arena every year. These games are well attended, with the proximity of the teams in the conference guaranteeing a solid turnout by visiting fans. When Matthews Arena is full, there is an incredible atmosphere in the old barn.

Hockey is the marquee sport at Northeastern, and a solid turnout from the student body is a given no matter when you visit Matthews Arena. Led by the antics of the Doghouse, there’s a ton of energy and noise in the building.

Photo courtesy of the Boston Globe

Access 4

Matthews Arena is located on the eastern edge of Northeastern’s urban campus, near the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Huntington Avenue. Even though Matthews Arena is easy to find, that doesn’t make it easy to get to. The ever-present Boston traffic, never-ending construction projects, and streets that date back to colonial days make Boston a tough city to drive in. Directions to Matthews Arena can be found here.

Many local fans will choose to take public transportation to Matthews Arena. The MBTA, known locally as the “T”, drops fans off just a couple of blocks from the arena. The E-train of the Green line has a station at Symphony Hall, and the Orange Line has a stop on Massachusetts Avenue. At just $2.75 for a fare, the T is an affordable alternative for visiting Husky fans.

Fans visiting Matthews Arena will pass under an ornate entry arch into the main lobby. The ticket office, concession stands, and restrooms are all located here. The arena will be located to your right, accessible by a pair of walkways. Seats at Matthews Arena are separated into loge and balcony sections. All seats have excellent views of the action, although some lower-level seats will have an obstructed view of the scoreboard and banners due to the overhang of the balcony.

Fans will have no problem navigating Matthews Arena during a typical game. Expect some long lines when accessing concessions or restrooms during intermissions.

Return on Investment 3

Tickets for Northeastern hockey games cost $30 for premium seats (along the sides of the rink) and $25 for regular (end zone) seats. Youth tickets are discounted at $15. Parking can be had for no charge (yes, you read that right, free parking in Boston) at the Camden Lot located just on the other side of the train tracks from the Arena. As you can imagine, this lot fills quickly. Other lots around Matthews Arena start at $27 for gameday parking.

Many fans will opt to skip the congestion and cost of driving in Boston, and simply take the T to Matthews Arena. Both the Orange and Green Lines pass within a few blocks of Matthews Arena, and a one-way fare is just $2.75. The Number One bus also has a stop at the arena.

Photo courtesy of the New York Times

Extras 4

They just don’t build arenas like this anymore, and that alone is worth an extra point. The exposed brick, the steel tresses, and the entry arch that has greeted Boston sports fans for over a century all harken to an earlier time.

The history of Matthews Arena is worth another point. It bears repeating that this is the oldest indoor rink still in use anywhere in the world. The Boston Bruins started here. The Carolina Hurricanes played their first games here (as the New England Whalers of the WHA). The Boston Celtics played here frequently. Presidents, dignitaries, as well as athletes and musicians have visited this site.

There is a history here that just can’t be duplicated elsewhere. Less than a half mile from Matthews Arena is a statue of Cy Young, located on the site of the pitcher's mound at Huntington Grounds, where the first World Series was held.

Some of this history is on display at Matthews Arena. In addition to banners honoring the success achieved by Northeastern basketball and hockey teams, there are banners reminding fans of where the Celtics and Bruins got their starts. Pictures of every varsity hockey team to represent the school are displayed in the lobby.

There is also a banner honoring Reggie Lewis, the local basketball star who studied at Northeastern and went on to become an All-Star and captain with the Celtics before passing away of a heart condition while still playing for the team. His funeral was held at Matthews Arena.

A final extra point is awarded to the Doghouse, one of the most active and entertaining student sections in the country. They may be worth the price of admission all by themselves.

Final Thoughts

Many buildings use the term “historic” as a synonym for “old”. Matthews Arena truly presents as the former, even as it continues to function as the oldest indoor rink still being used in the world. Renovations have kept the facility up-to-date without sacrificing the historic features of the rink. Matthews Arena is a must-see for any hockey historian.

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

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