In 1956, the Donald C. Watson Rink was opened just north of Harvard Stadium at Soldiers Field, the area in the Allston neighborhood of Boston used by Harvard athletics, just across the Charles River from campus. The rink held approximately 2,000 people, but did not have many modern amenities. When plans were made to upgrade facilities, the $5-million cost became prohibitive, and the decision was made to renovate Watson Rink. In 1978, following the hockey season, the walls were removed and the roof was extended before the new arena itself was installed. After a season without a full-time home, the "new" arena opened on November 19, 1979, with an exhibition between Harvard and the 1980 USA Olympic hockey team.
In November 2006, Bright Arena was home to the 2006 Friendship Cup, the Cup's debut year. Team USA Alumni, Team Canada Alumni, Team Gazprom and the Boston Bruins Alumni team all participated in the event. The Bruins defeated Team USA, while Gazprom defeated Team Canada.