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  • Greg Venuto

Ingalls Rink - Yale Bulldogs

Photos by Greg Venuto, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.43

Ingalls Rink

73 Sachem St

New Haven, CT 06511

Year Opened: 1958

Capacity: 3,500


Spectators Return To Historic Whale

The Yale Whale is back. This is the first time in three seasons that Ingalls Rink is at full capacity following the pandemic. Last season, only season ticket holders, families of players, students, and faculty were allowed in the hallowed building. The Bulldogs elected not to play in 2020-21 due to Covid.

Ingalls Rink, or The Whale an appropriate nickname for the shape of the building from the outside, should be on any sports fan’s must-see list. It’s old school all the way around from the cold interior (wear layers), to the occasional smell of locker room aroma and a public address system that is at best difficult to decipher.

But it’s The Whale and fans cannot overlook its charm. The seats are close to the action, the sound echoes thru the building and it’s all about hockey and not about modern amenities including luxury boxes and high-end food and beverages.

Yale University boasts the oldest collegiate hockey program in the United States. Yale played its first game in 1896 a 2-2 tie versus Johns Hopkins. The Bulldogs are members of the ECAC and have qualified for eight NCAA Tournaments, a pair of Frozen Fours including the national championship in 2013.

The rink was named after Yale alumni and hockey captains David S. Ingalls (class of 1920) and David S. Ingalls Jr. (class of 1956). The rink was designed by famed architect Eero Saarinen (class of 34). The rink was built with a humpbacked roof (which gives it its nickname) to suggest the speed and grace of an ice skater. In 2011, the Wall Street Journal named Ingalls Rink the rink with the best design in the nation.

Food & Beverage 1

Viewing a game at Ingalls is a great experience, eating there is not so much. There is one concession stand at the back of the arena and there is one underneath the main entrance which offers identical fare. To access that one fan needs to go downstairs for food and bathrooms. The other concession stand has bathrooms on the main level.

The limited menu includes hot dogs, nachos, popcorn for $4, peanuts and cotton candy for $3, and chips ($2). soft drinks (coca-cola products), water, hot chocolate, and coffee are $3.

Atmosphere 4

The atmosphere is usually electric, but on this visit, no band and few students were in attendance. The crowd may have been subdued because Yale had played and lost to long-time rival Harvard in overtime the night before. The Bulldog was on hand but not overly engaged.

The ceiling, which looks like the bottom of an old ship, is quite captivating. Fans are often looking up to check out the surroundings. The scoreboard is old school and displays - the score. A few statistics are flashed but there are no video or auxiliary boards.

The arena has a number of display cases to showcase great moments in Yale men’s and women’s hockey. Banners hang from the rafters to commemorate conference champions, NCAA tournament appearances and National Champions. There are also 12 large flags, six each on each side, containing the logos of all 12 ECAC member schools. On the lower level, there is a timeline of Yale hockey containing pictures and memorabilia that was erected in 2009 following a renovation of the building.

Neighborhood 4

Ingalls Rink is situated on the northern edge of a charming campus with beautiful architecture. It is an open campus and easily walkable. Less than a mile away are a host of restaurants including Bar for classic pizza (not coal or wood-fired), Louis Lunch (opened 1895) which claims it invented the hamburger sandwich, and Rubamba a small unassuming restaurant on 25 High Street with excellent tacos and latin american fare.

New Haven, referred to as the pizza capital of the United States by Barstool Sports, boasts a small but hearty Italian section that includes legendary pizza places Frank Pepe’s, and Sally’s Apizza (both coal-fired). There is also Modern Apizza (brick oven) while not on Wooster Street less than 1 mile from Yale. Fans can’t go wrong with a pie from any of these three establishments but be prepared to wait for a table, especially on weekends.

The only concern for fans is not to wander too far off campus as New Haven has some less desirable areas that are not as safe, especially at night.

Fans 4

Fan support has always been staunch at Ingalls, but the pandemic and some losing seasons have taken a bit of starch out of the fan base. Tickets were easier to obtain this year but expect fans to return and a winning season or two would really help to bolster the level of enthusiasm. Yale has not posted a winning season since 2018-19 and will finish under .500 again in 2022-23. The Bulldogs are averaging about 1900 per contest but were over 3000 per game from 2009-10 to 2018-19.

A number of locals attend games and some enjoy standing and watching from above. The bowl has an interesting configuration with walkways on each side of the ice that goes up and then back down that afford great views of the ice.

Access 3

There is adequate access to the campus coming from I-91 or I-95 into downtown New Haven. The campus is about 90 minutes from New York City and 45 minutes from Hartford to the North and Stamford to the south.

There is the four-level Prospect-Sachem parking garage next to the rink which is $10. There is another garage on 55 Lock Street ($6 for 3 hours, $3 additional for each hour over 3) and a free parking lot, Lot 16, at Whitney Avenue and Humphrey Street. There is also street parking and some meters end at 7 pm.

New Haven is the last stop on the Metro North Railroad and the station on State Street is situated just over one mile from Ingalls.

Getting into the arena can take a bit of time as there is no lobby. Crowds sometimes back up outside on a cold night waiting to get through security.

The seating area is wooden seats and backs and the sightlines do vary based on the irregular configuration of the seating area.

Return on Investment 5

The value has always been a plus and was an even better deal this season as tickets remain affordable during these inflationary times and there are no service fees to order online.

Center ice is $25 and $35 for premium games versus Harvard and Quinnipiac. A seat behind either goal is $15 and $20 for premium games and standing room is only $8.

Extras 3

Ingalls Rink is about as extra as a rink can get. Great design and the classic feel make one reminiscent of the old Boston Garden on a much smaller scale. The building was included on America’s Favorite Architecture list of 2007 by the American Institute of Architects.

There is no organ but the crowd and the Yale band generate excitement. The PA system plays some arena classics too.

Final Thoughts

The Yale Whale is clearly a bucket list destination and worthy of inclusion with other classic hockey arenas like Matthews Arena in Boston, home of Northeastern, and Hobey Baker Rink in Princeton, New Jersey, home of the Princeton Tigers. Once a ticket is purchased, a treat is in store for all sports fans just bring some warm clothing.

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