Sports Illustrated once called the Dane County Coliseum - the off-campus cookie-cutter arena where the University of Wisconsin once skated - "the Montreal Forum of college hockey." That was 30 years ago. Today, college hockey's stature has ascended to the point where The Wall Street Journal recently described certain home arenas as "the cathedrals of sports," while categorizing their individual claims to fame.
The Kohl Center, the on-campus venue where Wisconsin currently plays, gets the WSJ nod as "most intimidating" on the strength of the Badgers' perennial perch atop the national attendance rankings. Doubling as a basketball arena (something the Coliseum was rarely called on to do), the Kohl Center is also characterized by WSJ writers Darren Everson and Hannah Karp as "a bit soulless."
But big, intimidating crowds aren't to be confused with the "best crowd," found inside the University of Michigan's Yost Ice Arena, which at 6,600 seats is less than half the size of Wisconsin's building and even boasts a skate-rental window that makes Yost "feel like a community rink," according to the authors. For "most opulent," look no further than the University of North Dakota. With its marble floors underfoot and chandeliers overhead, the Ralph Engelstad Arena lobby has hosted a dozen wedding receptions annually since the building opened in 2001.
Minnesota-Duluth's new Amsoil Arena took "best local flavor" honors for its use of indigenous taconite rock on bar tops located within the fireplace-warmed Bulldog Lounge, which also features walls inlaid with Minnesota stone and decorative wood panels salvaged from old grain elevators. If you want really old, check out Northeastern's Matthews Arena, the original home of one of the NHL's original six - the Boston Bruins. Opened in 1910, the arena is older by two years than Fenway Park. This earned Matthews "best history" on the WJS list.
AB readers will be particularly interested to know that "best design" honors went to Yale's Ingalls Rink, also known as the "Yale Whale" for its distinctive humpback roof. The most coveted viewing area within the 3,500-seat arena is a standing-room ramp that encircles the playing surface.
Other mentions included the University of Maine's Alfond Arena ("best atmosphere"), New Hampshire's Whittemore Center ("best ice"), Princeton's Hobey Baker Rink ("least lively") and Minnesota's Mariucci Arena ("most sober"), based on the removal of alcohol (for the time being, anyway) from the building's VIP areas.
If these venues represent sport's cathedrals, Michigan Stadium - which welcomed nearly a season's worth Yost Arena outdoor hockey rinks.