After more than 10 years in the making, UConn will finally open a new, on-campus hockey arena this weekend: Toscano Family Ice Forum. Located on Jim Calhoun Way next door to Freitas Ice Forum, Toscano will serve as the practice facility and game arena for both the Huskies’ hockey programs.
UConn women’s hockey will play the first game there on Friday, Jan. 13 when it takes on Merrimack at 6 p.m. ET. UConn men’s hockey’s opening contest will come on Saturday, Jan. 14 against Northeastern at 7:35 p.m. ET.
Here’s everything you need to know about the new barn:
When UConn men’s hockey agreed to join Hockey East in the summer of 2012, the school agreed to build a new, on-campus hockey arena. Construction was supposed to begin in 2016, though it didn’t actually start until May 2021.
Additional reading: The timeline of events leading to the opening of Toscano Family Ice Forum
Why couldn’t UConn use its existing rink?
While UConn already had Freitas Ice Forum on campus, the facility wasn’t up to par for Hockey East. Built in 1998, the rink didn’t have enough seating — the exact capacity is unclear, but it’s somewhere between 1,400-1,700, all of which are metal bleachers that are too small for even an averaged sized adult — while the adjoining team facilities were lacking.
If UConn wanted its hockey programs to be national contenders, it needed to upgrade the rink.
What features does Toscano Family Ice Forum have?
The two programs are well taken care of in the new rinks. There are two locker rooms — wet (for all the hockey gear) and dry (for everything else) — player lounges, a strength and conditioning room, a training space with hydrotherapy, an automated shooting room, and offices for the coaching staff. In the men’s lounge, there’s an electric fireplace as a nod to UConn hockey’s original home, the outdoor rink.
Additional reading: Before Freitas or Toscano, UConn hockey played outside
What about the arena?
Toscano Family Ice Forum will seat 2,600 — roughly 1,000 more than Freitas and with 80 percent more chairbacks. It also features an ice-level lounge, similar to what exists at the XL Center, and a club-level lounge that also has an electric fireplace.
Tickets for UConn men’s hockey’s five remaining home games are only available on the secondary market. UConn women’s hockey’s tickets are free, but need to be claimed in advance on the school’s website.
On the visitor’s side, the rows go from A (along the glass) to H (top of the bowl). On the home side, they got from A to J. While facing the ice, the seat numbers start on the right side of each row.
Will UConn still play at the XL Center?
UConn men’s hockey won’t completely abandon its downtown home, though it’ll play far fewer games there. As we reported earlier this week, the Huskies are expected to host most of their home games — including playoffs — in Storrs, with only 3-4 at the XL Center. UConn women’s hockey will continue to play all its games on-campus.
UConn’s new arena is named after Dan Toscano and his family in recognition of a “leadership gift”. Toscano is a 1987 graduate of UConn and the school’s Board of Trustees Chairman. He’s an avid fan of the Huskies and his son, Jeremy, even worked as a student manager for Mike Cavanaugh’s program.
“First and foremost, the name on the building is the Toscano Family Ice Forum. It’s not my name,” Dan Toscano said at the arena’s ribbon cutting ceremony on Thursday night. “If you want to know why the name is on the building, it’s because of them (his family).”
What’s been said about the arena?
UConn men’s hockey coach Mike Cavanaugh: “Our current players have a state of the art facility where they can properly train and develop and become the very best hockey player they can. There’s nothing here that they’ll want more in this facility. I also think it’s great for our student body that they can walk over and watch a hockey game. It’s been really tough for them to get down to Hartford.”
UConn women’s hockey coach Chris MacKenzie: “This is a building [the players have] been walking by for 18 months watching it get built and now they get to play here. So it’ll be special. There’s a lot of gratitude here and a lot of a lot of energy behind it.”
How to follow the opening weekend
I’ll be at both women’s games and the men’s game over the next two days and will posting plenty of photos and updates on Twitter: @DanielVConnolly. Our photographer Ian Bethune (@Ian_Bethune on Twitter) will also be in the house over the weekend.
We’ll have stories both here on The UConn Blog and on the UConn Hockey Hub as well.