NHL: The 50 Greatest Hockey Arenas of All Time
Just as we love the game of hockey with all of its excitement and color, we love the places we go to watch the game being played.
For many of us, the home town rink is a hockey palace, a place we first went as children to watch our favorite players who seemed larger than life.
We remember the bright lights, the smell of food and beer, the sound of the music that was played either on an organ (if we're old enough) or piped in to the arena or the chants unique to our home town team.
Here is a look at the top 50 greatest hockey arenas of all time. Just to qualify it, I am going to limit this list to rinks that at one time or another, hosted an NHL team. There are plenty of great minor league rinks throughout North America, but that is a subject for another article.
The order is based mostly on eras, starting with the current arenas and working our way back to the Original Six since it is impossible to compare a rink built during the Great Depression like Maple Leaf Gardens, with a brand new building like the Consol Energy Center.
Feel free to comment and talk about buildings I may have missed or that you wanted rated higher, but if you do so, please tell me WHY the arena you are arguing for belongs higher on the list and what special memories you have about that building.
Modern 30. Nassau Coliseum, New York Islanders
Sadly, this building has seen better days. The Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum opened for business in 1972 with a preseason contest between the Rangers and Islanders being the first NHL game played there.
There is a lot of history in this building, most of it surrounding the Isles dynasty years.
From 1975 through 1985, there probably wasn't a better team in hockey as GM Bill Torrey built one of the greatest teams in NHL history. Al Arbour coached the team to four straight Stanley Cups from 1980-1983. Stars like Denis Potvin, Billy Smith, Bryan Trottier, Mike Bossy and Bob Nystrom helped provide magic moments that will live on in the memories of hockey fans everywhere.
The Coliseum has great sight lines so while the seats may not be the most comfortable or widest in the league, you can see the action very well from almost anywhere in the stands.
Unfortunately, the building has not always been well maintained over the past 40 years. There have been leaky roofs, fears of the scoreboard falling and other issues, mostly under past owners and management who just didn't put enough money into maintaining the building.
Like most buildings built in the 1960s and 70s, the concourses are narrow and the concession choices are not up to par with most modern arenas (although they have improved a bit in recent seasons).
The Islanders ownership knows they cannot continue to compete in the NHL if they don't either replace the Coliseum or make major renovations to it.
The Isles' lease expires after the 2014-15 season and owner Charles Wang has already said the club will not play at the Coliseum after the lease expires. The clock is ticking and there is a real danger the Isles could relocate to Brooklyn, Kansas City, Quebec City or any number of other possible destinations.
The Nassau Coliseum is a part of another era. The next three seasons will likely be the last chance for fans to experience this part of NHL history.
Isles fans have to hope the team's new home is not far from its current one.
Modern 29. Rexall Place, Edmonton Oilers
Like the Nassau Coliseum, Rexall Place, the home of the Edmonton Oilers, was built in the 1970s. It has undergone several updates and renovations which have made it usable here in the 21st Century.
The home of the Oilers has seen plenty of great hockey since it opened back in 1974 when the Oilers were in the WHA. Obviously, Wayne Gretzky, Paul Coffey, Mark Messier, Jari Kurri, Grant Fuhr and Glenn Anderson are among the standouts from the Oilers dynasty years in the 1980s who left their mark on the game.
While it has a smaller concourse like many older buildings, the home of the Oilers has one big thing going for it: It can be very loud. The fans are vocal and the noise tends to reverberate throughout the arena.
Outside, a statue of Wayne Gretzky can be found with "The Great One" lifting the Stanley Cup over his head in a moment of triumph. The Oilers won Stanley Cups in 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988 and 1990 with Gretzky being on the first four of those teams.
There has been talk of building a new arena in Edmonton for the Oilers and that is something that definitely would benefit the team. The need is less urgent than the Islanders have at the Nassau Coliseum, but eventually, a replacement should be built.
For now, the arena that saw Wayne Gretzky dominate the NHL remains a place for fans to flock to.
Modern 28. BankAtlantic Center, Florida Panthers
This arena is lovely to look at and like most modern buildings, it has very good concessions and plenty of room in the concourses.
Recently, the team changed the color of the seats to red to better match the Panthers team's colors and improve the atmosphere.
There are two problems with BankAtlantic Center which prevent it from being ranked higher. First, not many great NHL events have taken place there. Sure, there was 2001 NHL Entry Draft and the 2003 NHL All-Star Game, but the Panthers' only run to the Stanley Cup final took place before this arena opened in the fall of 1998. In fact, 2011-12 was the first time the Panthers even qualified for the playoffs since 2000 and only the second time since they moved into BankAtlantic Center.
The second issue is location. It's not exactly accessible or surrounded by other popular destinations in downtown Miami. This plus the team's lack of success on the ice (until 2011-12) have almost certainly been a major reason for the team's recent struggles at the box office.
Modern 27. Jobing.com Arena, Phoenix Coyotes
The home of the Phoenix Coyotes (at least for now) is not a bad looking building. It is new, spacious and has some distinct features including the signature howling every time the home team scores a goal.
The arena is surrounded by a mall and has plenty of great restaurants and concessions inside as well and parking is actually free.
This year, the Coyotes went on a long playoff run for the first time since their new home opened back in 2003. The Coyotes reached the Western Conference final, finally making some big game memories for the fans.
Besides the lack of history, there are two issues that keep Jobing.com Arena so low on this list. First is a problem lease that had to be renegotiated with the local government and has made things tougher for the Coyotes. The second is that the arena is located in Glendale as opposed to downtown Phoenix and there is no way to get to the rink using mass transit.
Major issues remain for the Coyotes who are still owned right now by the National Hockey League. The future of the team in the desert and at the Jobing.com Arena remains up in the air.
Modern 26. Scotiabank Place, Ottawa Senators
Scotiabank Place is a lovely arena to look at, both inside and out although the concourses are rather ordinary. The crowd is enthusiastic and gives a lot of support to their Sens.
It opened in January 1996 and the first NHL game in the new arena was a 3-0 Canadiens victory over the Senators.
There has been plenty of history at the arena since it opened including the 2012 NHL All Star Game and the Senators run to the Stanley Cup final in 2007.
There are six restaurants inside the facility and it even houses the Ottawa Sports Hall of Fame.
Scotiabank Place's biggest issue is similar to BankAtlantic Center—its location is isolated. The home of the Senators is not actually in Ottawa, it's about 14 miles away in Kanata. There is essentially one road in and one road out and this creates traffic jams for fans traveling to and from the games.
Modern 25. Madison Square Garden, New York Rangers
Madison Square Garden (or at least this version of it) opened in 1968, making it the oldest arena still in use in the NHL. MSG has had several facelifts over the years and is in the middle of another extensive and much-needed renovation that should improve many of the buildings' shortcomings.
The concourses are tight and lack continuity although that should improve when the current alterations are completed.
The biggest problem with the Garden is the sight lines. They are among the worst in the league. No matter where you sit at MSG, there is usually a part of the ice you can't see clearly. Various attempts have been made to change this since it opened and while they have helped, they have never solved the problem entirely.
Parking is also a problem, it's hard to find around the Garden and very expensive. That being said, there are plenty of ways to get to the building via mass transit and that's the best way to travel around Manhattan anyway.
On the ice, the Garden has seen plenty of great players and magic moments highlighted by the Rangers big Stanley Cup win in 1994. Hall of Famers like Rod Gilbert, Ed Giacomin, Brad Park, Jean Ratelle, Brian Leetch, Mike Gartner, Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier have graced the Garden ice in a Rangers uniform.
The new renovations should improve this ranking, but unless the sight lines improve, the Garden will always fall short of being a truly great place to watch a hockey game.
Modern 24. Joe Louis Arena, Detroit Red Wings
Joe Louis Arena opened in 1979, making it the fourth-oldest building still in use in the NHL today. It was really the first of the new wave of buildings and was designed to replace the venerable Olympia. It was a step forward from the Spectrum or the Nassau Coliseum, but does not feature as many amenities as the more modern arenas around the league.
The first great moment at "The Joe" was the 1980 NHL All Star Game, which featured the return of Gordie Howe to Detroit even though he was representing the Hartford Whalers. The Detroit fans gave "Mr. Hockey" a long standing ovation which proved to be one of the most moving moments in the history of the NHL All Star Game.
Many great hockey players have also played for the Wings at the Joe Louis Arena like Steve Yzerman, Brett Hull, Brendan Shanahan, Dominik Hasek and Nicklas Lidstrom. Detroit has won four Stanley Cups since they started playing at the JLA with two of those victories coming on home ice.
The Great Lakes Invitational, one of the great mid-season tournaments in NCAA Hockey is also played at the Joe Louis Arena each year as are the CCHA playoffs.
There is serious talk of building a new arena in downtown Detroit to house both the Red Wings and the NBA's Pistons. Until then, the Joe Louis Arena will continue to serve as the venerable home of the Detroit Red Wings.
Modern 23. Tampa Bay Times Forum, Tampa Bay Lightning
The Tampa Bay Times Forum is in the heart of downtown Tampa and there are plenty of places both inside and outside the arena to eat and have a good time.
The Lightning have had some magic moments since the building opened in 1996 including winning a Stanley Cup championship in 2004.The 1999 NHL All-Star Game and the 2012 NCAA Frozen Four were also held at this building.
Great players like Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis, Vinny Lecavalier and Brad Richards have all made their mark on the game while playing here.
The biggest drawback to the home of the Lightning is the lack of a central entrance or location to give the building a personality. Other than that, there's plenty to like about the home of the Lightning.
Modern 22. PNC Arena, Carolina Hurricanes
The newly-renamed home of the Hurricanes is a great venue to watch a hockey game. It opened in 1999 and features a 500-seat restaurant and an intense color scheme that matches the home team's red and black uniforms.
The experience has been a good one for the fans of this non-traditional but fast-growing hockey market which is famous for its cheerleaders and exciting game-time experience.
The arena's biggest drawback is that it is located seven miles outside of downtown Raleigh and there is very little to do in the area surrounding it.
The PNC Arena has now hosted an NHL All-Star Game in 2011 and 2004 NHL Entry Draft. The Hurricanes made some magic of their own when they reached the Stanley Cup final in 2002 and won the Cup on home ice in an exciting Game 7 over the Edmonton Oilers back in 2006.
Ron Francis, Rod Brind'Amour, Arturs Irbe, Eric Staal and Cam Ward are among the stars that have graced the PNC Arena ice for the 'Canes.
Modern 21. Bridgestone Arena, Nashville Predators
The Bridgestone Arena opened in 1996, two years before the Nashville Predators made their NHL debut during the 1998-99 season.
The home of the Predators features team colors throughout the building and a beautiful-looking asymmetrical shape that gives it a different feel from most other NHL homes. Unfortunately, the inside of the building doesn't match the beauty of the outside.
It is located in the heart of downtown Nashville, right across the street from the Country Music Hall of Fame and several other attractions.
There haven't been too many great moments on the ice at the Bridgestone Arena just yet as the Predators have won just two playoff series in their history. The 2003 NHL Entry Draft was held in Nashville, but other than that, the building lacks a lot of history (at least so far).
Modern 20. MTS Centre, Winnipeg Jets
The new Winnipeg Jets returned to the NHL in 2011 and the fans in Manitoba quickly gave the MTS Centre a reputation for being the loudest arena in the NHL despite having the smallest capacity of any NHL rink.
Prior to last year, the MTS Centre was the home of the AHL's Manitoba Moose since it opened back in 2004. It is located in downtown Winnipeg and features all of the amenities fans have come to expect from a modern arena.
The building also houses the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame which adds a bit of historic touch to the rink.
Since the Jets have only been back for one season, there has not been time to have any historic NHL moments at the arena with the exception of the league's return to Winnipeg.
Modern 19. Verizon Center, Washington Capitals
The Washington Capitals moved into the Verizon Center in downtown Washington, DC, in 1997. It is located in Washington's Chinatown neighborhood and has actually helped revitalize the surrounding area in the 15 or so years since it opened.
The inside of the arena is fairly typical for a modern building, but it's best feature has to be the Verizon Center's many windows which let in a lot of natural light.
The food concessions are average at best and there have even been some health code issues there over the years according to ESPN's "Outside the Lines."
Great players like Alex Ovechkin, Mike Green, Peter Bondra, Dale Hunter, Nicklas Backstrom, Olaf Kolzig and Adam Oates have played for the Caps at the Verizon Center. The team's biggest highlight was reaching the 1998 Stanley Cup final where they were swept by the Detroit Red Wings.
Modern 18. TD Garden, Boston Bruins
The new home of the Boston Bruins has a lot going for it including varied food concessions and plenty of mentions of the team's history with a Bobby Orr statue and plenty of banners and references to stars like Orr, Phil Esposito and Ray Bourque.
The TD Garden certainly is cleaner and more modern than the old Boston Garden, although the old building had more history and had spectators right on top of the ice surface.
The new building opened in 1995 and has quickly built up its own history with players like Bourque, Joe Thornton, Tim Thomas, Milan Lucic and Zdeno Chara gracing the TD Garden ice while playing for the Bruins.
Boston also won the Stanley Cup in 2011, their first championship since 1972. The deciding game was actually won in Vancouver, but the celebrations that took place in Boston will be remembered by fans forever. It also hosted the 1996 NHL All-Star Game.
Modern 17. Scotiabank Saddledome, Calgary Flames
There is nothing like the sight of the Saddledome in Calgary from the outside. Its curved roof is a trademark that makes the building stand out even more than 20 years after it was built.
The building was originally designed for the 1988 Winter Olympics which were hosted in Calgary.
The Flames won the Stanley Cup in 1989 and made a run to the final in 2004. They have a rich history at the Saddledome which includes stars like Mike Vernon, Jarome Iginla, Theo Fleury and Miikka Kiprusoff suiting up for the Flames at the arena.
The concessions are very good and there are in-game traditions like the singing of "The Good Ol' Hockey Game" in the third period of each game and flames shooting out each time the home team scores a goal.
Modern 16. Prudential Center, New Jersey Devils
"The Rock" has a lot going for it. It has a large concourse which is full of great memorabilia including high school hockey jerseys from around the state of New Jersey. It also features jerseys from the previous incarnations of the Devils like the Colorado Rockies and the Kansas City Scouts.
The arena also has lots of choices for food and the seats are roomy and the sight lines are good.
The Devils have also made a nice history since moving to the Prudential Center in 2007-08. The on-ice highlight was New Jersey's run to the Stanley Cup final this past spring before they eventually lost to the Los Angeles Kings.
Martin Brodeur, Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk are among the star players who have suited up for the Devils since they moved to their new home.
There is excellent public transportation to "The Rock" which is located just two blocks from Penn Station in Newark.
The only issue surrounding the arena is it's location in downtown Newark. Despite the efforts of the city, many people do not feel safe walking the two blocks from the train station to the arena, especially at night. Despite the consistent success of the Devils on the ice, attendance has lagged, in part due to the above-mentioned issue.
"The Rock" is a beautiful building but until the area around the arena improves, it will not rank higher on this list.
Modern 15. United Center, Chicago Blackhawks
The United Center combines the best of the old and the new. There are banners hanging from the rafters to honor past great players and championships as well as statues of Stan Mikita and Bobby Hull outside the building.
It also features some of the original organ pipes from the old Chicago Stadium which adds to the tradition for fans. The concessions feature diverse food choices including offerings that typify the city of Chicago.
Neglect of the franchise by ownership led to a decline in attendance until Rocky Wirtz took over operation of the team and the arena from his late father. Since then, the Blackhawks won their first Stanley Cup in nearly 50 years back in 2010, although the victory was clinched in Philadelphia.
Star players who have skated for the Hawks at the United Center include Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Ed Belfour, Chris Chelios and Patrick Sharp.
Modern 14. Scottrade Center, St. Louis Blues
The Scottrade Center feels like a real part of St. Louis and does a great job of honoring the rich history of the franchise that calls it home.
The Blues moved into the building in 1994. The first thing you notice is a beautiful atrium in the lobby that features a lovely view of the St. Louis skyline and plenty of murals celebrating great players of the past. It also has a very nice team store and a Hall of Fame for the Missouri Valley Conference whose tournament it hosts each spring.
Unfortunately for the Blues, they have had limited success on the ice since moving to their new home, at least in the postseason. In 2001, the Blues reached the Western Conference final, but they have not advanced further than that since Bobby Orr flew through the air to defeat the Blues in 1970.
Among the great Blues who played at Scottrade Center are Brett Hull, Pierre Turgeon, Jaroslav Halak, Al MacInnis, Keith Tkachuk and Chris Pronger.
The food choices are average at best, but the spirit of the fans and the way the arena celebrates its city and history give it a high rating.
Modern 13. Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia Flyers
Flyers fans are proud of their team and the arena they play in, the Wells Fargo Center.
The arena is located right near the sight of the old Spectrum and it is surrounded by the home of the baseball Phillies and football Eagles, creating a little area of Philly that can be called the center of professional sports.
The concourse is spacious and concessions feature Philly-style food in addition to typical ballpark fare. The sight lines in the arena are very good as well although there is not as intimate a feeling as you had at the Spectrum or many of the older arenas.
The Flyers have reached the Stanley Cup final twice since moving into the Wells Fargo Center in 1997 and 2010 but both times they fell short of winning their first title since 1975.
Stars like Eric Lindros, Claude Giroux, Chris Pronger, John LeClair, Daniel Briere and Paul Coffey have played for the Flyers since their move to their present home.
Modern 12. Pepsi Center, Colorado Avalanche
The Pepsi Center in Denver is a lovely building with a large atrium/concourse which features plenty of light and large windows.
It is conveniently located in downtown Denver and is easily reachable off the Interstate or via rail.
The Pepsi Center features some of the best and most diverse food offerings in the NHL including the well-regarded Blue Sky Grill.
The Avalanche moved into their present home in 1999 and it hosted the 2001 NHL All Star Game. The Avs also won their second Stanley Cup in 2001.
Stars like Patrick Roy, Milan Hejduk, Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, Ray Bourque and Matt Duchene have been standouts with the Avalanche while they played in the Pepsi Center.
Modern 11. Honda Center, Anaheim Ducks
The Honda Center, aka "The Pond", is one of the more attractive arenas in the league, especially from the outside. It is still a bit strange to see palm trees outside of a hockey venue, but fans seeing this place realize how quickly they can get used to it. When the building is lit up at night, it's a sight to behold.
The arena is very well maintained and extremely clean and it features plenty of interesting food choices at the various concourse locations.
The Ducks have reached the Stanley Cup final twice while playing at the Honda Center, winning it in 2007. They did not lose a home game in either series.
Star players for the Ducks include Teemu Selanne, J.S. Giguere, Ryan Getzlaf, Chris Pronger, Scott Niedermayer and Paul Kariya.
Modern 10. American Airlines Center, Dallas Stars
If you're hungry, heading to the American Airlines Center in Dallas is a good place to go. The food available at the concessions if among the best in the league, especially if you like Tex-Mex or BBQ, foods which Texas is known for.
You can actually walk to the arena from downtown Dallas, so if you prefer to eat before or after the game, there are plenty of good choices.
The entrance to the building is very open and attractive and features lots of jet planes hanging from the ceiling and plenty of TVs so fans can follow all the action.
The Stars moved into the building in 2001, two years after they won their only Stanley Cup. The team has only reached the Western Conference final once since they started playing in their current home, cutting down on the number of memorable moments in the building.
Standout players for the Stars at the American Airlines Center include Mike Modano, Sergei Zubov, Marty Turco, Mike Ribeiro, Brad Richards and Brenden Morrow.
Modern 9. First Niagara Center, Buffalo Sabres
Like many modern arenas that sell naming rights, the home of the Buffalo Sabres has undergone several name changes without the team leaving the building. It is now known as the First Niagara Center after previously being called the Crossroads Arena, Marine Midland Arena and HSBC Arena.
It opened in 1996. One of the best features of the Sabres' present home is the concourse where you can follow the game on multiple televisions, get scores from anywhere in the country and it also features some very nice places to buy food. There is also a lovely view of downtown Buffalo from the arena's sports bar and a well-stocked team store.
The Sabres reached the Stanley Cup final in 1999 while playing at the HSBC Arena. Some of their stars include Dominik Hasek, Ryan Miller, Mike Peca, Rob Ray, Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville.
Modern 8. Nationwide Arena, Columbus Blue Jackets
Nationwide Arena has been the home of the Columbus Blue Jackets since they joined the National Hockey League in the fall of 2000.
The designers of the rink looked at other arenas around the league and tried to include the best part of many of them.
The concourse is huge and the food options are diverse and include everything from the typical hot dog and fries to lobster roll.
The sight lines are the arena are wonderful and despite the team's lack of success on the ice, the fans are very enthusiastic.
Because the Jackets have only qualified for the playoffs once in their history and have yet to win a playoff game, there have not been too many historic moments at the Nationwide Arena yet. That alone keeps this lovely rink but being ranked even higher than it is.
Star players for the Blue Jackets have included Rick Nash, Steve Mason, Geoff Sanderson, Jakub Voracek and R.J. Umberger.
Modern 7. HP Pavilion San Jose Sharks
The HP Pavilion, better known as "The Shark Tank," is a spacious and attractive building that looks good from the inside and out where it has lots of glass windows that make it almost look like a cross between a church and a castle.
There is a lot of room in the concourse areas with plenty of good food options and the rink is easily accessible to fans in the area via car or train.
The sight lines are very good and fans can enjoy the games in comfortable seats.
The arena opened in 1993 and has hosted the 1997 All Star Game. The Sharks have had plenty of regular season success at the HP Pavilion, but more than their share of playoff disappointments. Despite being one of the better teams in the NHL over the last decade, they have never reached the Stanley Cup final.
Star players for the Sharks have included Joe Thornton, Owen Nolan, Patrick Marleau, Evgeni Nabokov, Miikka Kiprusoff and Jonathan Cheechoo.
Modern 6. Rogers Arena, Vancouver Canucks
Vancouver is considered one of the most beautiful cities in North America and it is only fitting that they should also have one of the nicest arenas in the league.
The glass windows around the structure give fans a beautiful view of downtown Vancouver. There are plenty of good food choices, too. Perhaps the only drawback for a modern arena is that the concourse is not as large as many contemporary rinks and sometimes gets a bit crowded.
The Rogers Arena opened in 1995 and has seen plenty of major events including the 2010 Winter Olympics and the 2011 Stanley Cup final. The Boston Bruins won the title there in Game 7 and an infamous riot took place after the game was over. The Canucks have also hosted the 1998 NHL All Star Game and the 2006 NHL Entry Draft.
The Canucks have had stars like Daniel and Henrik Sedin, Roberto Luongo, Pavel Bure, Alexandre Burrows and Trevor Linden while playing at the Rogers Arena.
Modern 5. Air Canada Centre, Toronto Maple Leafs
When you play in Toronto, the largest city and media capital of Canada, you better have a great rink to back it up. The Air Canada Centre more than fits the bill.
It opened with much fanfare in 1999 and features plenty of luxury boxes and a lovely concourse. It is also well located in downtown Toronto and accessible by rail or on foot in addition to having lots of available parking spaces.
The arena has lots of space in the concourse and plenty of food options, but the highlight of the rink has to be the murals that depict the illustrious history of the Maple Leafs franchise dating back even further than the days of the Original Six.
The 2000 NHL All-Star Game was held in Toronto, but the team's relative lack of success has limited the number of big postseason games played there. The Leafs reached the Western Conference final twice since the Air Canada Centre opened, but have now missed the playoffs for seven consecutive seasons.
Leafs stars during their time at the Rogers Centre include Mats Sundin, Phil Kessel, Gary Roberts, Curtis Joseph, Darcy Tucker and Joe Nieuwendyk.
Modern 4. Consol Energy Center, Pittsburgh Penguins
The Consol Energy Center opened in time for the 2010-11 season and immediately became one of the most highly-regarded rinks in the National Hockey League.
Pittsburgh's new arena has all the modern amenities: a huge concourse, a spacious team store stocked with almost every item you can imagine, a lot of good food choices and enough places to get food so that the lineups are almost always fairly short. The scoreboard is also state-of-the-art and of course, high def.
The arena also has plenty of parking and is just three blocks away from the train station for easy accessibility.
The Penguins have only played two seasons at their new home and have yet to win a playoff series there despite topping 100 regular season points both years.
Pens stars that played at the Consol Energy Center include Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Marc-Andre Fleury, James Neal and Chris Kunitz.
Modern 3. Bell Centre, Montreal Canadiens
The Montreal Canadiens are the most successful franchise in NHL history, having won 24 Stanley Cup titles. While none of them were won at the Bell Centre, the Canadiens do a great job of celebrating their rich history with banners and photographs of the franchise's storied past.
The Bell Centre is located in downtown Montreal and is easily accessible by train and car. The arena has the largest capacity in the NHL and has four levels of seats that all have a very good view of the ice.
Perhaps the only major drawback of the Bell Centre is the concourse: it gets crowded a lot more than most other modern NHL arenas and has fewer concession areas which means longer lines for food and other items.
The Canadiens organization has done everything they could to bring the famed ghosts of the old Forum over to the Bell Centre. They actually did a pretty darn good job of it.
Although the Habs have not been as successful since moving to the Bell Centre in 1996, they had some quality players like Carey Price, Saku Koivu, Vladimir Malakhov, Tomas Plekanec and P.K. Subban.
Modern 2. Staples Center, Los Angeles Kings
The Staples Center in Los Angeles is one of the busiest arenas in North America, hosting the NHL's Los Angeles Kings, two NBA teams, a WNBA team as well as concerts and other major events since it opened in the fall of 1999. It hosts approximately 250 events per year.
Mexican food is a specialty but typical ballpark food is also available. The structure is beautiful both inside and out with plenty of room in the concourse and excellent sight lines. A statue of Wayne Gretzky outside the arena gives a nod to the Kings history.
The Staples Center has already hosted an NHL Entry Draft, an All-Star Game and of course, the 2011-12 Stanley Cup final. The Kings finally won their first championship this spring since joining the league in 1967 and they clinched it before an enthused home crowd.
Great Kings players who starred at the Staples Center include Anze Kopitar, Jonathan Quick, Rob Blake, Luc Robitaille and Mattias Norstrom.
Modern 1. Xcel Energy Center, Minnesota Wild
The Xcel Energy Center was completed in 2000 and is the only home the Minnesota Wild has ever known.
The building is lovely to look at with one side of it being entirely made of glass. Inside, the theme is woodsy, perfect for the "Land of 10,000 Lakes." There is plenty of room in the concourses and the view is very good from almost every seat in the house.
The food choices include a sports bar and a buffalo wing concession in addition to the usual hot dogs and fries.
The seats are all green to match the team's primary color and it has an organ so that old-fashioned hockey music can be played as well as the latest music.
The NHL All-Star Game was played at the Xcel Energy Center in 2004 and it also hosted the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.
The only thing this arena lacks is a lot of playoff history with the Wild's run to the 2003 Western Conference final being their only significant run.
Players like Marian Gaborik, Mikko Koivu, Niklas Backstrom, Brian Rolston and Brent Burns have been among the top stars for the Wild since they entered the league.
Vintage 20. Richfield Coliseum, Cleveland Barons
The Richfield Coliseum served as the home of the NHL's Cleveland Barons (and before that the WHA's Cleveland Crusaders) for their short and rather unsuccessful existence between 1976 and 1978.
The California Golden Seals moved to Cleveland after the 1975-76 season and their new arena was heralded as the rink with the largest seating capacity in the NHL. Unfortunately, it was almost never even close to full as attendance was embarrassingly low and the team never qualified for the playoffs before merging with the Minnesota North Stars in 1978.
There were numerous problems with the arena but the biggest was its location. It was halfway between Akron and Cleveland with only one major road leading to it in each direction which snarled traffic. If it was snowing, the traffic got even worse.
Add the fact that the luxury boxes were located farthest away from the ice which made them the worst place in the arena to view the hockey game.
The Barons franchise never really had a chance although the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers used the Richfield Coliseum until 1994.
Vintage 19. Kemper Arena, Kansas City Scouts
The Kemper Arena in Kansas City was home to the NHL's Scouts who lasted only two seasons in Missouri (1974-76) before moving to Denver and becoming the Colorado Rockies.
Back in the 1970s, there was no free agency and the Scouts could only pick up spare parts made available in the expansion draft by the other 14 NHL teams. When you added the WHA's rosters, the talent level the Scouts were picking from was very thin. Players like Simon Nolet, Denis Herron, Guy Charron and young Wilf Paiement were among the best the Scouts could put on the ice. The team never even came close to qualifying for the playoffs.
The Kemper Arena was considered lovely at the time it was built and won some awards for its design, but it is no more than a footnote in NHL history.
It was better known as the home of the Kansas City Kings of the NBA and the place where pro wrestler Owen Hart tragically fell to his death.
Vintage 18. Oakland Coliseum, California Golden Seals
The Oakland Coliseum Arena was built in 1966 and housed the Bay Area franchise which joined the NHL a year later as part of the league's great expansion. The team was originally known as the California Seals, then the Oakland Seals and finally the California Golden Seals but they never had a winning season in nine years in Oakland and only qualified for the playoffs twice.
"The Jewel Box" was a lovely arena with plenty of glass on the outside but there were major problems with it. The biggest issue was that it was located in Oakland instead of San Francisco. There was no BART system then and most San Franciscans had no desire to go to Oakland. The team got off to a slow start on the ice, attendance was low and rumors starting flying around just a few months after the team's first season got underway that they may be moving the franchise.
The other issue was that the capacity for hockey was only 12,500 so even if the Seals did sell out every game, they would have a hard time making a profit.
Some very good hockey players passed through Oakland, but most of them only had success after leaving the team. Players like Bob Baun, Al MacAdam, Reg Leach, Ivan Boldirev, Walt McKechnie, Denis Maruk and Gilles Meloche all played for the Seals but could not bring the franchise success.
All attempts to build an arena in San Francisco failed and the Seals moved to Cleveland over the summer of 1976 to become the Cleveland Barons.
The NBA's Golden State Warriors still play in the arena which has been renovated several times since it opened.
Vintage 17. Hartford Civic Center, Hartford Whalers
The Hartford Whalers joined the NHL in 1979 along with three other WHA teams, the Edmonton Oilers, Winnipeg Jets and Quebec Nordiques.
The club has already played at the Civic Center, located inside a shopping mall, while in the WHA, but the roof collapsed and the team played in Springfield, Massachusetts, while it was being repaired.
The Whalers then played in the Civic Center from 1980 until they became the Carolina Hurricanes in 1997.
The fact that the arena was inside a mall in downtown Hartford meant there were plenty of options for fans to eat at and shop when they were going to a game. The sight lines were also very good even if the arena did not have all the modern amenities like luxury boxes and a large concourse by the time the 1990s rolled around.
The Whalers won only one playoff series while in the NHL but they did feature some very strong players like Gordie Howe, Joel Quenneville, Ron Francis, Mike Rogers and Mike Liut. Chris Pronger even got his NHL start with the Whalers.
Today, the Civic Center still stands and is home to many college basketball games and the AHL's Connecticut Whale.
Vintage 16. McNichols Arena, Colorado Rockies
The Colorado Rockies joined the NHL in 1976 when the Kansas City Scouts moved there from Missouri.
McNichols Arena was home to the WHA's Denver Spurs for one season before the NHL arrived, but attendance for the woeful Rockies was uneven at best. The Rockies only qualified for the playoffs one time in Denver and were eliminated in two straight games by the Philadelphia Flyers in 1978.
The concourses were small and the locker rooms sub par and the arena lacked enough luxury suites to survive past the 1990s. The sight lines were good, however.
Some of the better players on the Rockies were Lanny McDonald, Rene Robert, Barry Beck, Rob Ramage, Denis Herron and Jack Valiquette. Don Cherry even coached the club for one season before becoming a full-time broadcaster for CBC.
The Rockies moved to New Jersey after the 1981-82 season to become the New Jersey Devils.
Vintage 15. St. Louis Arena, St. Louis Blues
The Arena in St. Louis, also known as the Checkerdome when Ralston Purina owned it, was the original home of the St. Louis Blues from the time they entered the NHL in 1967 until 1994.
It was built in the late 1920s and renovated several times before the Blues made it their home. In fact, approximately 3,000 seats were added to bring the capacity to 15,000. More seats were added periodically as long as the Blues remained there.
The best aspect of The Arena in St. Louis was the sight lines, which were considered among the best in the league. The fans were also among the most boisterous, making lots of noise in support of their club which was the most successful of the expansion teams.
The Blues went to the Stanley Cup final in the first three years of their existence from 1968-1970, but they were swept all three times.
Star players who played for the Blues at the St. Louis Arena included the Plager brothers, Garry Unger, Mike Liut, Red Berenson, Bernie Federko, Rob Ramage, Brett Hull and Adam Oates.
Vintage 14. the Omni, Atlanta Flames
The Omni in Atlanta was the home of the Atlanta Flames who entered the NHL in 1972 and stayed in Georgia until 1980 when they headed north to Calgary.
The Omni had a unique and groundbreaking design and a roof that was shaped differently than most other arenas of that era. It was actually supposed to rust enough to prevent leaks and seal itself off, although that didn't quite work out the way its designers had planned.
Fans in the Omni had a reputation of being loud and enthusiastic even if they weren't the most knowledgeable about hockey.
The Flames had plenty of regular season success in Atlanta, but never managed to win a playoff round there. Some of the better players to take the ice for the Flames during their stay in Atlanta included Tom Lysiak, Eric Vail, Dan Bouchard, Phil Myre, Guy Chouinard, Willi Plett and Curt Bennett.
The rink was demolished in 1997 but its scoreboard still exists and is now in the Philips Center which was the home of the Atlanta Thrashers until they moved to Winnipeg last summer.
Vintage 13. Capital Centre, Washington Capitals
The Cap Centre was the home of the NHL's Washington Capitals from the time they entered the league in 1974 until 1997. It has a unique curved roof that made it almost look like a potato chip from above.
The Cap Centre was located in suburban Landover, Maryland, which made access difficult. Washington's metro did not come very close to the arena so driving to the rink was really the only way to get there.
There was no TV booth or radio booth built when the arena opened and broadcasters were located at a small desk located in the middle of the seats.
The sight lines at the Cap Centre were good and the arena had a cafeteria style restaurant in addition to the normal sports venue food.
The Caps had the worst record in hockey history in their first season (8-67-5) but eventually put together some strong teams while at the Cap Centre. Standout players include Yvon Labre, Bobby Carpenter, Mike Gartner, Dino Ciccarelli, Denis Maruk, Calle Johansson, Don Beaupre, Dale Hunter and Mike Liut.
Vintage 12. Le Colisee, Quebec Nordiques
Le Colisee was the home of the Nordiques from the time they entered the WHA in 1972 but it was renovated shortly after they entered the NHL in 1979.
The building opened in 1949 and both Jean Beliveau and Guy Lafleur played their junior hockey there long before an NHL game was played in the building.
Le Colisee, now known as the Colisee Pepsi, still stands and is presently home of the Quebec Remparts junior club.
It has undergone so many upgrades and changes over the years and there is talk of making additional renovations if the NHL returns to Quebec City.
The Nords were more successful in the WHA than the NHL, but Le Colisee still hosted some incredible hockey moments including games from the 1974 Summit Series between the WHA All Stars and the Soviets and the 1976 Canada Cup.
Star players for Les Nordiques included Peter, Anton and Marian Stastny, Michel Goulet, Real Cloutier, Joe Sakic, Michel Petit and Guy Lafleur.
The Nordiques moved to Denver in 1995 to become the Colorado Avalanche. They won the Stanley Cup their first year in their new home.
Vintage 11. Fabulous Forum, Los Angeles Kings
The "Fabulous" Forum in Inglewood, California, served as home of the Los Angeles Kings from 1967 until 1999 when they moved to the brand new Staples Center.
The building was the baby of Kings owner Jack Kent Cooke who wanted to build an ornate palace for hockey, basketball and concerts in the Los Angeles area. He modeled the structure look like the original Forum in Rome and ringed his building with columns all along the outside.
Inside, the sight lines were OK at best. The biggest annoyance for fans watching games from the Forum on television was that when fans stood up, they often blocked the view of the camera, momentarily cutting off television viewers from seeing the action, often at the most exciting moments in the game.
The Kings had only one major playoff run while at the Forum, in 1993 when they reached the Stanley Cup final only to fall in five games to the Montreal Canadiens.
Perhaps the most memorable single game played there was "The Miracle on Manchester" which saw the Kings overcome a 5-0 deficit in a playoff game against the Edmonton Oilers to win 6-5 in overtime back in April of 1982.
Kings stars who played at the Forum included Marcel Dionne, Eddie "The Jet" Joyal, Terry Harper, Rogie Vachon, Charlie Simmer, Larry Murphy, Dave Taylor, Wayne Gretzky and Paul Coffey.
Vintage 10. Winnipeg Arena, Winnipeg Jets
The Winnipeg Arena served as the home of the Winnipeg Jets from the time they entered the WHA in 1972 until the club left for Phoenix in 1996.
While the Jets were a huge success in the WHA with Bobby Hull, Ulf Nilsson and Anders Hedberg leading the way, they had precious little playoff success in the NHL.
The arena was built in 1955 and was extended several times until it reached its NHL capacity of 15,393. There were many obstructed view seats in the arena, in part due to the fact that new additions were constantly being added on over time.
In 1972, the Winnipeg Arena hosted Game 3 of the Summit Series between Canada and the Soviets. The Jets only won one playoff series during their NHL tenure in Winnipeg back in 1985. Playing in the same division with the Oilers and Flames while those two teams were among the best two clubs in hockey certainly didn't help.
One of the great playoff hockey traditions, the "White Out" was popularized in Winnipeg as fans all wore white shirts to support the home team.
Prominent NHL Jets included Dale Hawerchuk, Thomas Steen, Dave Babych, Morris Lukowich and Dave Christian.
Vintage 9. Metropolitan Sports Center, Minnesota North Stars
The Metropolitan Sports Center, or "The Met" as it was better known, served as home of the NHL's Minnesota North Stars from the time they entered the NHL in 1967 until they moved to Dallas in 1993.
The Met was a typical Minnesota structure. It was nothing fancy, but it worked. It has great sight lines and the cold weather in Bloomington helped make the ice surface one of the best in the league back in the 1970s and 80s.
The North Stars had two runs to the Stanley Cup final while they played at the Met, once in 1981 and again in 1991 but they lost both times. The Met also hosted the NHL All-Star Game in 1972.
The building, which was located adjacent to the home of the Twins and Vikings in Bloomington, was demolished in 1994.
Great players for the North Stars during their time in Minnesota included Bill Goldsworthy, Cesar Maniago, J.P. Parise, Al MacAdam, Gilles Meloche, Don Beaupre, Dino Cicarelli, Brian Bellows, Neal Broton and Basil McRae.
Vintage 8. Buffalo Memorial Auditorium (The Aud), Buffalo Sabres
The Memorial Auditorium in Buffalo was opened in 1940 but was expanded in 1970 when the Sabres joined the NHL. It remained the home of the Sabres until 1996.
An upper level was added in 1970 along with new stairways to raise the capacity of the building for hockey to just under 16,000 fans.
With the passage of time, concessions and amenities also were added in attempt to keep the arena current and profitable. A sports bar and a bar-b-que style restaurant were eventually added in the decade before the building closed.
Sight lines at the Aud were generally good and the building had an intimate feeling.
The Sabres reached the Stanley Cup final in 1975 while playing at the Aud, but lost in six games to the Flyers who won their second title in Buffalo. The 1978 NHL All-Star Game was played there and in 1982, Wayne Gretzky scored his 77th goal of the season at the Aud, breaking Phil Esposito's single season record.
Among the most prominent Sabres who played at the Aud were Gilbert Perreault, Rene Robert, Rick Martin, Jim Schoenfeld, Jerry Korab, Don Luce, Craig Ramsey, Phil Housley, Dave Andreychuk and Tom Barrasso.
Vintage 7. the Spectrum, Philadelphia Flyers
The Spectrum in Philadelphia served as home of the Flyers from 1967 until 1996.
The roof collapsed on March 1, 1968, and the Flyers had to play the remainder of their home schedule in Quebec City as a result.
The Spectrum had very good sight lines and was one of the first NHL arenas to feature a message board that could do more than just show the score and time remaining.
The Flyers became the first NHL expansion team to win a Stanley Cup in 1974 when they defeated the Boston Bruins in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup final at the Spectrum. They also won the Cup the following year and reached the final round again in 1976, 1980, 1985 and 1987.
The 1976 and 1992 NHL All-Star Games were played at the Spectrum and it was the also the venue where the Flyers became the first NHL team to defeat the Soviet Red Army in 1976 during a game where the Russians famously left the ice in protest of the Flyers alleged "dirty" tactics.
The Flyers were the toughest team in the NHL in the 1970s and earned the nickname "The Broad Street Bullies." Their fans were among the most passionate and loudest in the NHL and there was a close bond between the team and their city.
Among the better known Flyers to play at the Spectrum were Bobby Clarke, Bill Barber, Reg Leach, Bernie Parent, Barry Ashbee, Mel Bridgeman, Mark Recchi, Eric Lindros, Pelle Lindbergh, Rod Brind'Amour and Ron Hextall.
Vintage 6. Madison Square Garden
While the Rangers still play at Madison Square Garden, this refers to the building that hosted the Rangers (and the New York Americans) from 1926 through 1968.
The Garden was, even then, a multi-purpose facility and the ice suffered as a result since basketball games, the circus or a concert would be held there and the ice was replaced frequently. In fact, the Rangers rarely played playoff games at the Garden because the circus had priority use of the building, a factor that may have contributed to their 54-year drought without a title from 1940-1994.
The old Garden had a balcony and students could get in to games using their G.O. cards for as little as 50 cents. The balcony provided a great view that felt right on top of the ice.
Outside the Garden, there was a famous marquis which can be seen in the picture on this page.
Famous Rangers who played at the old Madison Square Garden include Rod Gilbert, Jean Ratelle, Frank Boucher, Bill and Bun Cook, Gump Worsley, Ching Johnson and Chuck Rayner.
Vintage 5. the Olympia
Vintage 4. Boston Garden
Rarely was there an arena as beloved by their fans as the Boston Garden. By the time it was closed, the arena was old, smelled of stale beer, had uncomfortable seats, the bathrooms often leaked and the locker rooms were inhabited by large rats (according to legend).
But fans were right on top of the action and the intimacy and spirit of the building was unique. In fact, the building was designed with the intention of getting fans as close to the action as possible.
The Bruins started playing there in 1928 and stayed through 1995.
One thing that made the Boston Garden unique was its smaller size. The arena was two feet narrower and nine feet shorter than standard NHL rinks and the Bruins built their roster to accommodate the smaller neutral zone that their home arena had.
The NHL All-Star Game was played in Boston in 1971 and the Bruins reached the Stanley Cup final 16 times while tenants of the Boston Garden.
Among the great Bruins who played on Garden ice were Milt Schmidt, Eddie Shore, Tiny Thompson, Gerry Cheevers, Bobby Orr, Ray Bourque, Brad Park, Johnny Bucyk, Phil Esposito, Terry O'Reilly, Rick Middleton and Cam Neely.
Vintage 3. Chicago Stadium
Chicago Stadium served as home of the Chicago Blackhawks from 1929 until 1994. It was one of the loudest buildings in the NHL.
One of its unique features was an organ which featured 3,663 pipes and had sound that reverberated around the building every time the home team scored a goal.
Chicago Stadium was the last NHL rink to use a four-sided analog clock. The building didn't feature a digital scoreboard until 1976 and fans often had a difficult time telling how much time was left in a period.
Among the many traditions at Chicago Stadium was the fans' desire to cheer over the voice of Wayne Messmer who sang the national anthem.
Like the Boston Garden, Chicago Stadium had shorter dimensions than other regulation sized NHL rinks.
The Blackhawks won Stanley Cups in 1934, 1938 and 1961 while playing at Chicago Stadium. Among the greats who played for the Hawks there were Tony Esposito, Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita, Glenn Hall, Pit Martin, Chris Chelios, Denis Savard and Doug Wilson.
Vintage 2. Maple Leaf Gardens
The Toronto Maple Leafs called the Maple Leaf Gardens home from 1931 until 1999 and the building saw many of the greatest moments in hockey history.
Amazingly, it took less than six months for the building to be completed. When it opened, the MLG was the largest hockey arena in the country and it was expanded several times before it was no longer used by the club. Capacity started at 13,542 and expanded to 15,728 by the end of its use.
Maple Leaf Gardens was also the first NHL rink to have separate penalty boxes for each team. It was also famous for the gondola, where Foster Hewitt made his famous radio broadcasts for Hockey Night in Canada.
The Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup their first season in the Gardens and went on to win a total of 11 championships through 1967.
Among the greats who played for the Leafs at MLG are Darryl Sittler, Tim Horton, Lanny McDonald, Wendell Clark, Borje Salming, Tiger Williams, Dave Keon, Frank Mahovlich, Ron Ellis, Johnny Bower, Ted Kennedy and Turk Broda.
Vintage 1. the Forum in Montreal
No building in hockey history has seen more magic moments than the Montreal Forum. It served as the home of the Montreal Maroons from 1924 through 1938 and the Montreal Canadiens from 1926 through 1996.
The Canadiens won 22 Stanley Cups while calling the Forum their home including five straight from 1956-1960 and four in a row from 1976-1979.
Visiting teams won the Stanley Cup on Forum ice only twice in the history of the building, the 1928 Rangers (who defeated the Maroons) and the 1989 Calgary Flames.
Canadiens fans spoke of the "ghosts of the Forum" for all the great players that had played there. In fact, the funeral of Habs great Howie Morenz was held at the Forum after he died suddenly from complications of a broken leg suffered back in 1937.
Among the many greats who played at the Forum for the Canadiens are Maurice Richard, Henri Richard, Ken Dryden, Guy Lafleur, Patrick Roy, Larry Robinson, Guy Lapointe, George Hainsworth, Jean Beliveau, Serge Savard, Doug Harvey and Yvan Cournoyer.