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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Amherst : A Pictorial. Sort of.

Ahh, Amherst!

Sounds like the name of a crappy morning TV talk show, doesn't it? Doesn't it kind of remind you of something you'd see TV's Danny Tanner on?

"Ahh, Amherst!" It's got a ring to it, doesn't it Saget?

I will say this, Amherst is a nice little place. If you've ever been to a NESCAC college town, you're not unfamiliar with the kind of setting you'll get in Amherst. The place looks and feels like academia come alive. There are no ugly buildings here, just a lot of buildings that feel like they've been around for about 250 years.

That said, Orr Rink, despite being an older facility itself, doesn't exactly fit in with the rest of the old styled buildings around it.

That said, the old barns like this I'm rather partial to because these were meant for hockey to be played in. There's virtually nothing else that a place like this could be used for other than hockey. It's these small cradles of greatness that you can find dotting the landscape all over Massachusetts. Sure Amherst College might be a very well-to-do place, but it's certainly not a place where athletics dictate policy and a small rink like Orr Rink embodies that statement.

Outside of Orr Rink, parking was very hard to find which surprised and horrified me. Arriving there at 5:30 in the afternoon I figured this would give me ample time to snoop around and check out sites around the immediate part of the campus. Finding parking I had assumed would be easy.

Not so fast.

What I'd neglected to do before leaving was to check out and see that Amherst College was the center of the D-III NCAA Playoffs universe that afternoon. Earlier in the day, the Amherst women's hockey team defeated Plattsburgh State to earn a spot in the D-III Women's Frozen Four. That afternoon, the parking was all gone because the Amherst women's basketball team was hosting an NCAA Tournament game in the campus gymnasium, located next to Orr Rink.

Well at least I didn't have to worry about the hockey game being sold out.

Outside of Orr there was a sight that you don't normally see in this part of the country, nevermind at places like Amherst College: Tailgating.

Yes, it's like a crappy paparazzi photo. Shut up.

I was a bit surprised to see anyone out there at all, but I'd guess that given the huge day of NCAA Tournament sports going on that day, and it was beautiful outside... Hey, why not? Burgers, hot dogs, sodas, beers... A nice simple little picnic setting for an uncommonly gorgeous pre-spring day full of playoffs. You can't beat it.

What did catch me off guard is that school shirts and sweatshirts weren't the garment of choice at the tailgate, but rather it was Amherst hats. Hey, whatever gets it done I say. That said, how is it that the dog is the only guy going full out in purple? He can't even get into the game!

Poor guy.

That said, upon walking into Orr Rink I had a quote from the movie Batman repeating in my head over and over and over again...

And purple! I just love purple!

Even Jack's had enough of the purple already.

Yeah, there's purple everywhere inside of Orr Rink. The good folks over at Uni Watch always make it very clear their stance on purple uniforms (they despise it because it's not fear-inducing), and really, I can't fault them too much on this.

Wealthy private institutions in the Northeast can't get enough of it, in both college and high school alike. Big time NESCAC rivals Amherst College and Williams College both bust out purple as their main color and neither of them are particularly well liked amongst their NESCAC compatriots, nevermind everyone else in New England.

My terrible photography skills and sub-par camera don't allow for me to show you just how purple everything is inside of the place, and for that I apologize, but every bit of trim is painted purple, all the bleacher seats are purple and the home team, of course, is decked out in purple. It's quite the sight to behold and is not unlike that of my old high school.

Yeah, like I said, purple at some point was the new black, probably before black was the new black. Maybe black is the new purple. Hmm...

I wasn't high - it looks more purple than this. I swear!

This place really reminds you of what it would be like to play inside a warehouse but this is what helps sell the "roots of American hockey" aura of Orr Rink. I know I'm messing around a lot here about the color scheme and all that but I liked this place a lot, even if it was a bit lacking in team decor.

The FatHead people should start making stuff for smaller colleges.


The best part of taking in a game at this level is that there's not a bad place to watch from unless you doom yourself to a bad location. Obviously there's no fixed seating here so its general admission seating. I managed to place myself in the heart of the Amherst College fan section which, for a game where I had no vested interest in who wins or loses, was OK by me.

I was literally on top of the action. I may have gotten a team busted for too many men on the ice in fact.

The fans at Amherst seem to be good folks and they're vocal when it's called for (just ask the officials) and they're very loud when the team scores. That said, one of the most entertaining cheers I've ever witnessed occurred at this game from an Amherst fan:
Go get 'em lads!
Just fantastic. Sometimes stereotypes are great because they come true right before your eyes.

As for the game itself. Phenomenal. Hobart came out on top with a 2-1 overtime victory and their healthy contingency of fans were rewarded for their long trip out from Geneva, NY for it. Hobart now goes back to their second D-III Frozen Four in four seasons. Not too bad.

Classiest moment in sports.

At the game, I met up with a guy named Larry Carle who you'll get to read about a little more later on either here or on USCHO.com provided they post my story. If not... well, you know you can find it here later on.

Coming up this weekend as part of Back To School it's the D-I ECAC Championships in Albany featuring the top four teams from that conference: Yale, Cornell, Princeton and St. Lawrence (see, I told you they'd be good).

I'll be trolling about in Albany so if you spot me and say hi, I'll accuse you of stalking me and get the Albany P.D. involved.

Or I'll just offer to buy you a beer for being such a loyal follower.

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