Twenty-five years ago, August 23, 1993 the University of Minnesota held the official grand opening of the “New” Mariucci Arena. I was in the arena that night along with a who’s who of Gopher Hockey legends.
The Minnesota Golden Gophers ended their time playing at the “old” Mariucci that March with a WCHA First Round sweep of North Dakota and the current team would open their first official season in the new rink with the Hall of Fame Game against Michigan Tech in October.
But this night in Saturday was for honoring the legends who had played in the old rink and letting the Gopher ticket holders get their first look at what was nicknamed the Mecca of College Hockey.
The Star Tribune’s Micheal Rand did a deep dive into the Strib’s archives and pulled out some interesting nuggets on the plans for and construction of the arena:
Per a 1990 Star Tribune story, there was a movement afoot to move both Gophers men’s hockey and basketball to St. Paul at one point.
St. Paul’s drive to capture big-time college athletics accelerated Thursday when city leaders announced that they will make a play to move University of Minnesota hockey and basketball to the downtown Civic Center. Mayor Jim Scheibel said he will tell university regents next week of plans to convert the 17-year-old Civic Center into a permanent home for Gopher hockey and basketball. The teams have played nearly all of their home games on the university’s Minneapolis campus for more than 60 years. “We believe it’s a good fit,” Scheibel said yesterday. “It’s good for the city of St. Paul and it’s good for the university. It opens up a lot of opportunities.”
By 1991, though, plans were underway for the new Mariucci.
Per another Star Tribune archive story: The goal for the new hockey arena that will be built at the University of Minnesota is to provide players with the finest facility in the country. And fans will be treated to the best sightlines in hockey, a major improvement from Mariucci Arena. The official design for the arena was unveiled Friday night. Fans will walk in and take escalators to the concourse level, which will circle the top of the seating area with an open view because concession stands and restrooms will be on the outer wall. There will be about 8,500 seats, with room for about 9,600 including standing room, but those in seats will steeper sightlines than Met Center, which is considered excellent by most standards.
When discussing the $17.5 million arena, which will be built across the street to the immediate north of Mariucci Arena and will be ready for the 1993-94 season, Gophers coach Doug Woog says: “It will be the best hockey arena in the country.”
The grand opening festivities featured several of Gopher Hockey’s most famous legends in both a scoring competition (what we today would call a shootout) and then a legends game played in two halves. The first half was for the elder legends and featured a 25 minute running time period. The second half was for the more recent grads and was played like a normal game for 30 minutes.
The Gopher alums were split into the white team and the maroon team and allowed to make their own lines. Thus you has one line of Broten and left win, Broten at center, and Broten at right wing. Neil, Aaron and Paul Broten all played together to thrill the fans. Gopher fans also got to see other famous brother combinations like Peter and Ben Hankinson skating together as well.
Gopher legends from further in the past played in the first half of the game. Those included then Gopher coach Doug Woog, Lou Nanne, and former Minnesota Governor Wendell Anderson. All-time Minnesota leading scorer John Mayasich also made an appearance, five years before his number 8 would be the only Gopher number ever retired to the rafters of Mariucci Arena.
Gopher fans have seen a lot of memorable moments at Mariucci in the last 25 years. Here are a few of my favorites:
Minnesota Crushes #1 BC 8-1 in Mariucci Classic in 2012
Kyle Rau Rolls the Dice vs North Dakota:
The Danny Irmen Penalty Shot:
Nate Schmidt wins the MacNaughton:
While several newer arenas have been constructed in recent years, and due to many factors the crowds at Mariucci Arena are not nearly as full or raucous as the first 10 or so years of the arena’s history, Mariucci still remains one of the best arenas in all of college hockey to watch a game. Here’s to another solid 25 years!!