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  • Writer's picturePaul Baker

Milford Ice Pavilion - Sacred Heart Pioneers

Photos by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info

Milford Ice Pavilion 291 Bic Drive Milford CT 06460

Year Opened: 1975

Capacity: 1,000

Pioneers at the Pavilion

The Milford Ice Pavilion, or “MIP”, has been the home of the Sacred Heart Men’s and Women’s Ice Hockey programs since their inceptions in 1993. Featuring general admission bleacher seating, the cozy confines of the MIP ensure that fans are right on top of the action.

Sacred Heart, with its 6000 total students, is the second largest catholic university in New England. The Pioneers compete in the Atlantic Hockey Conference along with several other small universities in the northeast. The Athletic Department as a whole made headlines last year with their hiring of former major league baseball player and manager Bobby Valentine as their Athletic Director.

Food and Beverage 3

Marty’s snack bar is located adjacent to the bleachers at the MIP. Voted best snack bar of any ice arena in Connecticut, it certainly has one of the most ambitious and impressive menus that you will ever see in a snack bar of it size anywhere. All the standards are here, featuring bottles of Coca-Cola products, juices, waters, and Powerades of every color of the rainbow. Fountain sodas are also available for those who prefer their beverages that way. For those looking for something a little more substantial, pizza, burgers, hot dogs, BLT’s, grilled cheese, French fries, chicken nuggets, and egg sandwiches are available. Marty’s also boasts a wide variety of sandwiches, such as chicken parmesan, sausage and peppers, meatball, and steak and cheese. Fans looking for snacks will be pleased to find assorted baked goods, cookies, nachos, popcorn, and pretzels. Try the house special heated chocolate chip cookie with whipped cream and a cherry on top to satisfy that sweet tooth. For those feeling a bit too chilled by the cold ice rink temperatures, different varieties of soup are available.

The menu at Marty’s is so vast that it would be impossible to list all the items sold here. The snack bar opens bright and early in the morning to serve all the hockey moms and dads carting their pee-wees off to an early morning skate all day long through the Sacred Heart games in the evening. Prices are very affordable, with no item costing more than $5. If you need to eat while at a Pioneer game, you won’t need more than $10 to completely fill up. There are major arenas with less variety in their menus than is seen at Marty’s. The quality is decent, the prices are good, and lines move quickly.

Atmosphere 2

There is not much of a game-time atmosphere during Sacred Heart games at the MIP. What energy there is here is entirely due to the presence of the Sacred Heart pep band. They are very active throughout the game, and do their best to both pump up the home squad and intimidate the visitors. Unfortunately, with the small size of the crowds at the MIP, their efforts largely are for naught. Shuttle busses are available from the nearby SHU campus, but few students make the trek from Fairfield to Milford.

Attending a game at the MIP is a no-frills, basic experience. There are no in-game promotions, giveaways, or extras here. Music doesn’t blast over a high-grade PA system during play stoppages. In fact, there are several times during a game that the PA system is playing music at the same time the pep band is performing. Those looking for an elaborate in-game presentation will not find it here.

Another factor working against the Pioneers here is the fact that they can hardly even be considered the primary tenant in their own rink. There is a striking trophy case in the MIP lobby, but every item inside it is from the various youth teams that call the Milford Ice Pavilion home. Inside the arena are located several banners commemorating local high school teams and the aforementioned youth teams. Sacred Heart banners can be found, but they are mixed in with all the others, and given no preferential treatment whatsoever. This NCAA Division I program is on an equal footing in this regard with a team made up of 8 to 10 year olds. It doesn’t make for much of a home ice advantage.

Neighborhood 2

The Milford Ice Pavilion is located just off Interstate 95 on the edge of a residential area. There is nothing to do in the immediate area of the arena, so fans looking for food or lodging in the immediate area will follow Bic Drive south to Route 1, located about a mile away from the MIP. Route 1 runs parallel to Interstate 95 a short distance from the MIP, and there is no shortage of places to eat or stay on this route. Unfortunately, the majority of the eateries on this road belong to national chains. For fans willing to search a little harder, there are gems to be found in the area. Milford, however, is not considered to be a destination city. Hockey fans travelling to the area will most likely continue on to New York, Hartford, or nearby New Haven. New Haven is located 15 minutes to the east of Milford, and has a multitude of museums, fine architecture, and a growing reputation as one of the finer culinary cities of its size in the nation.

Fans 1

Crowds at the Milford Ice Pavilion average in the 200-300 range, and would be best described as a “friends and family” type of crowd. Despite the availability of shuttle busses for students to get to the game from campus, there is a minimal turnout from the student body. What students do turn out are generally there to watch the game, not to get engaged in the antics seen at so many other college venues. With several opposing teams located a short distance from the MIP, a decent turnout from visiting fans happens regularly, with the visiting fans at times outnumbering the locals.

Access 3

The MIP is located on the southern coast of Connecticut in the area known as the “Gold Coast”. The Sacred Heart campus is located 12 miles away in neighboring Fairfield. This area of Connecticut is very heavily traveled, as New York City is only an hour’s drive away on Interstate 95. Fans traveling to the area by air can fly into New York or Hartford, located just over an hour to the north. From either of those cities, travel by car is the most efficient method to arrive at Sacred Heart.

The Milford Ice Pavilion couldn’t be much easier to get to. If driving, take exit 35 off of Interstate 95. Turn onto Bic Drive, and the MIP is a third of a mile ahead on the right. The town of Milford has a train station that is a regular stop on Amtrak’s busy Northeast corridor route, located 3 miles from the MIP. Local bus routes do not directly serve the MIP. Driving is the only practical method for arriving at the MIP.

Once inside the MIP, there isn’t a whole lot of room to roam inside this small facility. All the bleachers are located on the same side of the rink, with a walkway at the bottom of the seating area providing access. Access to the other 2/3 of the arena is restricted to the teams playing that day. Fans requiring accessible seating will find room at either end of the rink to suit their needs. Bathrooms at the MIP are very small, cramped, and due to the heavy use that the arena gets throughout the day, not the cleanest facilities you will come across.

Return on Investment 4

An evening at a Sacred Heart hockey game is a very affordable alternative to local professional hockey in the area. Tickets are sold as general admission for $8. Youth tickets are $5, and visiting students and seniors are admitted for $4. Sacred Heart students can attend Pioneer games for free. Parking in the MIP lot is free, and there is more than enough room in the lot for the average SHU crowd. Concessions are varied and reasonably priced. On average, it will cost you less than twenty dollars to attend a Pioneer game, get something to eat, and enjoy college hockey played at its top level.

Kudos to the staff at SHU for their fan appreciation efforts during Seniors’ night, as all fans were admitted to the last game of the season free of charge.

Extras 0

A hockey game at the Milford Ice Pavilion is a no-frills experience.

Final Thoughts

At the Milford Ice Pavilion, the hockey is the thing. Fans looking for elaborate in-game entertainment, promotions and creature comforts seen at larger venues will have to look elsewhere. With several other Division One programs and professional hockey teams in the immediate vicinity, Sacred Heart hockey often struggles to gain attention in the local market. Fans looking for affordable, family friendly hockey played at a top level will find exactly what they are looking for here.

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

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