A New Look: Dartmouth Hockey Locker Rooms Get An Upgrade

By Tris Wykes

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 02-21-2017 5:43 PM

Hanover — Bob Gaudet is not, by his own admission, a natural salesman. Gregarious? Yes. Respected? Absolutely. Ready to ease you into the latest model, ultra deluxe? Not so much.

“It was awkward, but I had to do what was best for the program,” the Dartmouth College men’s hockey coach said recently, after a tour of his team’s refurbished locker rooms. The women’s team area underwent a similar makeover during the preseason.

At a cost of roughly $500,000, the Big Green skaters got new carpeting and lights, individual equipment stalls and narrow closets for their street clothes. The men’s room was widened by five feet and the space seems noticeably larger, which is no small issue when you’re cramming as many as 29 players inside.

Both the men’s and women’s teams now enjoy new lounge areas with wi-fi, where players can hang out, refuel and watch video. The men’s squad enjoys a pair of 70-inch flat screen televisions and similar ones are planned for the women’s lounge.

“We wanted a better environment for teaching and camaraderie and today’s athletes are all about bright and shiny things,” said Brian Corcoran, the men’s director of hockey operations, who had a major hand in the project. He pointed out the neon green strip lighting running along the bottom of the stalls and the ceiling spotlight focused on a block D embroidered in the carpet.

At the front of the room, white boards with the outline of a hockey rink slide apart in the center to reveal one of the televisions. It’s flanked by small, glassed-in cabinets that feature historic memorabilia from the program’s past.

“People come to the rink early to do homework here and they hang out more,” women’s player Eleni Tebano said last week, before her team’s season ended short of the playoffs. “It’s a space we’re pretty proud of and that hopefully is taken care of, so that it’s fresh like it was when we first walked in.”

There are subtle touches as well. The women’s room features saloon-style swinging doors between the lounge and dressing areas and new ceiling work in the men’s room is rounded on the corners, lending the feel of a skating rink. The goaltenders’ spaces are in the corners, to take advantage of the roomier stalls there.

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“It feels way more professional,” said men’s captain Carl Hesler, who was jammed in a square corner facing Corey Kalk the past two seasons. “If I’m a recruit and I go to a school and see this, it’s an absolute game-changer. It shows how important hockey is to that place and that they care about their players.”

The last significant locker room renovations were during the 1990s; Since then the stalls had become chipped and the carpeting worn. Work several years ago to improve ventilation was helpful, but with this latest round of TLC, you can stand in either room when the players and their gear are out of it and your nose doesn’t identify the dreaded “hockey smell,” a sour, musky odor that makes the sport’s outsiders cringe.

Other features of the renovation include new rubber matting to absorb steps on skate blades, plush leather lounge furniture with embroidered school logos and a separate stick room down the hall, used by both teams. Murals, some painted and some photographic, line the hallway outside the locker rooms, and more are coming for the lounge areas.

“The bells and whistles make you feel good,” Kalk said. “When you go to places like Michigan and North Dakota, they have state-of-the-art facilities. It’s not so much that what we have is pretty, it’s that the money was raised by people who put so much hard work into the program. We play for them.”

Gaudet, a 1981 Dartmouth graduate, hit up former teammates, onetime Big Green players and their parents and anyone else he could think of. He often found that donors asked to contribute before he even got fully into his sales pitch. Planning and fundraising took roughly two years and also involved former women’s coach Mark Hudak, who resigned after last season.

Gaudet estimated roughly 50 people donated funds, with a core group of about a dozen, some of them now skating in the NHL, making the largest contributions. The project’s architect was White River Junction’s Studio Nexus, and Dartmouth administrators Bob Ceplikas, Richard Whitmore and Jason Rouillard often were involved.

“I think even though the season’s almost done, the guys are still kind of in awe,” said Kalk, whose team hosts Clarkson and St. Lawrence this weekend to end the regular season. “Before every game I get here and sit inside and thing about how special it is.”

Tris Wykes can be reached at twykes@vnews.com or 603-727-3227.