Golden Gopher Hockey Venues

Over the years, the University of Minnesota has played in a lot of venues. The first intercollegiate hockey game the U of M played was in 1895. Those games were played at Athletic Park in Minneapolis. By the 1903 season, the Gophers were playing on Como Lake in St Paul. I believe 1903 is also the first year Minnesota played the University of Wisconsin.
The University’s Board of Regents did not officially fund a varsity hockey program until 1921.

St Paul Hippodrome Exterior
The exterior of the St Paul Hippodrome

By 1923, the University’s hockey team was playing in the Hippodrome at the Minnesota State Fair grounds. When the Hippodrome was built in 1906, it was the largest indoor ice sheet in the world at 270 feet by 119 feet.

The "Hipp"
The Original “Hipp”

The Original “Hipp”, as it was known, was a beautiful and massive amphitheater that sustained the rink by leaving the doors and windows open to let the natural air freeze the ice.

Interestingly, it was also the home of the St Paul Athletic Club, which won the MacNaughton Cup in 1915, and were runner’s up in 1922 and 1923.

Minnesota would continue to play in the Hippodrome off and on until 1934. During WWII, the “Hipp” was converted into a propeller plant. While under government control, the historic Hippodrome was severely damaged and declared unsafe. The building was torn down in 1946.

Mpls Arena
Minneapolis Arena

By 1925, the main home of Gopher hockey was the Minneapolis Arena. The team continued to play some games at the state fair grounds until 1934 and at the St Paul Auditorium from 1932 – 1950.

The St Paul Auditorium in 1945

Things really started to change for the program by 1950. Williams Arena opened on campus in 1928. In 1950, “The Barn”, as the old arena is affectionately known, received its first major renovation. The building was divided with the larger section to be the home of the basketball team, and a smaller section to become the new, on campus home of the hockey team.

The Hockey side of The Barn 1950
The hockey side of The Barn in 1950

In 1952, John Mariucci would become the coach of Golden Gopher hockey. It would be Mariucci who would take the program to new levels and cement the program’s identity. It was Mariucci who really started the tradition of Minnesota kids playing on Minnesota’s ice. He would coach the team through the 1966 season.

Old Mariucci Arena
Old Mariucci

In 1985, the hockey side of Williams Arena was renamed Mariucci Arena after the long time coach. I absolutely loved attending games at Williams Arena/Old Mariucci, both as a young kid with my Dad and as a student at The U. It was a unique rink, a very intimate setting, and very loud for the home team. It also had the strangest little cubby hole at one end. As a kid, I always wondered if the net minder got claustrophobic down there.

In 1993 the hockey team moved into the New Mariucci Arena, which is across the street from Williams. Old Mariucci is now the Sports Pavilion. New Mariucci is a beautiful hockey rink, and arguably one of the nicest in the nation, but I’m glad I experienced the quirks and history of Williams.

“The Barn” and Mariucci Arena … University of Minnesota campus.

Historic photos come courtesy of the wonderful site:
The subject of this post comes courtesy of Pewaukee. So blame him!

About icefogger

Just a basic, down to Earth, laid back type of guy here, who loves the outdoors, the indoors, jazz on the turntable, a fire in the woodstove, the northern lights blazing across the sky, and the company of good friends. View all posts by icefogger

One response to “Golden Gopher Hockey Venues

  • Larry Janicsek

    Mike, Thanks for the great history lesson concerning where the Gophers played hockey in the Twin Cities.. My bucket list includes seeing a hockey game at Mariucci and a basketball game at “The Barn”. The “little cubby hole” seems interesting, like the major league baseball park where center field inclines. I love unique deals like that, something like when the Packers played games at Milwaukee County Stadium and both teams had to use the same sideline and the corner of the third base end zone ended at the rail of the lower grandstand.

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