Two and a half years ago, I walked up to the ticket window at Baker Rink. It was Jan. 5, 2013, just after New Year’s. I nervously asked them for my credential. I waited quietly as they sifted around the booth, and finally handed it to me. I took it from them excitedly.
I’m always early to hockey games, but I didn’t realize Baker doesn’t open until 6 p.m. I must’ve stood outside for 30 minutes, shifting back and forth, trying to keep warm.
At 6, they opened the doors and I walked into Baker for the first time.
Yes, that was my first trip to Baker Rink. Even though I grew up 15 minutes away. Even though I probably drove by the arena a million times during my childhood. Even though I frequented nearby McCarter Theatre at least once a year. This was still my first trip to Baker Rink.
I just remember how beautiful it was. It was bright outside, and the exterior of Baker made the rink look just like Princeton’s other buildings. That weekend was Baker’s 90th birthday. And Baker looks like it’s old. It’s small and not very fancy, but incredibly charming – the kind of warm, historic charm you can only find at old rinks. I wandered around the arena, walking through the hallways on both sides. I fell in love with the windows around the hallway, giving Baker a bubble-type feeling.
I stopped by the entrances to each section, looking at murals of past Princeton greats, from the men’s and women’s side. I started at the old “Make Hobey Proud” banner, the simple one on a white background with black lettering, that used to hang outside opposite the press box.
I thought the press box was on the other end of the rink, so I walked all the way to the back of the rink. But then I discovered the press box was actually on the other end, so I walked back down the hallway. I had trouble getting the gate open, so I spent a few minutes fighting with the gate until someone told me I had to push it harder.
While I didn’t know everything about Princeton hockey back then, I’d spoken to a few players already (Mike Condon, Jack Berger, Mike Ambrosia, Kyle Rankin, Mike Sdao) and I’d followed the team really closely since I met Ambrosia and Berger at Devils’ development camp that year. Still, I didn’t know as much about the current roster as I do now.
I don’t remember much from the game, except that Princeton’s SID, Kristy McNeil, introduced herself. She then asked if I knew that Baker was the coldest rink in the league, which… I soon found out. That night, Andrew Calof scored a hat trick, and Princeton won. It was the first hat trick I saw live.
After the game, we went down to the locker rooms for interviews. There are a couple entrances to that hallway below the stands, and we usually use the one outside. So we walked into the cold, took a left outside the entrance and took another left. There’s a small set of stairs that leads to the locker room entrance. It was dark out, and I didn’t realize there was a lip at the top of the stairs… so I tripped and almost fell, but caught myself by scraping my hand against the stone wall.
Yes. I almost fell down a flight of stairs the first night I covered Princeton hockey.
Kristy asked if I was okay, and told me I could always go see the trainer if it was bad. I was a little scratched up and was bleeding slightly, but I was okay – just shaken up and a little embarrassed.
I was sitting next to Dartmouth’s SID, Pat Salvas, and I remember being starstruck – he’s a celebrity in the college hockey world. I also met Adam Wodon that night, the managing editor of College Hockey News – and now my current boss.
Princeton won, again. This time when we went to the locker rooms, Kristy jokingly told me to hold onto the railing. (I hold onto the railing every single time now, even if there’s ice on it.)
I interviewed Mike Condon and Jack Berger after the win. I thought I wouldn’t get a chance to come back to Baker, and that I probably wouldn’t run into them again (which is pretty far from true.)
I don’t remember much else from that weekend, except I was really happy with the experience. Everyone was really welcoming to me too, and I was so excited to pull open the doors and cover a game at Baker Rink for the first time.
A lot of things have changed since then, but I still feel that same excitement when I open the doors to Baker.
*(When I was shooting senior videos this year, some of the players asked me for my weirdest moment at Baker. I brought this up, and Tucker Brockett told me he was the Princeton player involved in this.)