Photo of the ice rink at HersheyPark Arena. Home of the Hershey Bears.

Image Credit: Bruce C. Cooper (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Unlike many historical stadiums and arenas, HersheyPark Arena in Hershey, Pennsylvania has been standing vacant for ten years and has yet to meet it's destruction. It is perhaps known more for Wilt Chamberlain's 100 point game than the home of the Amateur Hockey League's Hershey Bears for 66 years. And Hershey, Pennsylvania is perhaps known more for it's chocolate factory than it's hockey team. We're pretty sure Hershey residents prefer to have it it that way anyway.

HersheyPark Arena had a capacity of 7,000 which is half the size of the smallest NHL arena but holds a history and lore comparable to that of Maple Leaf Gardens, former home of the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Forum, former home of the Montreal Canadiens. The first hockey game played at the arena was on December 19th, 1936 between the Hershey Bears and the New York Rovers in front of a crowd of 5,000 plus. The Bears were victorious by a score of 3-2 sending hundreds of commuters back to New York with a loss.

As you can see in the photo above, there was no scoreboard in the middle of the arena like you see in so many NHL arenas today. Instead, it was located at the very top of the arena against the wall. The arching roof and the three small levels of seating are what really distinguished it and made the place a spectacle to look at. The arena lacked a true concourse, instead having only hallways with bathrooms and small concessions. I couldn't imagine attending an important game in front of a packed house. Talk about a headache. 66 years later, the Hershey Bears moved to a new arena just blocks from their old home in 2002; the Giant Center. The new venue boasts a capacity of more than 10,000. Will it ever match the history of the old Hersheypark arena? No way. Not only did the Bears go on to win eight Calder Cups in the old arena but President Eisenhower actually celebrated a birthday here. Wow.

What will come of the old Hersheypark Arena? Sad to say, it is no longer owned by the Hershey Foundation which puts the arena in limbo when it comes to preservation and renovation. Today, it is home to the Lebanon Valley College hockey team just as a college team occupies the old Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto. At least the wonderful game of hockey is still being played there and the arena isn't just sitting there rotting. Here's to 76 years of amateur hockey!


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