Monday, November 29, 2021

Brown Bears 72 at Quinnipiac Bobcats 61 (NCAA Basketball) - November 28, 2021

With my re-entry into Club 124 as well as my Toronto on the Road quest both scheduled to finish in Seattle next month, it is time to start focusing on my final pursuit: the 387 active NCAA Division I home venues. There are still 290 to see, which is going to take some time. This year, I am focusing on those in the Northeast, as they are easier to get to. One of the few remaining that is accessible on public transit from NYC is at Quinnipiac University, located in Hamden, Connecticut, a few miles north of New Haven. With a hoops doubleheader scheduled for Sunday afternoon, I decided to make the trip, taking Metro North to New Haven and then an express bus to the university. The bus drops you off at the bottom of York Hill, the campus where People's United Center is located. There is a path that goes under Sherman Avenue and takes you to the entrance of the university at the bottom of the hill, from where you will have to trundle a half-mile up the road, which lacks a sidewalk and has rocks along the side of road at some places. This is not a pleasant experience and I would expect few are stupid enough to do so, but I had no choice and so made my way up, no doubt to amusement from passing drivers.

Before entering, I had a look at the bobcat sculpture along with a plaque explaining its legend that encourages you to rub its paw for good luck. Quinnipiac University is named after a Native American nation that lived in the area and the legend borrows heavily from one of theirs. Interestingly, the Bobcats were known as the Braves until 2001, when the university's administration dropped the name due to its inappropriate nature. Twenty years later, there are still two Braves teams in Division I: Bradley and Alcorn State, though both do not use any Native American imagery. The World Series champions on the other hand...

Anyway, People's United Center was opened in 2007 as TD Bank Sports Center and contains two separate venues: a basketball court and a hockey arena. The picture below gives an idea of the structure of the building. The basketball court is to the left as you are facing the main entrance. The box office is between the two sets of doors, and $15 got you both games, though I probably could have paid $10 for the women's game and just stayed.

Inside, there is a lobby with a small concession stand known as The Den, which has your basic arena fare and a few standing tables behind at which you can consume your meal at your leisure.

From these tables, you can enjoy the view looking south all the way to New Haven. 

Access to the each venue is through a set of doors. I had a look inside the hockey arena and the seating bowl is nearly identical to the basketball setup, though capacity differs slightly (3,386 for hockey and 3,570 for basketball). The hockey rink is named after Frank Perrotti Jr., a long-time fan of the team, while the basketball court is a gift from members of the Lender family (of Lender's Bagels), which makes it Lender Court; a name I find somewhat ironic as People's United is a bank.

Inside the entrance to Lender Court, there is a mural on the wall that shows one of many Quinnipiac logos. I really like the emblems and colours used here and throughout the facility.

You can see below how the seating bowl is shaped more like one for a hockey rink than a typical basketball setup. This leads to large spaces between the court and the seats behind the baskets. The blue seats and yellow support structure match the school colours and go very well together.

Above the entrance is the University Club, a lounge with a bar and kitchen that lies above the lobby and provides seats inside both venues.

The men's basketball team has not enjoyed much success, never reaching the NCAA Tournament and going 0-5 in their appearances in the lesser postseason events. There are also banners commemorating those who have scored 1,000 points in their career at Quinnipiac. I did not see banners for the other MAAC schools.

The women have done quite well for a smaller school, including a Sweet 16 appearance in 2017, where they lost to eventual champion South Carolina. 

There are 14 rows in the seating bowl and any seat along the sideline would be fine. Avoid those end zone seats unless you really need to be away from other fans. 

The scoreboard is a simple four-sided video board with an additional ring underneath. The quality of the live action and replays is very good. I also really appreciated the logo on the floor with a bobcat swiping stylized as a Q. As a bit of useless trivia, Quinnipiac is the only school in Division I that starts with Q.

And that is about all you need to know. This is a simple venue that is attractive and well designed. Just make sure that you drive.

The Games

The first game featured the women taking on Hartford in a mismatch, with the Bobcats prevailing 113-64, the most points I have ever seen scored by a team in a college basketball game. They shot 53% from beyond the arc and it was incredible to watch as they drained trey after trey. Still, the lack of competition made it difficult to stay focused and I have yet to see a truly competitive women's game at this level.

After a break, the men started their affair with the visiting Brown Bears, who stormed to an 11-0 lead. The Bobcats inched their way back and tied the game at 21, but they could not take the lead and went to the half down 34-29. The early part of the second stanza saw several lead changes and ties, including 49-49 with 11 minutes to go. As is often the case in basketball, it was just a short period of time in which the game was decided as Brown's Kino Lilly Jr. notched 7 points around a couple of Quinnipiac turnovers and when Jaylan Gainey hit a jumper, it was suddenly 58-51 Bears with 8:39 to go. That was certainly more than enough time to for the Bobcats to get back into it, but they could not make key shots and continued to turn the ball over, never getting closer than 5. When Lilly added a jumper and two free throws on either side of the under-4, it became 66-57 and another Bobcat miscue and two more bricks ended what little chance they had of a comeback. 

The final was 72-61 with the big difference Brown's prowess on the offensive glass. They grabbed 12 of 29 boards after their misses, leading to 15 second chance points compared to just 6 for Quinnipiac. Lilly led all scorers with 24 points, while Australian Jacob Rigoni paced the Bobcats with 15, including 4 threes. The game ended just before 6 p.m., giving me plenty of time to run back down the hill and catch the bus to New Haven, happy to have added another venue to my list. 


A few years ago, I attended a game at Lehigh University and was intrigued by one of the officials, who had a unique running style. I determined his name was Jeffrey Anderson and promptly forgot about him. But this year, when I attended the season opener at UConn, Anderson was one of the officials and seeing his amusing trots jogged (sorry) my memory. I did a more thorough search and found a Twitter fan account that is worth following, if only for the highlights of Anderson's unusual jaunts down the sideline. Anderson officiated the Final Four thriller between Gonzaga and UCLA back in April, and was in Hawaii for the Maui Invitational last week and Florida for the Emerald Coast Classic, including the final game between LSU and Wake Forest on Saturday night. So I was more than a little surprised to see him on the court today, meaning he flew from Florida to Hartford (or New York) and drove to the game, all within 22 hours. Of course, I have done similar things, but that is as a fan. To do so as an official shows real dedication. What really impresses me is how Anderson is happy to referee these low-level games despite being one of the top officials in the land. 

In the past I have mentioned my love for hard tickets, and the ducat I acquired here demonstrates why.    

The school logo is on the front and an illustration of the venue decorates the back. This is how printed tickets should look. If a smaller school can do this, so can every team out there. Bring stubs back now!

This was the 98th venue on the list of 387. Only 289 to go!

Next Up

A quick trip to Boston on Wednesday to add two more hoops homes to my list: Cabot Center for Northeastern women and Lavietes Pavilion for Harvard men. Then it is off to Vegas next weekend to finally get to see Allegiant Stadium, home of the Raiders. Check back next week to see how it all turned out.



Monday, November 22, 2021

Toronto Maple Leafs 3 at New York Islanders 0 - November 21, 2021

The New York Islanders and their fans have been in a state of perpetual anxiety for many years as the team struggled to come up with a replacement for its aging home, Nassau Coliseum. Rumours of relocation to Kansas City or Quebec consistently popped up, although such a move was highly unlikely given the television contracts the Islanders had in New York. Late owner Charles Wang was committed to keeping the team on Long Island but he could not secure the political backing for a new arena and eventually took the club to Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Although this was a disaster in terms of the fan experience, it was this move that kept the team in the area long enough for them to win the right to build a new venue next to Belmont Park. Four years later, the team opened UBS Arena and the fan base breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that their team would remain on Long Island for decades to come.

The rink was not ready in time for the start of the NHL season, so the Islanders began with a 13-game road trip, returning to open the venue against the Calgary Flames on Saturday night. The next night saw the Maple Leafs visiting and as I have to see them in every NHL arena, I had no choice but to go. I took Long Island Rail Road out to Floral Park where I met Mark, a lifelong Islander fan. After a beer at a local pub, he drove us to the rink, which is officially in Elmont, NY, just across the border from New York City. We arrived two hours before the game as gates would open at that time and I wanted to tour the entire arena, which as you can see above is massive. It is designed to resemble Belmont Park, the horse track right next door.

After having our vaccination credentials verified, we entered via the main entrance (above), which leads to the spacious main hall. Unlike Barclays, it was a quick and painless process helped by plenty of security scanners. The lower concourse is up a level.

As I rode the escalator, I heard a classical quartet playing Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'", a fitting piece given the Islanders arena saga, and their early season struggles.

One of the first things you will notice is the team's Hall of Fame, located on the main concourse. It is tough to read all the plaques because so many people are taking pictures of it.

A bit farther along is a wall with Islander records and awards.

The arena is divided into directional quadrants, though I did not see much purpose in these as you can navigate using the section numbers.

Concessions are well off the concourse, allowing easy passage for those who are wandering around. There are 17 bars throughout the arena, such as Eddie's below, which has some viewing areas just behind it.

If you want food, there are dozens of choices, most of which allow you to serve yourself before taking everything to a cashier, which is a misnomer as the arena is cashless.

Prices are ridiculous in some cases - how can a fountain soda be $14?

I went upstairs, passing by a Welcome Home! sign. This phrase is visible in many places throughout the arena, and is used in the gameday presentation as well.

The very large team store is next to the escalator; you can see the line to enter in the bottom right of the photo above. As I was not about to buy anything, I didn't want to waste time waiting, but I did snap a shot of the store below a large photo of a headless Billy Smith.

The upper concourse is equally spacious, but as there are fewer upper deck seats than the lower bowl, there are fewer fans up here.

There is a history wall here that honours local athletes in sports other than hockey.

The picture below is from my seat in Section 321, Row 5. In the end, I did not sit here, but it is certainly much farther away than a similar seat at Nassau Coliseum. There are only nine rows in the 300 level, and the roof is right above the top row, a design that should keep the place very loud. Thankfully, I did not have to experience any excessive noise on this night.

The view from the top row at one end. The ninth row is deemed limited view, possibly because you cannot see the entire scoreboard.

Moving around to the other side, you get an idea of how large the lower bowl is. The single level of suites is above, and then the 200 and 300 sections, both of which are relatively small. Capacity here is 17,250, quite a bit more than the Coliseum. Still, I was surprised to see unsold seats for this game, just the second in the venue's history, although attendance was announced as a sellout. Tickets are dynamically priced so for an unpopular game, you are probably best to wait until game time and get something at the box office.

Another of the bars is the Heineken Terrace, an outdoor spot that was quite busy before the game. There is another outdoor bar on the lower level.

The Tailgate bar is somewhat ironic, as tailgating is not permitted in the parking lots. I guess that is why there are 17 bars inside the arena. This one is at one end of the upper deck.

Above it are logos for all the Islander fan groups around the country. This is a nice touch that shows just how widespread fandom is.

Paul Cartier and his organ are next to Section 201A.

Mascot Sparky was doing the rounds, excited to finally have a place to call his permanent home.

Of course, the Islanders have plenty of banners and they have all been moved over from Nassau Coliseum. Going to guess that the #91 of John Tavares will not be joining Butch Goring's.

With my tour of the upper deck complete, I returned to the lower bowl and began to walk around, stopping to take pictures of the rink from various angles.

As I made my way along the back of the seating bowl, I unintentionally wandered into the Dime Club (below), which is reserved for those with club seats between Sections 113 and 116. The entry point is usually guarded, but at this time, there must have been a shift change, because nobody stopped me. Sometimes it pays to be clueless. I saw some standing rails there and inquired if fans were allowed to stand there during the game. The answer was yes, if they had a club ticket, which made me realize that I was in the club. When I discovered that food and soda was free in the club, I decided to stay for the game. So there are some parts of the building that I will have to see on my next visit.

Fellow Ottawan Denis Potvin was signing autographs in the club and he was talking to each fan, which was great to see.

Below is the view from one of the standing rails. I spent most of the game here and really enjoyed the space, but be warned that there are only a few of these that have unobstructed views of the ice. 

This is the view from center ice. Across the way is the Heineken Red Star Bar.

The shot below gives a view of the Hyundai Club on the lower level, a place that I will have to sneak into on a future visit. The lower rows of the 200 level seats behind the nets are quite close and might be the best place to sit.

Late in the game, I moved down to sit with Mark in Section 117, and the view from there is below.

Overall, UBS Arena is an impressive new venue and one that should make Islander fans happy, if a little poorer. I hope that concession prices can be adjusted for some items, as it makes no sense to charge so much. If you are planning a visit, have a look at the venue maps before you go. With the LIRR stopping right outside, it is much easier to get here than the Coliseum, so I will visit a few more times this season. But I am sure I will not enjoy the game as much as I did this one.

The Game

The Leafs were shutout at home by Pittsburgh the night before, while the Islanders, in the midst of a COVID outbreak that cost them four regulars, lost to Calgary, their fifth setback in a row. Joseph Woll (below) got the start for Toronto, his second in the NHL. Early on, there was a 4-on-4 when the Leafs took a penalty. Defending a 4-on-3 is not easy, but at one point the Islanders had four forwards on the attack and Mitch Marner got behind them. Jake Muzzin found him with a beauty of a stretch pass and Marner broke in alone on Ilya Sorokin, beating him with a nifty backhand move just 3 1/2 minutes in. The Leafs dominated the period outshooting the Islanders 12-6 but could not add to their lead.

The second period was similar, with Toronto enjoying a 13-7 advantage in shots, but no goals for either side. I began to worry that the Islanders might get lucky in the third, but instead, Ondrej Kase converted a quick pass from David Kampf at the two-minute mark to double the lead. At this point, the Islanders seemed to lose any energy they had, and another Marner marker clinched things as he tipped in a Michael Bunting pass with 6 1/2 minutes to go. The only question was whether Woll could get the shutout and as you can see below, he did! The final shots were 40-20 as the Leafs thoroughly outplayed the depleted Islanders.

This was not a spectacular game but one that I enjoyed, particularly from my spot in the Dime Club. Every time I visit UBS Arena in the future, I will fondly recall this night when I walk by the club entrance.


This was my 50th NHL venue, including two in Japan and Yankee Stadium for an outdoor game.

With the win, the Leafs are now 17-14-5 when I see them in a road venue for the first time. With just Vancouver and Seattle left, they have clinched an above .500 record for me. 

Next Up

I'm heading to Boston for an NCAA basketball doubleheader that features Northeastern women and Harvard. Check back for a couple of recaps in early December.