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  • Paul Baker

Whittemore Center - New Hampshire Wildcats


Photos by Paul Baker Stadium Journey


Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.00

Whittemore Center 128 Main St. Durham, NH 03824

New Hampshire Wildcats men's hockey website Whittemore Center website


Year Opened: 1995 Capacity: 7,500

 

I Believe in UNH

The first hockey team at the University of New Hampshire took the ice in 1925. For many years, the team played on an outdoor rink that was dependent on the elements for use. That all changed in 1965 with the construction of Snively Arena. Named for former coach A. Barr “Whoop” Snively, the classic barrel-shaped barn served as home to the Wildcats for 30 years.


In 1995 the Whittemore Center was built next door to its predecessor. Snively Arena was converted into a recreation center containing a cycling studio, basketball, squash, and racquetball courts along with other features. Named for Frederick B. Whittemore and his family, Whittemore Center contains one of only six rinks in the nation to feature an Olympic-sized (200 feet by 100 feet) ice surface. Known locally as “The Whitt,” the venue hosted the Women’s Frozen Four in 2002 and 2005, and 2016.


The Wildcats have enjoyed a great deal of success over their history, qualifying for the NCAA tournament 22 times, and reaching the Frozen Four on seven occasions. New Hampshire finished as national runners-up in 1999 and 2003. UNH counts among its alumni a Hockey Hall of Famer (Rod Langway), a Hobey Baker Award winner (Jason Krog), and 25 First-Team All-Americans. Forty-six former Wildcats have played in the National Hockey League.


Food & Beverage 4

There are concession stands located on each side of the rectangular-shaped concourse. These stands feature your arena basics, including pizzas, hot dogs, and chicken tenders. A variety of snacks can be found at each of these stands. Again, the basics (popcorn, pretzels, boxed candy) are well represented.


The Whittemore Center introduces a little bit of variety in its concessions with the presence of a few smaller stands and portable carts tucked away in corners of the arena. At these stands, fans can hit up the burrito bar, which also serves up items including pulled pork sandwiches and macaroni and cheese. There’s a cart featuring numerously baked and sweet treats (Stadium Journey recommends the Whoopie Pies) and carts serving up Dippin’ Dots and ice cream.


Coca-Cola products are featured at the Whittemore Center. Fans looking for an adult beverage can choose from several national brands of beer and wine. If craft beers are more your style, brews from local favorites 603 Brewery, Stoneface Brewing, and Cisco Brewers are available.


Atmosphere 4

At any college game, the game day atmosphere is driven primarily by the pep band and student section. At the Whittemore Center, the students don’t disappoint. While this student section may not be as loud and salty as others in New England, they make their presence known with a repertoire of chants and songs. The band plays through most play stoppages, creating a lively atmosphere.


Fans are met as soon as they enter Whittemore Center Arena by several tables from local businesses hawking their wares, and conducting giveaways and auctions. Displays line the walls of the facility with photos of current and former UNH teams, alumni who played in the NHL, New Hampshire hockey history, and more. Banners honoring championship and tournament teams hang over the ice. There’s a lot to see at Whittemore Center.


There are 50/50 raffles and in-game contests to keep the casual fan interested. A large video board hangs at center ice and is put to good use with replays, hype videos, and graphics.


A highlight of every Wildcat game is the tossing of the fish onto the ice surface. After New Hampshire scores their first goal, a student tosses a fish from the crowd onto the ice. The tradition is said to have begun in the late 70s to mock the opponents having to “fish” the puck out of their net.


Neighborhood 3

The University of New Hampshire dominates the small town of Durham. The Whittemore Center is located about a mile west of downtown on Main Street. Durham has a nice, traditional small-town college feels to it, and there are a few places worth checking out for a bite to eat if you are visiting here from out of town. Students regularly pack Libby’s Bar and Grill or Durham House of Pizza for a pre-or post-game meal.


Fans visiting UNH from out of town will often head east to Portsmouth, located just 11 miles from Whittemore Center. Portsmouth features a picturesque, walkable downtown with numerous quaint shops and excellent restaurants.


Since there are not many lodging options in Durham, head to Portsmouth for more choices.

Boston, Massachusetts is about an hour’s drive south on I-95. The White Mountains are located just a ninety-minute drive north of Durham and feature spectacular foliage in the fall and many outstanding ski resorts in the winter.


Fans 4

New Hampshire has averaged over 4,700 fans per game during the 2019-20 season, which places them in the top quarter of all teams nationwide. This figure has held fairly consistent over the last several seasons.

New Hampshire is a hockey-crazed state and UNH has a legion of dedicated, knowledgeable fans.


With the Wildcats’ membership in the Hockey East Conference, the home schedule is guaranteed to feature several top-ranked and local teams. It’s not unusual to see visiting fans in solid numbers at Whittemore Center. When traditional rival Maine is in town, expect the intensity to ratchet up a notch or two.


The student section is located behind the goal on the east end of the arena. Often packed to the brim, the students fill Whittemore Center with noise throughout the night.


Access 3

Durham is a small town with a population of just over 16,500 located fifteen minutes west of Portsmouth and an hour north of Boston. The town is easy to reach just off of Interstate 95 and Route 4. The University of New Hampshire dominates Durham, with the campus straddling Main Street.


The Whittemore Center is located on the western edge of campus alongside UNH’s other athletic facilities, including Wildcat Stadium and Lundholm Gymnasium. Most fans will park in Lot A on the other side of the train tracks. A complete map of parking options can be found here.


Whittemore Center features a large lobby located between Hamel Recreation Center (the old Snively Arena) and the Whittemore Center Arena. After the long walk from your car around Memorial Field on a cold New Hampshire winter night, this indoor lobby is most appreciated. No matter from which of the arena’s three entrances you enter the rink, you will find yourself on a 360-degree concourse. The international-sized rink is visible from most spots on the concourse.


Fans will walk down to their seats, which consist mostly of blue folding stadium seats, with molded bleachers on either end. Views from all seats are excellent. Although there are several concession stands and three sets of restrooms around the arena, lines do form during intermission. Time your trips wisely.


Return on Investment 4

Tickets to Wildcat hockey games cost $24 for sideline seats and $16 for end zone seats. Parking in the many lots surrounding Whittemore Center is free. Concession prices are comparable to other venues in the area. Overall, a night at a Wildcat hockey game is an affordable entertainment option for southern New Hampshire sports fans.


Extras 4

An extra point is awarded for the Olympic-sized rink in use here. It is one of only six oversized rinks in the country.

Extra points are awarded for the displays of New Hampshire hockey history all around the Whittemore Center. From the moment you enter the lobby of the Whittemore Center, you are presented with the best UNH has to offer.


Oversized photos of UNH All-Americans line the lobby walls alongside the Hobey Baker Award won by Jason Krog and the Patty Kazmeier Award won by Brandy Fisher. Displays inside the arena show every alumnus to play in the NHL and recount major events in Wildcat hockey history. Banners hang from the rafters honoring Wildcat tournament and championship teams, including the National Championship Women’s team in 1998.


The Charles Holt Gallery displays photos of every men's hockey team to represent the school and the Russ McCourty Gallery shows photos of every women’s hockey team. Look closely at the photos of the women’s teams from 1977-1991. You may notice that in every team photo, coach McCurty is holding his pet cat.

A final extra point is awarded for the tradition of throwing a fish on the ice after the Wildcat's first goal.


Final Thoughts

The Whittemore Center may not be the newest or fanciest hockey rink in the country, but a trip to tiny Durham, New Hampshire should be on the itinerary for any serious college hockey fan. This mid-sized rink with an oversized ice surface is loaded with displays of Wildcat hockey history and enthusiastic fans.


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

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