It opened in 1910 on what is now the east end of Northeastern University's campus, and is currently owned by the university. It is the original home of the National Hockey League (NHL) Boston Bruins — the only team of the NHL's Original Six whose original home arena still exists for the sport of ice hockey at any level of competition — and the WHA New England Whalers (now the NHL Carolina Hurricanes), as well as the secondary home of the NBA Boston Celtics.

The first games of professional ice hockey took place in March 1911 when a two-game $2,500 competition between two NHA teams, the Montreal Wanderers and the Ottawa Senators took place. The NHL's first US-based franchise, the Boston Bruins, played their first-ever NHL regular season game at the Arena on Monday, December 1, 1924. with the Bruins' most historic rivalry being initiated only one week later. The Bruins left the Arena in 1928 when Tex Rickard's new indoor sports facility in Boston, the Boston Garden was completed. The Boston Celtics played their first game at the Arena in 1946, and played at the Arena until 1955. The WHA's New England Whalers played some of their first-season home games at the Arena in 1972–73.

Matthews is where the hockey programs of Boston College, Boston University, Harvard, MIT, Northeastern University, Tufts University, Boston State College (later merged into the University of Massachusetts Boston) and Wentworth Institute of Technology all began; in particular, it housed the Boston University hockey team until 1971, when Walter Brown Arena was built.

The Arena was purchased in 1979 by Northeastern University. The Arena was renamed in 1982 when Northeastern alumnus George J. Matthews helped fund its refurbishment. The arena was briefly known as Northeastern Arena as well. A 1995 renovation expanded the ice surface from 200 by 80 to 200 by 90 feet (61 m × 24 m to 61 m × 27 m). Another round of renovations took place in the summer of 2009. The centerpiece of the renovations were all-new seating and a brand new center ice jumbotron. In 2018, a new jumbotron was installed, currently one of the largest videoboards in the Northeastern US. The lobby was also reworked, with additional concessions and an elevator for ADA compliance. A new weight room and expanded locker rooms were provided for the athletes. The total cost of the renovations was estimated at $12 million. It still shares a feature with both the 1998-demolished Boston Garden pro sports facility and Harvard's existing Bright-Landry Hockey Center where ice hockey is concerned; with non-standard team bench locations, one on either side of the rink, much as the departed Garden possessed. This feature was for years not uncommon on rinks throughout the East, as the Montreal Forum and Le Colisée du Québec both had split benches for much of their histories. The reason behind this arrangement was so teams could have their benches adjacent to their dressing rooms, which were across the ice from each other for security reasons. Most modern facilities solved this dilemma not by placing dressing rooms on opposite sides of the ice, as those arenas did, but rather on opposite ends on the same side of the rink. However this arrangement still exists in American collegiate hockey, as even some newer venues such as Conte Forum at Boston College or Compton Family Ice Arena at Notre Dame have split benches.


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