The University of Maine’s Alfond Arena was chosen the college hockey rink with the “Best Atmosphere” in a story that was published in the Wall Street Journal earlier this month.
The results were based on visits to 10 unique hockey campuses.
Co-authors Darren Everson and Hannah Karp wrote, “games at Alfond Arena feel like the hockey version of Friday Night Lights” and noted that the crowd was a “mix of diehard locals and feverish students. At one end of the 5,445-seat arena, there’s a section of fans that sits in an ear-splitting site directly below the band.”
Merrimack College coach Mark Dennehy, who played for Boston College from 1987-91, said “I’ve always thought that if anybody can’t get up for a game at Alfond Arena, you need to bring the (defibrillator) paddles. It has always been a very lively place. The fans are right on top of the players. The puck gets to the net quickly. I loved playing there.”
He also said you had to bring “your ‘A’ game” to Alfond Arena.
“If you weren’t prepared, it could get ugly in a hurry,” added Dennehy.
“Everybody enjoys the atmosphere there,” said University of New Hampshire coach Dick Umile. “It’s one of the special atmospheres in college hockey. It’s a fun place to play and a lot of our players consider it their favorite opposing rink. The fans are on top of you and they’re very loud.”
Prior to a series in Alfond Arena last month, Boston University coach Jack Parker said Alfond Arena is a “great building to play in. The crowd has great enthusiasm. There’s so much more energy (than there is at other rinks).”
Maine senior center and captain Tanner House said he has had several friends play against him at Alfond Arena “and they said they loved playing at our rink.”
Maine senior defenseman Mike Banwell said they have the “best fans in the country, without a doubt.
“They’ve been behind us during some tough stretches. They were still lined up the night before we played New Hampshire this year,” said Banwell. “When you come to the pre-game meal and you see fans (waiting in line) in tents, fans who were willing to sleep out in minus-15 degree weather, you feel you really need to put something together for these guys.”
“The student section is right on top of the (opposing) goalie (for two periods) and they’re chanting the whole game,” said Maine senior defenseman Jeff Dimmen. “It gets so loud in there because the rink is so old (1976) and it’s closed in as opposed to the newer rinks that are so big and wide open. You don’t get the same feeling.”
Freshman left wing Mark Anthoine said the loyalty of the fans is unparalled.
“When we had a tough night versus Vermont (7-2 loss) a couple of weeks ago, the fans returned the next night. It helps a lot,” said Lewiston’s Anthoine.
Maine actually had 301 more fans the night after the Vermont loss and Maine triumphed 4-2.
Freshman center Jon Swavely said when he stepped on the Alfond Arena ice for the first time it was “electrifying.
“And I get the same feeling every time I step on it,” said Swavely. “It’s so easy to (get motivated to) play in front of such passionate fans.”
Maine has averaged 4,964 fans per game this season which represents 91.2 percent capacity.
Maine will play its last two Hockey East regular season home games at Alfond in Orono against No. 4-ranked Merrimack College this weekend.