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