Friday, February 3, 2017

How to Go to a Vermont Hockey Game

Continuing my bid to do sports-theme Trip Guides for all 50 States, I present one for the University of Vermont, and its premier team, its men's ice hockey team.

On Friday, February 10, and Saturday, February 11, the Vermont Catamounts will play home games against their arch-rivals, the University of New Hampshire Wildcats. Both games start at 7:05 PM.

Before You Go. The University of Vermont, or "UVM," is at 44.48 degrees North latitude. That is further north than Boston and Toronto, as far north as Minneapolis, and the only major league cities further north are Portland and Seattle. So it could be colder.

For both Friday and Saturday, the Burlington Free Press website is predicting 18 degrees for daylight, 9 degrees for night, with a 20 percent chance of snow on Friday and a 40 percent chance on Saturday. Bundle up, and be careful.

Vermont is in the Eastern Time Zone, so you won't have to fiddle with your timepieces.

The U.S.-Canadian border is 43 miles north, and downtown Montreal about 95 miles north. If you want to take a side trip, you'll need your passport. And you'll have to change your money. As I write this, US$1.00 = C$1.30, and C$1.00 = US 77 cents.

Tickets. Gutterson Fieldhouse seats only 4,035. That's not much, and UVM-UNH is a rivalry. If you can get them, tickets are $25.

Getting There. It's about 300 miles, depending on which northerly route you take, from Midtown Manhattan to the UVM campus in Burlington. There is a Burlington International Airport, but with everything you'd have to do at the airport at either end, it really doesn't pay to fly.

If you're driving, the best way to get there is to take Interstate 87 past Albany, where the New York State Thruway becomes the Adirondack Northway, to Exit 20. Take NY Route 149 to U.S. Route 4, then cross the State Line and turn left on Vermont Route 22A. Take that until it merges with U.S. Route 7, and drive that right to the UVM campus.

Amtrak does not go to Burlington. Greyhound does, but it takes 11 hours, and you'll have to change buses -- not at Albany, which you might guess as a halfway point, but at South Station in Boston. So, instead of going almost due north, you'll be going northeast, then northwest. Round-trip fare is $112, and the station is at 2 S. Prospect Street. If you buy online, or at Port Authority, make sure you specify "Burlington, University of Vermont," or you'll end up at the Airport, which is in South Burlington, 2 1/2 miles east of the campus.

Once In the City. Vermont was first settled by the French, so its name is probably les Verts Monts -- literally, the Green Mountains, which is the name of the mountain range. (The one in New Hampshire, the northernmost of the Appalachians, is the White Mountains.)
It is the only State with green license plates.

Burlington, easily the State's largest city (but not that large: Only about 42,000 permanent residents, or slightly more than a sellout at Citi Field), was named for Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington and 4th Earl of Cork, a British architect of the early 17th Century. The University of Vermont was founded in 1791, the same year that Vermont was admitted to the Union as the 14th State, the 1st added after the Original 13.
ZIP Codes in Vermont start with the digits 05. The Area Code is 802. The State capital is Montpelier, 37 miles to the southeast. With 7,855 people, it is the smallest State capital in the country. Vermont has a 6 percent sales tax, which rises to 7 percent in Burlington. Bernie Sanders, before running for President in 2016, and serving in both houses of Congress, was Mayor of Burlington from 1981 to 1989.
The State House in Montpelier

It's 189 miles between the campuses of the universities of Vermont and New Hampshire, although the State line is only about half that: Dartmouth College, in Hanover, is just 95 miles from UVM. As I said, it's 95 miles north from UVM to Montreal. Albany is 150 miles to the south, the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown is 195 miles to the southwest, and Boston is 216 miles to the southeast.
The centerpiece of the UVM campus is The Old Mill (shown above), built in 1825, at 94 University Place. Although Burlington has a Main Street, the north-south address divider is Pearl Street, 5 blocks north. There is no east-west divider: Address numbers rise the further east you get from Lake Champlain.
Church Street Marketplace

Speaking of which, during the Summer -- in 2017, from June 16 to September 25 -- a ferry will take you across the lake, 10 miles, to Port Kent, New York. Cars are $30, and foot passengers are $8.00. In each case, that's each way. The ride takes about 1 hour. The Burlington Terminal is at 1 King Street.
The M/V Champlain, part of the Burlington-Port Kent Ferry fleet

Green Mountain Transit provides local bus service. A single fare is $1.25. The State has no beltway.

Going In. The Albert L. Gutterson Field House, a.k.a. "The Gut," is at 147 Spear Street, about a mile and a half southeast of downtown. There is an adjacent Gutterson Garage and Lot, and it's free after 3:30 PM, but it fills up quickly. Most likely, you'll have to park on the street, at a meter, as there are no lots.
Gutterson, Class of 1912, was UVM's 1st Olympian. He won the long jump at the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden, and among the competitors he beat out was Jim Thorpe. He later became an engineer, and lived until 1965, long enough to see the Field House bearing his name open.

It opened in 1963. Like many old hockey rinks, it has a round roof that may also remind you of old roller-skating rinks. The way it's built, it looks like it has more seats behind the goals than it does along the sidelines. But this gives it a very intimate feeling. The rink is laid out east-to-west.
The State high school hockey championships are held there, and it is about to become home to the Vermont Bucks, a team in the new CAN-AM Indoor Football League.

Food. College sports arenas are notorious for not having good food options. Most concession stands are very basic. No alcoholic beverages are served.

Team History Displays. Despite their in-State popularity, the Catamounts have not been particularly successful. They've won Hockey East only once, in 1996. They reached the NCAA Tournament Frozen Four that season,and also in 2009, but that's it. They've only made the Tournament at all once since 2010, in 2014.

Viktor Stålberg, Class of 2009, currently plays for the Rangers. Former Ranger Martin St. Louis, Class of 1997, is the only player with his uniform number retired, 8. The school also produced John LeClair '91 and Tim Thomas '97. 
Martin St. Louis, getting his Number 8 retired

Stuff. Your best bet is the University Bookstore, at the Dudley H. Davis Student Center, at 590 Main Street (U.S. Route 2). Don't expect to find any books or videos about UVM hockey.

During the Game. This is not a Boston Bruins game -- or even, to cite the closest NHL team, a Montreal Canadiens game. You have a 99 percent chance of being safe, as long as you don't start anything.

What's a "catamount"? A mountain lion, which makes sense, given the State's name, and its nickname, the Green Mountain State. The school's costumed mascot is named Rally.
After the Game. You and your car should both be safe. The Skinny Pancake, a well-known diner, is open until 12:30 AM. 633 Main Street, a 10-minute walk north of the FieldHouse.

If you're staying overnight, Friday into Saturday (or Saturday into Sunday), and want to watch your favorite European soccer team play, there's a Rí Rá Irish Pub, at 123 Church Street downtown.

Sidelights. Burlington is a nice little college town, with not much to keep anyone occupied if they're not into such places.

UVM plays basketball at the 3,266-seat Roy L. Patrick Gymnasium, just to the north of Gutterson Field House, and having the same address, 97 Spear Street. They play in the American East Conference (as opposed to the hockey team, which plays in Hockey East), and have won 7 Conference titles in the regular season, the last in 2014; and 5 conference tournaments, the last in 2012. Winning the conference tournament is the only way it can qualify for the NCAA Tournament, and only in 2005 has it won a game to even advance to the Round of 32.
Patrick Gym

The best-known former Vermont basketball player isn't known as a Vermonter, or as a player. He's from Hillside, New Jersey, graduated Hillside High in the Class of '52, and UVM '56. He's better known as a coach: Rollie Massimino, who took Villanova to the 1985 National Championship.

UVM had a football team from 1886 to 1974, but it was discontinued. Centennial Field is nearly a mile east of the main campus, at 287 Colchester Avenue. It seats 5,000 people, and still hosts UVM soccer.

An adjoining baseball park, also named Centennial Field, opened in 1922, seats 4,415, and hosts the Vermont Lake Monsters of the New York-Penn League, the league that also includes New York City's Brooklyn Cyclones and Staten Island Yankees.
Named for "Champ," the Loch Ness-like monster that supposedly lives in Lake Champlain, the team is now a farm club of the Oakland Athletics, and was previously one of the Montreal Expos, from 1994 to 2005 -- meaning that it kept the Expos name for a year after its nearby parent club moved away. It won the NYPL Pennant in 1996, and also won Division titles in 1995 and 2011.

The closest teams in the NHL and MLS are in Montreal: The Canadiens are 95 miles north, the Impact 99. The closest teams in the other sports are the Boston teams, to the southeast: The Celtics (and Bruins) 215, the Red Sox 217, and the New England Patriots 241. In spite of being closer to Montreal than to Boston, the American and New England identities take hold: The most popular teams in each sport are the BoSox, the Pats, the B's, the C's, and the Revs.

Burlington isn't exactly a major concert center. Nor is anyplace else in Vermont. Neither Elvis Presley nor the Beatles ever gave a concert there.

Nor is it big on museums, although it has the Robert Hull Fleming Museum of Art and Anthropology, at 61 Colchester Avenue, across from the University of Vermont Medical Center. The Shelburne Museum, displaying folk art, is at 6000 Shelburne Road, 7 miles south of downtown Burlington. The Ethan Allen Homestead, home of the hero who won the Battle of Ticonderoga during the War of the American Revolution, is open for tours. The address is 1 Ethan Allen Homestead, off Route 127, about 3 miles northwest of downtown.

Vermont has produced 2 Presidents, both Republicans who were Vice President and had to take office when the President died. Chester Arthur Historic Site is the birthplace of the 21st President, but the family only lived there a brief time. 4588 Chester A. Arthur Road in Fairfield, 40 miles northeast of Burlington. Like Barack Obama, and also Andrew Jackson, he had enemies who said he was foreign-born: His father was an Irishman who immigrated to Canada before marrying a Vermont woman, and his birthplace is only 20 miles from the border.

He grew up outside Schenectady, and spent his political career in New York. He was living at 123 Lexington Avenue, in the Kips Bay building that now includes Kalustyan's Deli on the ground floor, when President James Garfield died on September 19, 1881, following being shot on July 2. Arthur was sworn in there, and then went to Washington, and filled out Garfield's term until March 4, 1885. He returned to his Manhattan apartment, but had kidney disease, and died a year and a half later, and is buried outside Albany.

Calvin Coolidge is, thus far, the only President born on the 4th of July, in 1872, at Plymouth Notch, Vermont. The farm once known as the Coolidge Homestead is now named President Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site. He grew up there, but spent his adult life in Massachusetts, where he served as Mayor of Northampton and Governor, before being elected Vice President with Warren Harding in 1920. He had graduated from Amherst College in Massachusetts, but his wife, the former Grace Goodhue, graduated from the University of Vermont -- so UVM has produced a First Lady, if not a President.

On August 3, 1923, Coolidge was staying with his father at the Homestead. Unable to reach the house, in a very rural area, via telegraph or telephone, as they didn't have either, the Secret Service had to drive in and inform him in person that Harding had died the night before. Since the house didn't have electricity, either, he was sworn in by the light of a kerosene lamp -- by his father, a former State legislator and a notary public. When asked how he knew he could swear his son in, he said, "I didn't know that I couldn't." The 30th President, like Arthur, hurried back to Washington, and was sworn in again, just in case.

He filled out Harding's term, and was elected to a term of his own in 1924, but, in 1927, he famously said, "I do not choose to run for President in 1928." He left office on March 4, 1929, returned to Northampton, and died there in 1933 -- like Arthur, before the completion of the term after he left, so both would have died in office had they sought and won another term.

He was buried at Plymouth Notch Cemetery, on Lynds Hill Road, just half a mile south of the homestead, at 3780 Vermont Route 100A, 101 miles southeast of Burlington, and 247 miles northeast of Times Square.

Don't look for tall buildings in Burlington, or anywhere in Vermont. The tallest is the Decker Towers complex, at 230 St. Paul Street. It's low-income housing, rising 11 stories, or 124 feet.

Several TV sitcoms have done episodes on that great test of relationships, the weekend getaway in Vermont. I've seen at least 2 TV couples reject the idea of moving from Manhattan to Vermont because they can't get good Chinese food delivered.

But the only major TV show set in the State was Bob Newhart's 1980s sitcom Newhart. And it would have worked far better as a 2-hour "fish out of water" movie than as an ongoing series.

This is backed up by how many movies treat Vermont as a strange place where urbanites don't really fit in: Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, Nothing Sacred, White Christmas, The Trouble with Harry, Funny Farm, State and Main, and Hope Springs. Not comedies, but also showing Vermont's strangeness, and occasionally its unfairness, are Dark Victory, Dead Poets Society, What Lies Beneath and Sucker Punch.


Vermont is farms and small towns, and a notable hockey team. That's about it. If that's your cup of tea, go up and have some fun. Me? It's a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there.

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