Saturday, February 11, 2017

How to Go to a Hockey Game In New Hampshire

Continuing my bid to do trip guides for teams in all 50 States, it's New Hampshire's turn.

On Saturday, February 18, the University of New Hampshire will play hockey against their arch-rivals. No, not the University of Vermont or the University of Maine: Boston University. Apparently, the rest of New England treats Boston the way the rest of America treats New York: As the big mean dragon that needs to be slain.

Before You Go. Despite being in northern New England, the weather is not projected to be all that bad. Temperatures are predicted to be in the low 30s by day and the low 20s by night, with no rain or snow in the forecast.

New Hampshire is in the Eastern Time Zone, so there won't be any time change.

Tickets. The Whittemore Center seats 6,501 people. And, like all the Boston schools, BU has a good traveling fan base. Getting tickets may be difficult. Seats are $24 along the sidelines, and $16 behind the west goal. Forget about seats behind the east goal, as that's the student section.

Getting There. It's 271 miles from Midtown Manhattan to the UNH campus. It's too close to fly, but not easy by any other means. Portsmouth International Airport is 10 miles from the campus, and good luck getting a direct flight there from Newark, JFK or LaGuardia.

The good news is, Amtrak does go to Durham, and the arena is literally right next-door. The bad news is, the trip won't be direct. You can get from Penn Station in New York to South Station in Boston without changing trains. And you can get from North Station in Boston to Durham, New Hampshire without changing trains. But you have to get from South Station to North Station, and that will require getting off your train and taking the subway or a cab.
The good news: Amtrak's Downeaster, providing service to New Hampshire and Maine, takes about an hour and a half to get from North Station to Durham. And it's only $38 round-trip. The bad news is, you'd still have to get to Boston, and the last train of the night leaves Durham for Boston at 8:00 PM, during the game. So this is out.

More bad news: Greyhound doesn't go to Durham. It does go to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, but then you'd need to take 2 local buses to get to UNH, taking an hour and 20 minutes, so it's not worth it.

So it looks like you'll have to drive. Start out as if you're going to Boston: Take Interstate 95 North to New Haven. Take Exit 48, Interstate 91 North to Hartford. Take Exit 30, Interstate 84 East into Massachusetts. You'll merge with Interstate 90 East, the Massachusetts Turnpike, and take that until you reach Interstate 495, Boston's outer beltway.

But instead of continuing on the Mass Pike to Boston, take Exit 11A onto I-495 North, into Boston's northern suburbs, until you reunite with I-95 North at Salisbury, just before reaching the New Hampshire State Line. Once in New Hampshire, take Exit 4, onto U.S. Route 4, and follow that until you reach Madbury Road in Durham. Turn left, turn right on Edgewood Road, and turn right on Main Street. The station and the arena will be on your right.

If all goes well, you should be in New York State (not counting Manhattan) for half an hour, in Connecticut for 2 hours, in Massachusetts for an hour and 15 minutes, and New Hampshire for half an hour. Given a rest stop or 2, it should take about 5 and a half hours.

Once In the City. The State and the city are both named for historic counties in England. Ironically, at opposite ends of the country: Hampshire is on the South Coast, while Durham is in the North-East. Old Hampshire includes Portsmouth, which is also the name of a city in New Hampshire. The State's largest city, Manchester (158,000 people), is also named for a city in England.
More about that mountain later.

New Hampshire as a whole is home to 1.3 million people, was first settled by Europeans in 1623, and was the 1st of "the Original 13 Colonies" to declare independence, in January 1776. On June 21, 1788, it became the 9th State to ratify the Constitution of the United States, thus putting it into effect.
The New Hampshire State House in Concord

New Hampshire is probably best known for the New Hampshire Primary, held every 4 years as the nation's 1st (Iowa's preceding contest is "caucuses"), in March starting in 1952, in late February starting in 1976, then getting progressively earlier until 2008, when it was held on January 8. Last year, it was moved back to February 9. On the Democratic Party's side, it's usually won by a progressive. On the Republican Party's side, it's usually won by a candidate promising to cut the nation's taxes, as New Hampshire famously has no sales tax. Either way, it's usually won by a candidate good at "retail politics": Face-to-face meetings in places like breakfast-friendly diners, veterans' club halls, and the State's surviving factories.

The leading paper in the State is the Manchester-based Union Leader. But several other papers are also considered important enough by Presidential candidates to seek their endorsement, including The Concord Monitor, based in the State capital; The Telegraph of Nashua, and The Portsmouth Herald. ZIP Codes in the State begin with the digits 03. The Area Code is 603.

There is a New Hampshire Turnpike, a.k.a. the Blue Star Turnpike, but it runs only 16 miles along the coast, bannered as I-95 the whole way. The State has no beltway.
That is a circle, not a star.

Durham, about 60 miles due north of Boston, is home to just 10,345 people, not counting UNH students. The University was founded in in 1866, as part of Dartmouth College, across the State in Hanover, and was separated and established in Durham in 1893. Bus service is available, at $1.50 per fare. Portsmouth, a historic town of 21,000 about 10 miles east of Durham, is known for its Naval Shipyard, which is actually across the Piscataqua River in Kittery, Maine.

Going In. The Whittemore Center Arena, or "The Whitt," opened in 1995, and seats 6,501 people. The official address is 128 Main Street. The Hamel Student Recreation Center, UNH's former rink, is attached to the east end. If you drive in, parking is $10.
It was named for Frederick B. Whittemore, a longtime Morgan Stanley executive and major donor to UNH, although he is, himself, a Dartmouth graduate. The rink is laid out east-to-west. The Wildcats shoot twice toward the east goal. The arena, the State's largest until a larger one opened in Manchester in 2001, also hosts concerts, trade shows, and other events. It is frequently open for public ice skating.
Across Main Street are the school's basketball arena, Lundholm Gymnasium, and its 11,015-seat football facility, Wildcat Stadium, formerly Butch Cowell Stadium after their head coach from 1915 to 1936.
Food. College arenas are usually much smaller than those used for major league sports, and as a result their food options are considerably more limited. All that the school website can tell me is that they have concession stands, but nothing on specific foods and drinks.

Team History Displays. UNH has banners above the arena's north sideline. They've won the Hockey East regular-season title in 1992, 1997, 1999, 2002, 2003, 2007, 2008 and 2010; and the Conference Tournament in 2002 and 2003. They've reached the NCAA's hockey equivalent of the Final Four, the Frozen Four, in 1977, 1979, 1982, 1998, 1999, 2002 and 2003, and reach the Final in 1999 and 2003, although they've never won the National Championship. Their women's team did, in 1998.

UNH doesn't retire uniform numbers, but it does have an athletics hall of fame, which includes 57 figures from their hockey programs -- 45 men's and 12 women's. The names you are most likely to know are Albert Brodeur, Class of 1960, brother of Denis and uncle of Marty; Michel Goulet '69, Hall-of-Famer for the Quebec Nordiques; Michael Ontkean '70, who became an actor, including playing Ned Braden in the hockey film Slap Shot; Rod Langway '79, Hall-of-Famer for the Washington Capitals; and Andy Brickley '83, a member of the Devils' Patrick Division Playoff Champions of 1988. Among the other members of the UNH Wildcats Hall of Fame are Baseball Hall-of-Famer Carlton Fisk '63 and his brother Calvin Fisk '67.

Stuff. There is no team shop at The Whitt. If you want UNH merchandise, you should try the University Bookstore, at 83 Main Street, down the block from the athletic complex. Don't expect to find any team videos, but you might find the 2002 book Wildcat Hockey: Ice Hockey at the University of New Hampshire, by Elizabeth Slomba an William E. Ross.

During the Game. UNH fans are likely to be Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics and Bruins fans. If you don't express dislike for those teams, or promote a New York or a New Jersey team, you should be all right.

The Saturday night game is a promotion: "Blue Out for BU." Since Boston University wears red, and UNH wears the contrasting blue, the student section in the east end will be wearing blue, and the rest of the home fans are also encouraged to do so.

The band will play the National Anthem. The school has 3 fights songs; "On to Victory," "UNH Cheer" and "New Hampshire Colors."

Because of the name of the city, the school's teams were originally nicknamed the Durham Bulls. But since 1926, they've been the Wildcats. An opinion piece in the school newspaper, The New Hampshire, said:

The Wildcat is small and aggressive -- like New Hampshire. The actions of the wildcat are more symbolic of a New Hampshire team on the field than those of the sluggish bull. Furthermore, the actual mascot, if a wildcat, could be more easily transported from place to place than a bull.

Experiments with live wildcat mascots have been short-lived, and, since 2008, "Gnarlz" has been a costumed mascot.
Gnarlz, meeting Wally the Green Monster
at Fenway Park's annual "Frozen Fenway" festival

Reflecting the Detroit Red Wings' tradition of throwing an octopus onto the ice, after UNH scores its 1st goal of the game, all fans turn their attention to the opposing team's net. Up and over the boards, a fish is thrown onto the ice. The crowd erupts in excitement.
According to Bob Norton, a former UNH assistant coach, the fish-tossing tradition began in the early 1970s. "It goes back to when we were playing a Division II team, and our program had gone way past theirs. I remember (the UNH fans) threw out this little dinky thing and they called it a Division II fish. I guess they were trying to tell them they weren't worthy of a first-rate fish."
This tradition caught on as the Zeta Chi fraternity made it a ritual to throw out the fish after UNH's first goal. The fish was used to resemble the visiting team, "fishing the puck out of the net."
Dick Umile, UNH head coach since 1990, recalls an incident from early in his tenure. At that time, the home team received a penalty if fans threw objects on the ice. "At all these different rinks people were throwing things – tennis balls, newspapers – and it was really holding up the game," Umile recalls. "It's the Maine weekend, and the cops won't let the kid in with the fish. I'm in the office before the game, and the students come to get me. So I go down there, get the fish from the cops, and we're walking in with the fish in the bag. The kids say, 'But coach, we're going to get a penalty.' I say, 'Don't worry about it. We'll kill the penalty. Just throw the fish.'"
After the Game. Safety will not be an issue, as long as you don't antagonize anyone. Yes, it's New England. Yes, it's hockey. No, they aren't looking for a fight.

Pretty much everything on Main Street to the north, south and west of the athletic complex is University property. Your best bet for a postgame meal is to head east, toward downtown. On Main Street alone you'll find Aroma Joe's Coffee at 72, Breaking New Grounds at 50, Young's Restaurant at 48, Libby's Bar & Grill at 47, and Village Pizza at 45. The Works Bakery Cafe is at 5A Mill Road, and Wildcat Pizza is at 3 Madbury Road. The nearest Dunkin Donuts is a bit further out, at 2 Dover Road, as Main Street splits into Durham Road and Newmarket Road.

If you visit the UNH campus during the European soccer season, which we are now in, there are 3 bars in nearby Portsmouth where you can probably watch your team, especially if it's English. The Ri Ra chain is at 22 Market Square, where Pleasant Street meets Custom House Lane. And The Coat of Arms Pub, a tribute to English-style pubs, is at 174 Fleet Street at Hanover Street. And The British Beer Company is at 103 Hanover Street.

Sidelights. New Hampshire's sports history isn't just UNH hockey. Dartmouth College, in Hanover on the Connecticut River, is the northernmost school in the Ivy League. They're 264 miles northeast of Times Square, and 126 miles northwest of Downtown Crossing in Boston.

Their football team plays at the 11,000-seat Memorial Field, built in 1923 at 4 Crosby Street. Since 1958, they've won 18 Ivy League football titles, most recently in 2015. That includes the 1970 season, when they went undefeated. Penn State fans still feel they were ripped off that year when their undefeated team wasn't named National Champions, but Dartmouth grads know that the Nittany Lions weren't even the best team in the East.
Joe Paterno was once put on the stand in a trial -- not Jerry Sandusky's -- and one of the attorneys, a Dartmouth grad, reminded him he was under oath, and asked him if he really thought his 1970 Penn State team was better than Dartmouth's. He said it was. He was not charged with perjury.

In 1942, their basketball team reached the NCAA Final, losing to Stanford. In 1944, they made it again, but lost to Utah. They haven't won the Ivy League title, and haven't made the NCAA Tournament since 1959. Their hockey team has reached the Frozen Four 4 times, most recently in 1980.

The New Hampshire Fisher Cats debuted in 2004, as a Class AA farm team of the Toronto Blue Jays, in the Eastern League, where they are opponents of New Jersey's Trenton Thunder. They won the Pennant in 2004 and 2011, having previously done so in 2000 as the New Haven Ravens. They play at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium, 1 Line Drive in Manchester, 245 miles northeast of Times Square and 55 miles northwest of Downtown Crossing.
The 4,000-seat Holman Stadium opened in Nashua in 1937. The Nashua Dodgers, a Brooklyn farm club, played there from 1946 to 1949. It was there that Roy Campanella and Don Newcombe made their white professional debuts, under manager Walter Alston. The Nashua Pride played there from 1998 to 2011, winning the Atlantic League Pennant in 2000 and the Can-Am League Pennant in 2007, but went out of business. It now hosts the Nashua Silver Knights of the Futures Collegiate Baseball League. 67 Amherst Street, 230 miles northeast of Times Square and 38 miles northwest of Downtown Crossing.
For most of New Hampshire, the closest major league teams are Boston's. You have to get as far north as Lancaster, past the White Mountain National Forest, before Montreal's Alouettes, Canadiens and Impact are closer than their NFL, NHL and MLS counterparts, the New England Patriots, the Boston Bruins and the New England Revolution. And the Boston Red Sox are still the closest in MLB, and the Boston Celtics the closest in the NBA.

The highest-ranking professional soccer team in New Hampshire is the Seacoast United Phantoms, playing in the National Premier Soccer League, U.S. soccer's 4th division. They also have a women's team, and both play at the football stadium of Portsmouth High School.
Neither Elvis Presley nor The Beatles ever performed in New Hampshire. The lack of major league teams meant a lack of venues capable of holding the crowds they would bring.

New Hampshire is a good museum State. Manchester has the Currier Museum of Art (150 Ash Street), and the Millyard Museum and the SEE Science Center (both at 200 Bedford Street). Portsmouth has the Strawberry Banke Museum, focusing on life in the seaport city (14 Hancock Street); and the USS Albacore Museum, a retired submarine (600 Market Street). Hanover has the Hood Museum of Art, part of Dartmouth College (6 E. Wheelock Street). Wolfeboro has the Wright Museum of World War II (77 Center Street).

And Concord has the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center, a science museum named after Christa McAuliffe, the Concord teacher who died in the 1986 explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger; and Alan Shepard, the Derry, New Hampshire native who was the 1st American in space (1961) and the commander of Apollo 14 (1971), when he not only walked, but hit a golf ball, on the Moon. (This did not, however, make him the 1st athlete on the Moon, because golf is not a sport.)
New Hampshire is known for 2 mountains, in the White Mountains, the northernmost part of the Appalachian Mountains. Mount Washington is the highest peak in the Northeastern U.S., 6,288 feet above sea level. It's 128 miles north of Manchester, 171 miles north of Boston, and 388 miles northeast of Midtown Manhattan. And you can't get there without a car. Is it really worth it to go all that way, just to get one of those bumper stickers?
I mean, it's not like it's Everest. Or Denali/Mount McKinley.
Or even Pike's Freakin' Peak.

Then there is -- or, rather, was -- the Old Man of the Mountain. A series of cliff ledges on Cannon Mountain, 1,200 feet above sea level, looked like a profile of an old man. Daniel Webster spoke of it on the floor of the U.S. Senate, and Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote about it, coining the phrase "The Great Stone Face." It became iconic enough to put on New Hampshire's license plate and on its State Quarter.
That was in 2000. On May 3, 2003, it collapsed. No serious attempt has been put forward to recreate it. A museum has been set up as a memorial. 135 Tramway Drive, Franconia, 90 miles north of Manchester, 139 miles northwest of Boston, 334 miles northeast of Midtown, and 180 miles southeast of Montreal.
Before... and After

New Hampshire has produced a President, but he may have been the worst one ever. Yes, worse than Herbert Hoover, Richard Nixon, George W. Bush and (so far) Donald Trump. Franklin Pierce served the State in both houses of Congress and was a General in the Mexican-American War, and was elected in 1852. But on the way into Washington for his Inauguration, a train accident gave him and his wife Jane only minor injuries, but killed his last surviving child, 11-year-old Benjamin.

He took office as the 14th President on March 4, 1853, bitter and drinking heavily. A supporter of Southern economic interests, including slavery, despite his Northern background, he signed the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, which nullified the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and the Compromise of 1850, and essentially made the Civil War inevitable. His economic policies essentially caused the Panic of 1857, just as he left office. He wasn't even considered for renomination by the Democratic Party in 1856, and died of cirrhosis in 1869, 65 years old and despised everywhere, including in New Hampshire.

Time has not exactly restored his reputation. He and his successor, James Buchanan, routinely rank among the worst Presidents in historical surveys. The log cabin where he was born, in Hillsboro, is long gone. The Franklin Pierce Homestead was built nearby, by his father, Governor Benjamin Pierce. 301 2nd New Hampshire Turnpike, about 40 miles northwest of Manchester. Not reachable without a car.

Franklin lived at the Homestead from 1804 to 1834. The Pierce Manse was his home from 1842 to 1848. 14 Horseshoe Pond Lane in Concord, 15 blocks north of the State House, 17 miles northwest of Manchester. The Pierces' residence from 1852 until Jane's death in 1863 and Franklin's death in 1869 burned down in 1981, and has not been reconstructed. 52 S. Main Street, 10 blocks south of the State House. The family is buried in the Old North Cemetery, on N. State Street, around the corner from the Pierce Manse. Greyhound goes from Manchester to Concord in 25 minutes, just $20 round-trip.

(The M*A*S*H character of Benjamin Franklin "Hawkeye" Pierce, from neighboring Maine and himself a prodigious drinker, was named in part for the President and, of course, Benjamin Franklin, and Hawkeye from James Fenimore Cooper's novel The Last of the Mohicans.)

The tallest building in the State of New Hampshire is One City Hall Plaza in Manchester, just 275 feet high. Elm Street (U.S. Route 3) & Stark Street.

Lots of TV shows have been set in New England, most of them in Boston and the surrounding towns. A few have been set in Connecticut and Rhode Island. Vermont had Newhart. Maine had Murder, She Wrote and now Haven. New Hampshire hasn't been so lucky.

David E. Kelley's CBS drama The Brotherhood of Poland, New Hampshire lasted 9 episodes in 2003. (So, throw in the Red Sox' failure, and it was not a good year for the State.) The Goodwin Games lasted 7 episodes in 2013. An animated version of the film Jumanji ran from 1996 to 1999, but, obviously, had no live-action scenes. On The West Wing, Martin Sheen's President Josiah Bartlet had previously served as Governor and a Congressman from the State, and was descended from Dr. Josiah Bartlett, a Signer of the Declaration of Independence. There were 7 episodes with scenes in New Hampshire.

The State has seen several movies set there, including political-themed films The Devil and Daniel Webster, The Hotel New Hampshire and Primary Colors. Also taking place there, either wholly or in part, were Our Town, Lolita, On Golden Pond (all of these have been made twice), What About Bob?, Urban Legend, To Die For, Click, The Rules of Attraction (set at fictional Conway College but based on author Bret Easton Ellis' experiences at Bennington College in Vermont), and the aforementioned Jumanji, whose sequel is about to be released.


New Hampshire is a State for cultured minds and hardy souls, for people who like the nice things about New York and Boston but not the icky stuff, and, yes, for sports fans. Feel free to check it out.

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