Northeastern Athletics: Matthews Arena turns 100

Northeastern Athletics: Matthews Arena turns 100
Matthews Arena celebrated its 100th anniversary last Friday. It opened to the Boston public April 16, 1910.

By: Patrick McHugh, News Staff

The home of the Huskies reached the century mark.

Matthews Arena, the world’s oldest multi-purpose athletic facility, turned 100 years old Friday.

Matthews currently serves as the primary home of the men’s and women’s hockey teams, as well as the men’s basketball team. The women’s basketball team also occasionally plays there, and many of the athletics staff’s main offices are located there as well.

The building, known as Boston Arena for its first 72 years of existence, opened its doors to the public April 16, 1910. Brochures passed out at the opening described the building as “the most complete home of sport in America – the largest, most complete and most elaborate temple erected for the devotees of sport in the world.”

Northeastern, which purchased the arena Oct. 4, 1979, renamed it Matthews Arena after 1956 graduate George J. Matthews and his late wife Hope M. Matthews. Mr. Matthews serves as chairman emeritus of the Northeastern Board of Trustees.

Athletics Director Peter Roby said the 100th anniversary is significant for the Northeastern community not only for the building’s past but for what it represents for the future.

“It’s nice to be able to celebrate our past and our history with this building being almost 100 years old with the past accomplishments of our teams,” Roby said. “But the thing that’s most exciting is the future. We are excited about our team’s futures, our student-athletes and the successes they will endure of the course of time, but this building, in particular, now has a really bright future. We’re celebrating 100 years in respect to Matthews Arena, but we are also celebrating the future and looking forward to what we can do here.”

The building is fresh off a $12 million renovation which took place last summer. The work included brand new cushioned seats, a new videoboard, new press box and upgrades to the locker rooms and weight room.

Women’s hockey co-interim head coach Linda Lundrigan, who played for the women’s hockey team from 1989-1993, said renovating Matthews was an important step forward for the university.

“It makes a statement to the public that Northeastern is committed to our athletic programs, that we expect excellence, and that we want to be a first-class institution both academically and athletically,” Lundrigan said.

Long before cushioned seats and videoboards, the arena served as the original home for the NHL’s Boston Bruins, who defeated the Montreal Maroons 2-1 Dec. 1, 1924 in their first-ever home game. The NBA’s Boston Celtics made their debut 22 years later as they played their first-ever home game at the arena, a 57-55 loss to the Chicago Stags Nov. 5, 1946. Other professional hockey teams made their debut at Matthews, including the Boston Olympics of the Eastern Amateur Hockey League, the New England Whalers of the World Hockey Association and the Boston Tigers of the Canadian-American Hockey League.

Matthews has also hosted many notable musical artists, including Marvin Gay, Chubby Checker, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bob Dylan and more. Convocations and graduations at the arena have also attracted the likes of Presidents Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy. Charles Lindbergh, Amelia Earhardt, James Michael Curley, Reverend Billy Graham, Admiral Chester Nimitz and General Dwight D. Eisenhower also have made appearances there.

For all its illustrious history, Matthews remains a hockey arena at its core, especially in the local scene. Besides Northeastern, the building has also served as the early home for the hockey programs of Boston College, Boston University, Harvard, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Tufts and Wentworth. In addition, the inaugural Beanpot Tournament was played at the arena in December 1952.

Current men’s hockey head coach Greg Cronin considers Matthews to be a special arena considering the fan atmosphere at games.

“This is such a unique building and I think a lot of hockey purists would agree with me when I say it’s a hockey cathedral,” Cronin said. “The crowd energy, the noise, the intensity goes right into your blood. It’s something that stirs your soul on the bench and it stirs the souls of the fans, as well.”

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