“Oh, the good ol’ hockey game is the best game you can name” – Stompin’ Tom Connors
Anyone who’s ever attended a live hockey game can tell you that watching the game on TV simply doesn’t compare. Sounds are amplified, excitement is at an all-time high, and the cheering and chanting can be as entertaining as the game itself.
There are 30 teams in the National Hockey League, each with its own home rink. Each team’s arena offers something unique, making one particular “home ice” unlike any other. While every fan’s home rink is special to them, there are a few that stand out from the others. Here are 6 North American arenas worth checking out.
Consol Energy Center, Pittsburgh Penguins
Completed in 2010, the Consol Energy Centre is one of the newest arenas in the NHL. It’s also the first NHL arena to be built to gold LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards, making it one of the most eco-friendly rinks in the league.
The arena is as high-tech as it gets: luxury suites come equipped with touch screens, permitting on-demand replays, while an innovative camera system allows fans to access replays from multiple angles on their mobile phones. It’s no wonder that the arena was named the Best NHL Arena in the 2010 Sports Business Journal reader poll.
Xcel Energy Center, Minnesota Wild
If it weren’t for the Xcel Energy Center, the Minnesota Wild might not exist at all. After the Minnesota North Stars were relocated to Dallas, Minnesota found itself without an NHL team. Attempts were made to acquire the Hartford Whalers and the Winnipeg Jets, but both fell through, largely in part to the fact that the existing rink in St. Paul, Minnesota was simply inadequate.
In response, the Xcel Energy Center was built, complete with integrated scoring and video display systems and four “crows nests”, each featuring a signature element that contributes to the atmosphere during games (like the lighthouse in the second nest, which blasts a foghorn every time the Wild score). From a fan’s point of view, the Xcel Energy Center has it all: great views from every seat, ample concession stands, more than enough restrooms, and an intuitive layout.
The Centre Bell, Montreal Canadiens
A lot is demanded from the Bell Center: it’s one of the busiest arenas in the entire world, seating 21,273 people, which makes it the arena with the largest seating capacity. Located right in downtown Montreal, the Bell Center is perfectly situated to enjoy a hockey game, with plenty of bars and restaurants in the immediate vicinity.
Unlike many arenas, which are shared with other sports teams, the Bell Center hosts the Montreal Canadiens and no one else. As such, the facility is brimming with Canadiens history, from a hall of fame to sculptures of past players to a display of previous iterations of the logo. Oh—there are also 24 Stanley Cup banners hung from the rafters—more than any other team has ever earned.
Verizon Center, Washington Capitals
The Verizon Center arguably offers the best atmosphere of any NHL arena. This is largely thanks to the fans, who have more customs and traditions than you can count. The atmosphere is positively electric.
Situated right downtown in Chinatown, the Verizon Center is largely credited with helping revitalize the area. While its central location means that parking is limited, it also means instant access to food, entertainment, and landmarks before and after the game.
Scotiabank Saddledome, Calgary Flames
From the outside, most arenas look more or less the same. Not so with the Saddledome. It looks, well, like a saddle—a perfect reflection of the town that hosts the annual Calgary Stampede.
The Saddledome was built in preparation for the 1988 Winter Olympic Games, which were held in Calgary, making it one of the oldest rinks currently used in the NHL.
This signature building was threatened in the summer of 2013, when it was significantly flooded. Seats up to the 8th row were immersed underwater. After extensive restoration work, the Saddledome was able to welcome the Flames back in time for the 2013/2014 season.
Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto Maple Leafs
Though the Maple Leaf Gardens ceased hosting NHL games in 1999, this list would not be complete without mentioning it. A so-called “cathedral of ice hockey”, the rink saw nearly 80 years’ worth of Leafs games—there’s an undeniable energy that lives within the four walls.
A registered National Historic Site of Canada, Maple Leaf Gardens was the largest hockey arena at the time that it was built. Today, the arena hosts retail shops on its bottom level and a university athletic center on the top level.