November 03, 2018
By: Steve Degler
Happy Valley has become Hockey Valley. The Penn State men's ice hockey team is off to a 5-0 start and the Nittany Lions are ranked sixth in the country. And do they get to play in a cool facility! I made my first trip to Pegula Ice Arena during Parents Weekend in mid-October. What a beautiful venue for the men's and women's teams. The Pegula family, owners of Buffalo's Bills and Sabres, donated $88 million to fund both teams and build the arena. They did it right. The facility alone will help recruiting. And now the team is becoming a national power.
The arena, which opened in 2013, is directly across the street from Bryce Jordan Center. The BJC was hosting Metallica that night and their fans were lined up early. That would have been a cool doubleheader: hockey and heavy metal. Maybe next time!
Back to the ice. PSU hosted Niagara when we were there and the Lions defeated the Purple Eagles by a 4-1 score. Pegula holds just over 6,000 fans. The building wasn't completely full (the football team was playing at Indiana at the same time) but the place has a great atmosphere. I have to imagine that when Pegula is packed for a key Big 10 weekend series, it is a crazy place.
There isn't a bad seat in the building. The concourses are very wide so you can move around with ease. There are plenty of concession options. The arena also features some premium seating areas, including suites. The game presentation by Penn State was very good. Pegula has a nice center-ice video board that was used very well for media timeouts and intermissions. There is also a second rink in the building. It can be used for practices and youth games and it is also available for use by the community year round.
The student section is well organized and extremely enthusiastic. They get on the opposing team, especially the goalie, throughout the game. There is a pep band above the student section that adds to the atmosphere. As a bonus, we received a personal visit from the "King of the Cowbell" in the student section, Chris Hess. Hey, it pays to have connections sometimes. Thanks, Hannah! I had to work my daughter into the blog. She is the reason we were there in the first place. Anyway, Chris plays a mean cowbell and he won an Apple watch during an on-ice shooting competition during the first intermission. Good day for him!
Hopefully, Penn State can continue its early season success. If the Nittany Lions again qualify for the NCAA tournament, they will be back at PPL Center in Allentown in late March to play in a regional. They will be looking for a much different result than last year. They were an impressive team to watch. They have an abundance of size, speed and skill. I think they have an excellent chance to return to Allentown and maybe as one of the top seeds in the tournament.
I had a great time at Pegula Ice Arena. I look forward to making another visit at some point. If you've never seen a college hockey game in person, check it out. It's not too far away and you can make a weekend out of it. I'm sure you will enjoy the experience.