Sunday, July 11, 2010

Artifacts from New Haven Arena Coming Back

Special thanks to Abeetzwmoots for posting this story on The EHL Message Boards:

Artifacts from New Haven Arena Coming Back
By Mary E. O’Leary, New Haven Register Topics Editor, 7/11/10

NEW HAVEN — Paul Sandella remembers the yellow-brick-lined interior, the smoke filled stands, the fights and just the sheer excitement of the place.

Paul, his brother, Rick, and his dad were among the loyal fans of the New Haven Blades hockey team that played at the New Haven Arena in the early 1970s, with the family heading in from Wallingford for those twice-weekly home games.

After it closed in 1972 and hockey fans had to go to the New Haven Coliseum to get their fix, “the quality of the games went up, but the passion from the crowd diminished. A lot of energy was lost,” Sandella said.
For almost half a century, three concrete cast panels depicting “Lady Victory” and sports figures looked down on Grove Street as thousands of music fans and skating and hockey fanatics passed by below on their way into the New Haven Arena.

Crated and stored away for another three decades, Febo Ferrari’s artwork will soon be on display within the sightline of the original Arena at Grove, State and Orange streets, now the headquarters of the FBI.

Demolished in 1975, the Arena was the largest space of its kind in Connecticut for entertainment and sporting events for some 45 years, a three-story brick building built and operated by the Podoloffs, a prominent Greater New Haven family.
The three 800-pound vertical panels outlasted the Arena and the New Haven Coliseum, where they were stored for the life of that facility, until it was imploded in January 2007. The original plan to place them in the lobby of the Coliseum never materialized.
Dave Hainsworth, the popular goalie for the Blades from 1968-72, remembers the Arena as a “cozy place to play.”

“It was a place where fans hung out after the game,” he said. “It kind of became one big family.”

Hainsworth said the place was always in use. If it wasn’t hockey or ice skating, there were basketball tournaments and organized boxing.

“I remember we came back from being on the road once and the circus was here. The elephants were in the garage. A reminder of them hung in the air for a week and half after they were gone,” Hainsworth said.
From left to right, standing guard over the entrance of the Arena from 1927 until 1975, the three figures depicted were:

- A male figure wearing knickers, a jersey and skates, with a hockey stick and puck, but no protective gear.

- A classically dressed female holding an urn and wearing a laurel wreath to symbolize victory, with the word “Sport” inscribed at the bottom.

- A male boxer, to symbolize a pasttime that was wildly popular at the turn of the 20th century, when immigrants and others would enter the ring to earn some money and local fame.
Nathan Podoloff, an engineer by training, oversaw construction of the Arena and was its day-to-day manager for 45 years, from the time it opened on Jan. 17, 1927, with a Yale hockey team game, to the sellout closing concert by Elton John on Sept. 29, 1972.

He was one of several Podoloff siblings, including brother Morris, who advanced professional sports through their connections to the family-owned Arena.

They were the children of an immigrant couple from a town south of Kiev in Ukraine who fled to the U.S. in 1890 to escape the pogroms aimed at Jews.

Morris Podoloff, in 1920, was part of a group that created the American Hockey League, and was elected its first president, according to a history written by Hilda Myers Podoloff, wife of Nathan and mother of Ann Podoloff Lehman, a metal sculptor and one of the founders of the Creative Arts Workshop.

Morris Podoloff also became the first commissioner of the National Basketball Association and, through the International Association of Auditorium Managers, Nathan Podoloff and his colleagues produced the first Ice Capades.

The Arena is fondly remembered by the thousands of hockey fans who followed the beloved New Haven Blades and before that the New Haven Ramblers and the New Haven Senators, with the New Haven Eagles hitting the ice from 1926-43.
In an interview with the New Haven Register in November 1972, Nathan Podoloff estimated that, statistically, in the Arena’s nearly half-century history, there were “more than 10 million paying customers who saw and heard a tremendous variety of sports, culture, pageantry and entertainment that they otherwise would have been deprived of. Approximately 10,000 days of Arena use were held on time, rain or shine, storms or blizzards.”

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1 comment:

  1. I was basically born and raised at the NEW HAVEN ARENA. My dad was a manager there from the late 1930s till it closed down. My dad was Nate Podoloffs right hand man. My dad started taking me there at the ripe old age of 2 or 3 and was skating just as soon as I could walk. I knew every square in of that building better than I knew my own home and never missed even one event from a young child untill I was drafted in the Army on May 2nd 1968 and came home in April 1970. I greatly miss that grand old buildings