One hockey fan's journey to the arenas of North America
Alpha Ice Complex Europe Rink - Home of the Duquesne University Dukes
October 6, 2019 - Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Although the NHL's Penguins take top hockey billing in Pittsburgh, college hockey has a presence in the region, with Robert Morris having a NCAA Division 1 program that has had recent success, and Pitt and Duquesne fielding teams at the ACHA Division 1 level. Alpha Ice Complex, despite technically having a Pittsburgh address, is located in the town of Harmarville. This community arena opened in 1992 as the BladeRunners Ice Complex, and changed names over time, and is now known as Alpha Ice Complex. The arena sits in a shopping district with hotels, stores, and restaurant all nearby. The building is a simple struicture, which has gray metal siding and a rather nondescript entrance which features a small glass facade with red trim. The rink could easily be mistaken for a warehouse or other commercial building. The arena was built as a twin pad facility, but in 2003 a third ice pad was added, and that section of the building sits perpendicular to the original structure and can clearly be seem as an almost completely separate building that is attached to the side or the original wall. Alpha Ice Complex is a busy place, with the USPHL's Pittsburgh Vengeance, and Pitt's hockey program calling this arena home in addition to Duquesne and a number of high school and youth programs. The parking lot seems large enough, although it appears that a car dealer has taken over an entire section of the lot, which forces some fans to park in the lots of nearby businesses. Duquesne is not really thought of as a hockey school, but they have fielded ACHA D1 teams over the years with some success. The Dukes campus is a distance away from the arena, so student turnout is light, as this rink out in the suburbs is not an easy trip for college kids to make. Alpha Ice Complex is neither architecturally appealing, nor someplace that exudes character, but for the local college and junior teams it is a more than adequate venue. The arena stays busy, as in addition to the Duquesne game taking place at 1130 on this Sunday morning, there was a Vengeance game at 12. We chose the Dukes game as it fit our schedule better, and we were able to chat with a friend on the Duquesne coaching staff in between periods and after the game. Alpha Ice Complex is not the kind of place that is a hockey destination in itself, but does fulfill a valuable role for many, as it provides a place to play for area teams.
Fans entering Alpha Ice Complex on game day will find themselves in a small lobby in between the 2 original rinks at the facility. To the left is the Canada Rink, which is currently set up for roller hockey. To the right is the Europe Rink, which is home of the vast majority of Duquesne games. The lobby contains a few benches for skaters to lace up their skates, a pro shop, and a snack bar known as The Healthy Scratch. An information desk sits just inside the front door, and the place has the look and feel of most other community arenas which opened in the 1990's (read that as basic and visually unappealing). Upon entering into the Europe Rink, which is indeed NHL regulation size, there is a ticket table selling tickets for the Duquesne game, which are a reasonable $5. Oddly, the layout of the building is such that fans heading to the USA Rink, which is the larger capacity arena and hosts most of the Vengeance and Pitt games, have to walk directly through the Europe Rink to get the to the USA Rink. Fans were arriving around the same time for the Duquesne game and the Vengeance game, so the ticket taker had to ask each patron which game they were attending, as Vengeance fans were directed toward their rink where they paid admission upon entering the doors of that rink. The Europe rink features a low ceiling, and scoreclocks on each end wall. The metal siding inside the rink is gray, and large blue metal beams slope away from the modest seating area toward the bench side of the ice. Seating is comprised of several sections of blue metal bleachers which are 3 rows high. Thankfully the front row of the stands is elevated a bit which helps the sight lines somewhat, but unless you stand up in the top row you will be looking through the glass to watch a game here. Several fans also chose to stand along the end glass, where some banners for local teams hang, and there is a large trophy case honoring some of the successful high school teams in the arena's annual high school hockey showcase. The ice surface does features the logos of both Duquesne and Pitt, which is a nice touch, and makes this feel more like the Dukes home rink rather than a venue where they are strictly tenants. Alpha Ice Complex's Europe Rink is certainly a modest setting for college hockey, but, like many other schools that do not have a rink on campus, ACHA teams often have to work with the rinks that are available in the area, and Alpha Ice Complex is certainly a suitable home for the Dukes.
The game day presentation at Alpha Ice Complex Europe Rink for a Duquesne Dukes game is better than we expected, and the team tries to present things in a professional way. Music is played during all stoppages, and starting lineups are introduced over a rather loud PA system. Tickets are a very reasonable $5, and the quality of play at ACHA's Division 1 level continues to impress us the more we see it. Westchester's Rams team is frequently one of the top ACHA teams in the east, but the Dukes were ready for this Sunday morning game and took a 6-2 win in front of 150 or so fans, which is a good turnout considering the early start, and the fact that there was a Junior A game going on simultaneously a few feet away in the USA Rink. With this being an off-campus venue there is not the typical student crowd you imagine with college hockey, but many other ACHA schools play a distance away from their campus and at odd times of the day as well. The arena has a few quirks, and is weathered as the glass is discolored and worn. This rink has the clear boards covering the bench areas for those wanting to check out the players' knees. The dressing rooms are behind the grandstand, so each period the teams come out through the middle of the seating area to get to the ice. We thoroughly enjoyed the game as the action on the ice was entertaining and the teams put forth a good effort. With a pair or college teams and a Junior A team calling Alpha Ice Complex home, local hockey fans can watch a lot of hockey here if they so choose. We doubt many folks would make a trek to the area specifically to watch hockey at this simple arena, but if you are in town a stop at in Harmarville for a Duquesne game would make for a fun time at an inexpensive price.