(Photo: Library of Congress)
Designed by Eero Saarinen in 1953 and built with monies donated primarily by the Ingall’s family, the David S. Ingalls Rink at Yale University is known as the world’s most beautiful hockey rink. The rink was named for David S. Ingalls, Yale Class of 1920 and his son, David S. Ingalls, Jr., Class of 1956, both of whom served as captains of the Yale Bulldogs men’s ice hockey team while attending the university. However, it is more affectionately known as the “Yale Whale” because it’s curved roof reminds people of a whale.
Upon its completion in 1958, the unique design, employing a tensile structure most seen in the “spines” along the ceiling of the arena, won awards. It has been said that the building had a personality. It still does! The Yale Whale stands out on the modern campus at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. Home to the Yale Bulldogs–both their female and male varsity hockey teams–the arena also offers ice skating, public skating and more. The building underwent an extensive renovation in 2007, that saw a subterranean modern facility with locker rooms, a student-athlete lounge, practice facilities, weight-rooms and walls adorned with the history of hockey at Yale added. The building was also brought up to modern structural codes, but still retains it whale-like exterior. In 2010, the New York Times ran a two-part feature on the designs of Saarinen written by Benjamin Genocchio. In it, Genocchio said about The Whale, “It is unorthodox, to say the least, resembling a beached whale. But it is breathtaking to behold.”
This is not your every day college building. It is not square nor is it regular, Genocchio’s use of the word unorthodox is perhaps the most accurate. However, it was built to house an ice rink. Some people dislike the Whale, including U.S. President Harry S. Truman, who did not like the odd shape. He is said to have called the building a “nightmare.” No matter what you think of this out-of-water whale, it is awesome to see in person.
Seating 3,500 people, with a standing-room ramp which encircles the rink, every seat has an unobstructed view of the ice. Though the Whale was still 60 years from being a reality, Yale holds the distinction of not only being the oldest existing intercollegiate ice hockey program (begun in 1893), but is also said to have played the very first intercollegiate game when they took on Johns Hopkins in a game held February 1, 1896.
People–whether they be visitors, students, or faculty–all say that this odd shaped building in the middle of an up-dated campus takes you back in time. When you step though the doors you can feel the character of the place and the rich traditions that have been passed down from one team to the next. It has a charm that most places today don’t have and you can feel the uniqueness that runs from the ceiling to every seat. Sometimes you can spot history in the deep periphery of your vision; a sliver of a past player going after a puck or the shimmer of a coach’s smile. Don’t be afraid, these players will go on playing forever–proud to have played in The Yale Whale.