My Childhood Memories of Thompson Arena by Adrian Dater
EDITOR'S NOTE: Adrian Dater is the Colorado Avalanche beat writer for the Denver Post and covers the National Hockey League for Sports Illustrated. Dater grew up in Hanover and is a Dartmouth Hockey fan.
By Adrian Dater
If I'm going to do some lovely reminiscing here about some of my childhood watching Dartmouth hockey, the venue itself brings as much a smile as anything beloved Big Green heroes Tom Fleming or Ross Brownridge ever did.
Believe me when I tell you that Rupert C. Thompson Arena was something out of the Jetsons to a 10-year-old Hanover kid like me and many others. It may seem ridiculous to those who still trek to Thompson for Big Green hockey games, but in 1975, when the work of renowned Italian architect Pier Luigi Nervi was complete, nobody could believe it when we walked in. All that big concrete, all those windows, that great scoreboard over center ice - and for many years, when it housed the basketball teams - the hardwood. There is new car smell and there is new arena smell, and that brand new smell of Thompson Arena was something I still haven't forgotten.
Dartmouth hockey in the mid-1970s, in the brand new arena, formed some of my most cherished memories. For one thing, it cost only one dollar to get a general admission ticket and guess what? You could sit anywhere you wanted! Get there early, and get yourself a front-row seat right on the glass. I did it all the time.
The 1975-77 seasons were my prime Dartmouth hockey viewing years, and I always had the same seats it seemed - front row, off to the side of one net. It was a tremendous view and, man, did I pound that glass a lot screaming for the Big Green. I mean, constant screaming and trash-talking and glass-pounding from a 10-year-old know-it-all kid with fire-engine red hair. I'm sure I drove more than a few people around me crazy.
The '75-76 team was led by Fleming, who for his time was kind of the Ivy League Bo Jackson. He played football as well, and if memory serves some baseball too. He was definitely my favorite player, because he was not only skilled, but really, really tough. Guys would just beat on him, but he'd just keep plowing ahead, scoring goals and inspiring the team.
That '75-76 team went 16-11-0 under new coach George Crowe, a genuinely good team after many years of poor-to-mediocre squads that all played at Davis Rink. The new building seemed to bring out a new feeling of enthusiasm to the team. After years of playing in, frankly, a poorly-lit, grimy eyesore, suddenly the Dartmouth hockey and basketball teams had this state-of-the-art Shangri-La for a home building.
The '76-77 team under Crowe slipped back to .500, but newcomer Brownridge was a thrill to watch. Even though I lived in Hanover and my stepfather went to Dartmouth, he and my mom decided to move in the fall of '78 to Enfield, N.H. It was like moving to the moon, for as far away to Hanover and Thompson Arena as it seemed.
Going to the games pretty much stopped there, and I'd never been back....until a couple years ago, one wonderful night near Thanksgiving while visiting the area for a friend's wedding.
On the way back from the Lebanon area to Concord, I drove through Hanover and saw people walking toward Thompson. So I pulled over the car and parked (illegally I believe) at the Dartmouth Co-op, and walked over to see what was going on. A hockey game! I just had to get in now. So I bought a ticket and, swear on a stack of bibles, the faint smell of those '70s days in the building was still there. Wow, did that ever weird me out. Suddenly, I was 10 again. I loved that some of the old fonts for letters on the ticket windows and other areas were still intact.
I mostly just walked around during the game for a period or so, just staring at pictures on the wall. There was the one of Rupert C. just like I'd always remembered it, and the concession stands - those awesome concession stands to a 10-year-old - were in the same spots.
There was also the shock of seeing a life size picture of David Jones right there on a wall, a guy whom I'd seen plenty of the previous couple years in my job as beat writer of the Colorado Avalanche for the Denver Post.
First thing I did when I got back to Denver and got into the Avs locker room was tell Jones I'd been back for a Dartmouth game. His eyes lit up too, and I told him all about it. He missed the building too, and everything about school - especially late-night runs to Everything But Anchovies.
Walking out into the freezing cold with thousands of others after a thrilling Dartmouth win encapsulate my very best memories of those days. My mom would always be there, with a warming car waiting to drive us back home to a former apartment complex on Lyme Road called Rivercrest.
"How'd they do?" mom would ask. I'd talk about it all the way home.
Adrian Dater, a former resident of Hanover, is a sports writer with the Denver Post and SI.com, primarily covering hockey.