By: Erin Bradley
Did you know hockey rinks actually used to be called barns? There is no concrete answer as to why, but there are a few theories. Some say it’s because people originally used barns as hockey rinks, while others say it’s simply because the old design of arenas were very similar to that of a barn. Many barns have their own unique histories and great stories to tell. For instance, Hershey Park Arena.
Name: Hershey Park Arena
Team: Hershey Bears
Location: Hershey, PA
Year Built: 1936
Capacity: 7, 104
The Hershey Park Arena isn’t just the site of the “sweetest hockey on earth”; it was once the official arena of the Hershey B’ars, or as they are known today, the Hershey Bears. This barn is also one of the few arenas of its kind still standing in North America. It’s unique barrel roof and steep seating arrangement allows for a great unobstructed view from any seat in the house and allows fans to be closer to the action.
In the midst of the Great Depression Milton S. Hershey saw a need to think of the future and wanted to give the community an enjoyable place to gather and be entertained while taking their minds off of all of the country’s troubles. He hired D. Paul Witmer to construct an arena connected to the park where fans could come to enjoy hockey games and other fun events.
The walls and seats of the arena hold the memories of many great hockey moments. In a vote conducted by the Hershey Park Arena Facebook page, fans vote on their favorite historical events that have taken place in the beloved barn. In the top three, the fans voted the Bears final game in the arena (1), Blare Atcheynum’s 3rd period goal in 97’ (2), and the atmosphere (3) as their favorite memories of the stadium.
(1) On April 7, 2002, the Hershey Bears faced off against the Philadelphia Phantoms in the last official AHL game at Hershey Park Arena. As the fans, players and workers filed into the building, there were a mix of emotions as fans reminisced about their sweet Hershey Bear memories and pined for the days when they could look forward to another game in their favorite barn. The Hershey Bears concluded the Hershey Park Arena’s hockey history with a delicious 3-1 win over the Phantoms and the fans went home with a happy ending to Hershey Park Arena’s story.
(2) During the 1996-1997 Calder Cup playoff series, fans sat on the edge of their seats as the Bears entered their 3rd overtime versus the Philadelphia Phantoms. J Bruce McKinney, Retired Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of the Hershey Entertainment & Resorts Company, remembers, “It’s probably Blare Atcheynum in the 3rd overtime, in the 1996-97 Calder Cup series with the Philadelphia Phantoms, and Blare getting that puck past that red line and skating in on Neil Little and driving that thing home. I felt like I was right behind him. I’ve never felt more excitement at a Hockey game, than to watch him score that goal and win that game at the 3rd overtime.” After another game in Hamilton, Ontario the Bears won their 8th Calder Cup and created yet another memory to last a lifetime.
(3) One of the greatest aspects of attending a game at Hershey Park Arena is the atmosphere. Everyone is friendly and connected in one common goal: to win the game. The fans actually play an important role in helping the Bears win. The arrangement of the stadium allows fans to easily taunt and tease the opposing team. The fans are the 7th man on the ice responsible for motivating the Bears and distracting the other team. Player Tim Tookey describes, “Coming down the hall every night before a game, no matter how tired you were; you start coming down the hall towards the ice and you start to hear that crowd yell. It was just a shot of adrenaline that I’ll never have doing anything else.”
Other than these favorite memories, the Hershey Park Arena has hosted a number of important historical events including: eight out of eleven Calder Cup wins for the Bears (including one in 97’ when the bears went 12-0 in playoffs), a birthday party for President Dwight Eisenhower, basketball player Wilt Chamberlain scoring a record 100 points against the New York Knicks and even the introduction of the Ice Capades.
Although this barn in Hershey underwent a fire in 2012, it is still alive and running today. It still hosts numerous sporting and entertainment events and is a popular place for tourists to visit to bask in the building’s rich history, visit the connected amusement park and eat some delicious chocolate.
If you are interested learning more about the Hershey Park Arena, check out these great sites:
Be on the lookout for more Barn Blogs coming soon!