This story was published in the BU Bridge January 14, 2005.
The sellout crowd of 6,224 began roaring even before a puck was dropped. First, more than 40 past BU hockey team captains were introduced to loud applause, as was former player Travis Roy (COM’00), who was paralyzed in his first game in 1995.
Then the lights dimmed and the scoreboard’s video screen showed clips of Terrier hockey action — nifty goals, spectacular saves, and hard hits. “It’s game time,” read the flaming letters. The fans chanted, “Go BU!” The atmosphere at the inaugural game at Agganis Arena January 3 was absolutely electric, at times matching the intensity of the Beanpot Tournament or a playoff game.
The Terriers had been hoping that the new $97 million rink would be as loud as the old Walter Brown Arena, and they got their answer when Brad Zancanaro (MET’06) sent a snap shot to the left of Minnesota goaltender Kellen Briggs for the game’s first goal. The din that erupted was deafening.
In the second period, Minnesota tied the game at 8:44, but forward Pete MacArthur (SED’08) put BU ahead at 16:26. The third period featured some thrilling scoring bids by the Golden Gophers, but goaltender John Curry (CAS’07) turned back every shot, leading the Terriers to a 2-1 victory and avenging their loss to the same team the previous night, in the men’s final game at Walter Brown Arena.
Agganis Arena is the centerpiece of the John Hancock Student Village, which includes an 817-bed residence hall, an 80,000-square-foot track and tennis center, and a Fitness and Recreation Center that will open in March. Additional residence halls will be built. The complex is expected to create a new center for campus life.
“I’ll tell you, I was really surprised at how loud it was in that building,” said Curry, December’s Hockey East Goaltender of the Month, following the game. “I almost thought it was louder than Walter Brown. I was really surprised, and it was a lot of fun. There were times when I could hardly hear myself think, and I didn’t know if that was going to be the case with the high ceiling and the bigger place, but it definitely was.”
A new era
“This place is amazing,” yells Terrier fan Ashley Rider (COM’07) as the BU Pep Band plays beside her. “I think it’s really going to help the hockey program and bring more students out to see the games.” Sitting in Section 118, which was filled with students wearing scarlet and white, she says the area behind the north goal has the same feel as the notoriously raucous Sections 7 and 8 of Walter Brown Arena.
“It seems louder in here than in the old arena,” says Jack Lanzillotti (CGS’06). His favorite of the numerous amenities at Agganis Arena: “The instant replays on the scoreboard. And the food is unbelievably good.”
Traditionally, a BU hockey game played during holiday intersession — with the exception of the Walter Brown Arena finale — is nowhere near a sellout, and Lanzillotti noted that there were about 1,000 empty seats at the old rink (3,806 capacity) during the 4-1 victory over Nebraska-Omaha December 29. However, the Terriers’ Agganis Arena opener against Minnesota, a team that won the NCAA title in 2002 and 2003, proved to be the hottest ticket in town, and Lanzillotti, a Worcester native, was one of the thousands of BU students, staff, alumni, and hockey fans in the Boston vicinity who made it their mission to be part of history.
Coach Jack Parker (SMG’68, Hon.’97) says that hockey recruits were always impressed by the noise level at Walter Brown Arena during a game, but were less than thrilled when they were shown around the small and well-worn facility while it wasn’t in use. But Agganis Arena is truly a showcase, even when a game isn’t being played. “It’s one thing to say, ‘Here’s a picture of it,’ to show them what’s going to be here,” he says. “It’s another thing to show them the hole in the ground with the construction going on. But it’s quite another thing to walk them around the building and have them here for a game.” And seeing 13th-ranked BU beat the top team in the nation in one of the finest hockey facilities in the country undoubtedly made an indelible impression on the high school students present. “This place rocked,” says Parker, executive director of athletics.
Agganis Arena, named after the late standout BU athlete and Red Sox first baseman Harry Agganis (SED’54), offers optimal sight lines for fans: no seat, including those in the 29 luxury boxes, is more than 60 feet from the ice surface. The facility also has a 6,500-square-foot weight room, a 27-seat theater-style video room, a private club room, a state-of-the-art sound system, and two large media rooms.
The concourse walls display BU hockey All-Americans, Olympians, and professional players — many of whom were in attendance. It was a night for past, present, and future legends at the University, and the victory provided the icing on the cake for the Terrier faithful.
Throughout the game, the four-sided center scoreboard’s 9-foot-by-13-foot video screens (one on each side) showed standings, statistics, and Terrier trivia questions. Like the screens in Boston’s FleetCenter, they also featured close-ups of the crowd. Usually, the temptation between breaks in play at a hockey game is to read the game program. Not so during the opening game at Agganis Arena. There were plenty of wide eyes in the stands taking it all in. Fans knew they were witnessing the start of a new era.
Unifying the campus
Parker says that Agganis Arena and the John Hancock Student Village will be an effective recruiting tool not just for varsity athletes, but for students in general. President ad interim Aram Chobanian agrees, pointing out that the Student Village has a unifying effect on an otherwise disjointed collection of BU buildings along Commonwealth Avenue. It provides “a truly elegant and solid link between the two sides of the Charles River Campus,” he says. “It will serve as the center of student life, and bring together our students, faculty, staff, alumni, and others, through not only a wide variety of athletic events, but also academic and professional conferences, social gatherings, and concerts. It will also allow us to extend our outreach to, and integration with, the greater community.”
“This is just an incredible facility,” says Alan Leventhal, chairman of the Board of Trustees. “When we think of what universities are all about, we think of the scholarship, the academics, the faculty, and the students, but it’s also about the great buildings and facilities that bring people together. The Student Village will have an amazing impact on student life in so many ways — in sports, in culture, and in good health.”
Agganis Arena “is truly a generational effort that typifies the long-term work of great universities,” says Joseph Mercurio, the University’s executive vice president. “The entire Student Village will serve our students and the community at large in a way that has not been possible in the past. This is the beginning of a new chapter of service to the Boston University community, for Terrier athletics and for our friends and neighbors. It’s an important milestone in the history of Boston University.”