When UConn announced the plans for a new on-campus hockey rink, there was a sizable backlash from fans over the size of the arena. Instead of the original plan and Hockey East standard of 4,000 seats, the plans called for a much smaller capacity of just 2,500. However, UConn men’s hockey coach Mike Cavanaugh believes the plan make sense based on the state of the program.
“A lot has been made with a 2,500-seat facility,” he said. “Me personally, I think with the economic climate in our state, it’s fiscally responsible. We’re still going to play games in Hartford, I think we’d be crazy not to, especially with the way our attendance was towards the end of last season when we were putting into 7,000 people into the [XL Center].”
Cavanaugh also noted the arena will be built with the ability to expand to 4,000 seats if and when that’s needed. But since the team will split games between Storrs and the XL Center for the foreseeable future, there isn’t a huge need for a ton of seating.
“If you go around and look at the attendance around Hockey East, nobody averaged over 5,000 fans. Three schools averaged fewer than 2,500 fans last year,” Cavanaugh said.
The key with the arena is making sure it’s built well, up to the standards of the new facilities that have been built in recent years. It’s better to have a premier 2,500 seat rink than a 4,000-seat version of the Freitas Ice Forum.
“We went out to Miami of Ohio last year and they a 2,800 seat facility and it was electric, fantastic, one of the nicest facilities I’ve ever been to that we competed in,” Cavanaugh said. “The stadium, the arena, the amenities are second to none.
“Look at the other facilities on this campus whether it be [football’s] Shenkman, Burton, [basketball’s] Werth Center, everything is done exceptionally well. I don’t see any reason the arena won’t be done to the same standard that those facilities were built. I’m not concerned at all.”
The team’s captains, while they won’t get to play in the arena, expressed their excitement for the new rink as well and praised the atmosphere of smaller arenas that they’ve played in.
“I think it’s a great idea,” Max Kalter said. “Those places are especially loud, fun. It’s a good atmosphere, you can’t really hide in them so it just makes the game more intense and fun.”
“We’re all pretty excited for it,” Miles Gendron said. “There’s no chance a game isn’t sold out there. It doesn’t matter how big it is as long as it’s rocking.”
While the team draws well for a general crowd in Hartford, often times the student section can be lacking due to the 40-plus minute drive to the XL Center from campus. Having a rink on-campus should help students get interested in the sport.
“I think the UConn student body is also craving some hockey,” Benjamin Freeman said. “From talking with them they’re pretty excited about it as well.”