The Class of 1923 Arena has a rich history within the University of Pennsylvania. In 1968, a group called the "Friends of Pennsylvania Hockey" and the Class of 1923, lead by Howard Butcher III, decided to donate the 3.2 million dollar facility to the University of Pennsylvania. Upon the facility's completion in 1972, Howard Butcher III, Dr. John Cleveland and Bill R. Wise had developed the largest class donation in the University's history.
This 2,900-seat arena was the crown jewel of the athletic department in 1972. After 40 years of operation, the facility operates as the second largest collegiate arena in Pennsylvania.
Operated by the University of Pennsylvania Athletic department from 1972-1980, Comcast-Spectacor from 1981-1983, University of Pennsylvania Business Services from 1983-Current. During this time, the facility has hosted: Penn Varsity and Club ice hockey, Drexel ice hockey club, Villanova and St Joseph's ice hockey, Philadelphia Flyers, Philadelphia Bulldogs professional roller hockey, Scott Hamilton's Champions on Ice, Disney on Ice, multiple concerts, trade shows (including the Penn Computer Connection's Back-to-School sale) and the first three years of PennMOVES, the University's annual sale of items that students can't take with them when they leave campus in the summer.
Penn Ice Hockey: 1898-1941
The University of Pennsylvania began playing ice hockey in the winter of 1898-1899. The team functioned as a club sport independent of any university support. That winter, the team played in a four-team league known as the Intercollegiate Hockey League, which included Yale, Brown and Columbia. The team was made up of mostly sophomores and local Philadelphia residents. Hockey survived until 1911 when Philadelphia weather forced the team to participate in only one game. The following season 1912, the team spent the entire year on the road without one single home game. In 1920, Philadelphia had its own professional hockey team and an artificial ice surface was built in West Philadelphia to accommodate them. The Penn club gained exposure and popularity during this period, but was cut short by funding issues during the 1926-27 season. It wasn't until 1941 the Pennsylvanians once again became involved with ice hockey. During the 1941 season, Penn entered the Eastern Collegiate Hockey League and emerged as the undefeated champions of the league. The team enjoyed moderate success until World War II took over the nation and the team was disbanded like most sports during the time.
The Debut of Modern Penn Hockey: 1956-Present
From 1956-1959, the club retained a schedule that included between 10 and fifteen games over each season. In 1959, the club achieved a significant breakthrough when it received a budget from the C.S.A. From the 1961-1962 season until 1967-1968, the team continued to increase their schedule's difficulty and worked to attain varsity status from the university. In 1968 the hockey team entered the Ivy League, at the time was the most powerful conference in collegiate ice hockey. As expected, the team had a long and frustrating season, but managed to defeat Dartmouth 4-2 for their first Ivy League win. Through the 1969-1970 season, Penn continued to struggle through their league schedule, but posted wins against many of their foes out of conference.
In 1970-1971, Penn was able to boast about their state-of-the-art facility in the Class of 1923 Arena. Despite an opening loss in their new facility the team was able to make the ECAC playoffs for the first time in their history. Their first season was considered a success as they averaged over 2,000 in attendance each night. In 1971-1972, the team posted a 15-7 record the best of their varsity years. This equaled a fourth place finish in the ECAC and home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
During the next few seasons, players, coaches and staff continued to change over as the team produced respectable records and drew decent attendances. The squad continued to develop and recruit exceptional players from across North America until trouble started at the end of the 1978 season. Due to a leak to the Daily Pennsylvanian, Coach Bob Finke was informed of a plan to drop hockey from varsity status along with two other sports due to budgetary restraints. Athletic Director Andy Geiger was forced to tell Coach Finke with four games left in the season. As students stormed the athletic department, the team continued to finish its season as the administration decided to reinstate golf and gymnastics, but not ice hockey.
From the 1979-1980 season until the present, the team has retained status as a club sport under the University of Pennsylvania Recreation Department. During this time, they have sustained many disappointing seasons but have also enjoyed the successes of recent times, which include multiple Division 2 championship appearances. The team is currently in the ACHA and MACHA Division for collegiate club ice hockey. Penn has also recently added a Division 2 club women's ice hockey team that competes in the DVCHC. Both teams have had rankings in the top 20 of the country in their divisions.