Is there any better feeling for a hockey fan than walking into an NHL arena, hungry for some puck? Think about it: the chill you get from the coldness of an empty arena; the anticipation while watching your favorite players warm up before the game; and even the smell of hot dogs, beer and popcorn ruminating throughout the building while you await the home team’s entrance onto the rink.
“Sometimes I’d sit in the stands alone in the shadows and savor the tranquility of the arena,” says Marcel Roy, father of the Hall of Fame goaltender. “It was a place of contemplation, like an empty church.”
This is the feeling many hockey fans get when they sit an arena before a game begins. And really, why shouldn’t it feel that way? The arena is like a temple to a hockey fan—it’s a place that we go to relax, to enjoy ourselves and really, it’s a place of religion. And if you don’t believe that, remember: hockey games have more attendance than church masses.
The arena is indeed important.
Nassau Coliseum is easily and absolutely the worst of any NHL arena. In fact, it resembles a minor league/Division II college hockey arena, as opposed to one where a four-time Stanley Cup champion team plays. As a matter of fact, those four championship banners are probably the only positive pieces of the arena. The rest is simply horrid.
The concourse is small, but luckily there isn’t too much traffic during games, but that could be because not many people attend to begin with. Though people make it seem like it’s a haunted house of sorts, it gets the job done. But with no club seats, suites or anything eye-catching (other than possible cockroaches), Uniondale is in much need of a new arena. I’m looking at you, Lighthouse Project.
Top features: I’ll get back to you.
Built in 1974 (and subsequently renovated in 1994), Rexall Place has housed the Oilers since their beginning in the WHA in 1974. Five Stanley Cups were won while the Oilers played here, while seven retired number banners hang from the rafters (including “The Great One,” Wayne Gretzky).
However, the building is not all that impressive. There is nothing around it other than a rail station, while the concourse is very small and gets crowded during game days. The most disappointing factor? Other than the banners, there is nothing in the arena reminding fans of the Oilers’ former successes and incredible superstars.
Some good aspects of the building are the concessions, including pierogies (since Edmonton has a large Ukrainian population) and an All-Star Café restaurant, while the pregame presentation is one of the best in the league (it includes a laser light show).
Top features: concessions, entertainment, history.
Costing $57 million to construct in 1979 (about $171 million in 2010 standards), Joe Louis Arena is one of the oldest NHL arenas still used today. Considering it was built in 1979, it is an okay structure. However, compared to the current, modern NHL buildings, it is nothing special at all. Colorless, along with being placed in the middle of some highways and a parking ramp, Detroit is in need of a new arena (and very well may get one in the next few years).
The concessions are highlighted by Little Caesar’s Pizza (which would make sense, considering the franchise is owned by Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch), in addition to other typical ballpark choices. The concourse is fairly nice, taking into account the building’s age, while crowds are kept to a minimum in the hallways.
The best part of the arena is the history—complete with championship banners, the Hockeytown theme, and the giant octopus that comes down from the arena scoreboard. Overall, the arena is not bad. But considering how old it is and how much newer other NHL arenas are, Joe Louis desperately needs a revamp.
Top features: history, concessions.
The St. Pete Times Forum, named after the famed St. Petersburg Times, was built in 1996 for $139 million (financed by the city). The third arena in Tampa Bay Lightning history, St. Pete Times Forum is located in downtown Tampa Bay, next to the Florida Aquarium and the Tampa Bay Convention Center. There are numerous restaurants and pubs in the area just outside the arena, in addition to entertainment that often goes on prior to games.
Unfortunately, there is no grand entrance to the arena, which would make the area even nicer, but the lack of beautiful concourse is even worse than the lack of grand entrance. Considering it is in the Sunshine State, you’d think maybe a couple palm trees (real or fake) could be put throughout the concourse and maybe even put some nice murals up. Nonetheless, the arena lacks this and feels much less legitimate because of it.
The arena does have club seating and suites for purchase, which adds to the atmosphere. The concession stands also add to the arena experience, including famous Tampa Bay Cuban sandwiches. Outback Steakhouse even has a food stand in the building.
Top features: concessions, location.
The Carolina Hurricanes are one of those teams that are located in a spot that is not considered to be a traditional hockey market. However, Raleigh has been fairly good to them, especially after helping them build the RBC Center in 1999 for $158 million.
The arena’s colors really intensify the experience when you enter the concourse to an array of red, black and white—in addition to all the lighting around the arena. Though the concourse is easily the best part of the arena, the food is nothing to write home about.
The big downside of the arena is the location—seven miles west of Raleigh. It is basically in the middle of nowhere (though extremely well-lit and easy to find). But it would be nicer to have something around the arena, as opposed to trekking back and forth to and from the city for a game.
Top features: concourse, team store.
When the BankAtlantic Center opened for the 1998-99 NHL season, the Florida Panthers’ attendance jumped almost 26 percent from the previous season, bringing in more than 750,000 fans and filling their stadium to 95 percent capacity. After BankAtlantic paid $20 million over 10 years for the naming rights in 2005, the Panthers finally had a home to themselves, once the ABA’s Florida Pit Bulls moved out.
One of the best features of the arena is the concourse, which is lined with carpeting and keeps with the warm feeling of simply being in Florida. The design of the concessions in the concourse also keeps lines short and prevents them from jutting out into the middle of the hall, making walking and perusing through the arena an extremely easy task.
The only problem with the BankAtlantic Center? Its location. It is squished between a mall and a swamp and is a hassle to get to—maybe an excuse why the Panthers can no longer sell out their arena?
Top features: food, concourse, architecture.
Costing $120 million to construct in 1968 (about $318 million in 2010 standards), Madison Square Garden is now the oldest, yet one of the most historic buildings in the NHL. The fourth Madison Square Garden to exist, the bottom of the arena is covered in murals of all teams that have used the facilities, while the floor itself is tiled with entertainers who have performed at the Garden.
The concourse is small, but never too crowded (since there are numerous concourses), complete with your typical ballpark food choices. Team stores for the Rangers, NBA’s Knicks and WNBA’s Liberty are located throughout the building.
Traffic is always a problem getting to the Garden, since it is located in the middle of New York City. However, taking the subway into the game is always an easy solution to the problem.
Top features: history, atmosphere.
The Bridgestone Arena, located in downtown Nashville, is a nice arena, but nothing special that will grab your attention—it simply gets the job done. Having cost about $144 million to construct, the arena’s lobby looks very nice and stretches high to the top of the building. The bowl is asymmetrical, where one side has the typical upper and lower decks, while the other side has less club levels and is much closer to the ice. The unique structure of the bowl is somewhat strange, but the team colors illuminating the seating sections makes up for the fact.
One of the best parts of the building is its location. Directly across from the arena is the Country Music Hall of Fame (how appropriate, with it being Nashville and all). There is also a 22-story tower, symbolizing a radio tower that would have broadcast events from the area at one time.
From the outside, the building is beautiful. Uniquely shaped and wonderfully constructed, the outside of the building will cause numerous people to stop in their tracks. What to see a beautiful inside, however? Don’t hold your breath.
Top features: outside, location.
Built and opened in 1997 at a cost of $260 million, the Verizon Center has housed the Washington Capitals, the NBA’s Wizards and the WNBA’s Mystique for over a decade. Sitting amidst Washington DC’s Chinatown, the arena is surrounded by a unique area that gives the location an A in the books. In fact, the arena has given birth to new development in the surrounding area.
Though the arena is very simple inside, it is roomy and looks modern, with a red and yellow theme. The lower concourse is filled with large windows, allowing tons of natural light into the building during the day and early evening.
Unfortunately, the concessions throughout the building are typical ballpark stands, with nothing special (unless you are in the club or suite level). That and the lack of interesting banners in the rafters are two of the only downsides of the arena.
Top features: location, concourse.
The capacity of the United Center was rarely used—until recently, culminating in the Blackhawks’ 2010 Stanley Cup Championship. Built in 1994 for about $175 million, the United Center replaced the decrepit Chicago Stadium and now houses both the Blackhawks and the NBA’s Bulls.
One of the best aspects of the arena is the history the team portrays. With their most recent Stanley Cup banner having been raised to the rafters, mixed with six retired numbers of Blackhawks Hall of Famers, the arena projects stories from a half century ago, in addition to the most recent history that Jonathan Toews and Co. have made.
The concourse is beautiful, spacious and has tons of various concession stands, all with unique, Chicago-style food. In addition, the arena has different types of in-game entertainment used throughout each contest, keeping the fans in their seats for the duration of the game.
Top features: history, concessions, entertainment.
Built in 1995 and costing $160 million, TD Garden (formerly the Fleet Center) has housed the Boston Bruins and NBA’s Celtics for over a decade-and-a-half. The arena is built on top of the railroad station, which makes it a bit annoying to get to the actual concourse (numerous elevators, in addition to all the typical security checks). However, once you reach the concourse, it is filled with yellow and white, in addition to great concession stands, including delis, Buffalo wings and more.
The arena also has Premium Club tickets, which offers gourmet food and the Sports Museum of New England, filled with displays, memorabilia and interactive items. Another plus to the arena is the bowl, which houses all of the championship banners for the Bruins, in addition to the numbers of players like Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito.
The only downside to TD Garden is its location, which is located just off the expressway and next to the river. It is difficult to get to, plus the arena is built in a way that makes it seem like it is secondary to the rail station.
Top features: concessions, atmosphere, history.
The home of the nine-time Stanley Cup champions (I’m serious, look it up), Scotiabank Place was built at the beginning of 1996 and cost about C$170 million. Though it is the home of the Ottawa Senators, it is 15 miles west of downtown Ottawa, located in the middle of nowhere. Literally. There’s only one highway in the vicinity (and therefore just one way to get there), so there is often a lot of traffic and no back roads to sneak into the parking lot.
Nonetheless, the arena is a nice place with many concession stands, a beautiful team store and a nice bowl—filled with almost 20,000 seats. The downside is that the concourse is not too pretty and there really aren’t many extras throughout the stadium. But it gets the job done.
Top features: concessions, history.
Originally built in 1983 for the 1988 Winter Olympics, the Scotiabank Saddledome is still one of the most recognizable arenas in North America. Its beautiful architectural design is noticeable from miles away while the renovations it went through in the 1990s made the building even nicer. The concourse exhibits various achievements of Calgarians and Albertans, including reminiscence of the 1988 Olympics, members of the Hockey Hall of Fame that hail from Alberta, and the Flames’ various runs at the Stanley Cup.
The in-game entertainment is excellent, including the flames that shoot out in the arena when Calgary scores, and the “Good Ole’ Hockey Game” song that plays in the third period, along with the fans singing along at the top of their lungs. Concessions are also a plus in Calgary, with numerous stands, including a Tim Horton’s.
Top features: history, concessions, entertainment.
Built in 1999 for $213.5 million, Philips Arena has housed the Atlanta Thrashers, the NBA’s Hawks and the WNBA’s Dream for over a decade. Outside the arena is the CNN World Center, which includes some restaurants, fast food places and shops (on the 20th floor), which makes pregame an enjoyable experience. In front of the arena is also a giant “ATLANTA,” written in steel pillars. The plaza outside also includes a video board and marquee showing recent and upcoming events at the arena.
Inside the arena’s concourse is the Omni’s old scoreboard (still functional), used to keep score of the current game for fans to enjoy. There are hundreds of TV monitors in the concourse, in addition to many concession stands and a team store.
Other than the outside and concourse, however, the arena Is nothing incredible. The bowl is plain and typical for an NHL arena (which is not a problem, mind you—simply nothing special). Nonetheless, it’s absolutely worth the trek to Atlanta to see the game.
Top features: location, concourse.
Similar to Philadelphia, the Scottrade Center in St. Louis lies among the other St. Louis sports stadiums, which gives it a real nice touch when you enter and exit the arena. Also around the arena are some restaurants, sports bars and other minor attractions that make the area much nicer. The main entrance to the Scottrade Center is gorgeous, with a huge atrium lobby, in addition to the team store, entitled “True Blues Authentic.” The windows in the concourse also give a great view of the St. Louis skyline.
The concourse is filled with beautiful murals of former Blues players—along with a Hall of Fame for the Missouri Valley Conference. Concessions were nice, but nothing too special, while the bowl of the arena was covered in banners from the Blues’ early years, in addition to tons of division championships and retired numbers.
Top features: concourse, location, history.
Built in 1999, a few years after the Quebec Nordiques relocated to Denver and became the Colorado Avalanche, the Pepsi Center is definitely in the top half of NHL arenas with regards to ranking.
The outside of the building is decorated with beautiful banners and flags atop light posts, in addition to nice landscaping that catches your eye as you enter the arena. The entrance is also a gorgeous place, with a six-story glass atrium, a sculpture, beam lights that shine into the sky and more.
After the atrium is the concourse, which is just as beautiful as the entrance. Brightly lit and decorated, the concourse also houses the team store.
However, the best feature might be the concessions, which are everywhere in the Pepsi Center. They are unique too—options include typical ballpark food, in addition to carved sandwiches, fajitas, pot roast, buffalo burgers, cheese curls and more.
Top features: location, concourse, entrance, concessions.
Completed at the end of the 1996 summer, the newly named Wells Fargo Center is the pride of Philadelphia Flyers owner Ed Snider, who began the franchise in 1967 with millions of dollars worth of loans.
The building is located in the Philadelphia sports complex, surrounded by three other stadiums. With a huge parking lot that can accommodate thousands of vehicles, fans arrive to the game hours early to hang out, tailgate and celebrate their famed Flyers.
Inside the arena, the concourse is covered with typical ballpark concessions, in addition to Philadelphia favorites such as Chickie’s and Pete’s and P.J. Whelihan’s. The concourse also features numerous fan stores, games, contests, historical museum-like displays and replicas of the championship banners that hang from the rafters of the bowl.
In addition to the beautiful concourse, the newly built Jumbotron (just a few years old) simply adds to the atmosphere in the loud, intimidating and raucous Philadelphia sports scene. It also doesn’t hurt that the fans were named the NHL’s most intimidating fans by an NHL Players poll just a few years back.
Top features: concourse, location, history, atmosphere.
Built in 2003 and financed for $180 million by the City of Glendale, Jobing.com has just one tenant: the Phoenix Coyotes. One of the nicest features of the arena (unfortunately) is that parking is 100 percent free—the only stadium in the major professional sports to offer this service. Unfortunately, there is no public transportation available.
Jobing.com Arena stands right next to the Arizona Cardinals’ stadium, which opened in 2006. The arena is also a part of a shopping center, complete with malls, apartments, entertainment and more. In front of the arena is a nice plaza with palm trees and a huge video board at the main gate.
The concourse is brightly lit and fairly large, with tiled floors. It’s nothing special, but surely not anything to complain about. Concessions are also very impressive, with delis, pizza, Japanese cuisine and a Mexican stand named Tortilla Flats. The team store (the Coyotes’ Den) is also located on the concourse.
One last plus is the in-game experience, complete with the famous Coyotes howl, whenever Phoenix scores a goal.
Top features: entertainment, location, concessions.
One of the newest NHL arenas, the Prudential Center is the exact opposite of the typical Newark, NJ building. “The Rock” is a gorgeous, state of the art stadium that houses one of the most successful franchises of the last 15 years.
Costing about $375 million to construct, the Prudential Center’s best feature is how it looks from the outside (not to diminish the incredibility of the inside). It looks like a towering building, surrounded by glass and beautiful LED lights that light up the Newark skyline.
Another wonderful feature of the Prudential Center is the concourse. Filled with murals on the walls, an extremely high ceiling (making the building seem even larger than it is) and various memorabilia all around, it’s tough to “just walk around” without stopping and staring at various items. Concession stands throughout the building are also one of the best parts of the building. As unique as Alexander Ovechkin passing the puck, restaurants here include Famous Famiglia Pizza and 7 City Grill.
The only downside to this arena is the location and area outside the arena. Newark is a pretty grimy place—and not a particularly safe place to sight-see. There are few parking lots in the arena’s vicinity, and those that exist charge upwards of $20 to park for a few hours. The arena is also squished in the middle of the city, which makes traffic absolutely horrendous.
Top features: architecture, concourse, concessions.
Built in 2001 for an astonishing $420 million (astonishing for a hockey arena, that is), the American Airlines Center is just a 10 minute walk from downtown Dallas, making for plenty to do before and after games. The arena itself is also part of a redevelopment site that has office buildings, housing, condos and more. Just outside the arena is a nice plaza with benches, fountains and lights. Meanwhile, the arena has a brick façade similar to that of the Honda Center in Anaheim, while having the look of a giant, glass-windowed castle.
The concourse is complete with a beautiful mosaic floor, artwork, four rotundas in the corner of the octagonal area, and American Airlines jets hanging from the south entrance. HDTVs also hang throughout the concourse. Concessions are also some of the best in the NHL, with Mexican cuisine, gourmet cookies, barbeque and a Jack Daniels bar (with full service for anyone of age).
Top features: architecture, technology, concessions, concourse.
One of the most beautiful outsides to an NHL arena, the Honda Center shows off the warm weather of Anaheim, California—specifically with the luxurious palm trees that surround the building. Built in 1993 when Anaheim was granted the Mighty Ducks franchise, the Honda Center cost about $123 million over 15 years ago.
The building itself looks very nice, built with a brick front and arches throughout. At night, it looks even more stunning when it is completely lit up. The concourse is beautifully lit, while concession stands are filled with various different types of food and drink for all. Even the stairwells are painted nicely. Not an expense spared in this arena.
Top features: architecture, concessions, concourse, appearance.
Built in 1996 with $127.5 million of funding, HSBC Arena has housed the Buffalo Sabres for 15 years. One of the best features of the Sabres’ home is the concourse, complete with team store, tons of concession stands, video monitors hanging overhead and a sports ticker with scores from around the continent.
Included in the concessions are carving stations, sandwich places and the Headlines Sports Bar, which Thesportsroadtrip.com calls “the best place in Buffalo to view the downtown skyline and to people watch.” The Buffalo Sabres team store, also located on the concourse, is large, beautiful and filled to the brim with merchandise.
The only things missing from HSBC Arena are an outside-arena atmosphere (tailgating and such) and some incredible in-game experiences, with regards to the scoreboard and entertainment.
Top features: concessions, concourse.
The home of the 2010 Winter Olympics, the newly named Rogers Arena has housed the Vancouver Canucks since the beginning of the 1995-96 season. Costing about C$160 million to construct, the concourse is surrounded by thousands of feet of glass windows, showing great views of downtown Vancouver to all visitors.
Though the concourse is nice, the hallways are small and often congested, specifically at the end of a game when thousands of fans are rushing to get home. In-game entertainment is also a plus in the Rogers Arena, especially when the team saxophonist walks though the stands during TV timeouts and plays for fans.
Top features: architecture, in-game entertainment.
Housing the Toronto Maple Leafs, the NBA’s Toronto Raptors and the NLL’s Toronto Rock, the Air Canada Centre is the pride of the hockey capital of the world. Opened in February 1999, The ACC, as it is affectionately referred to by Leafs Nation, cost about C$265 million to construct—but was partially financed by Air Canada, who signed a 20-year, $40 million deal with the Leafs for naming rights.
Located right in the middle of the subway line, it is extremely easy to get to and a beautiful sight once inside. The Galleria—located just outside the concourse—has Fan Zone interactive games, a fan store, ticket offices and beautiful murals that line the walls, bringing you back in the history of the illustrious franchise. The venue is almost state of the art and a must-visit for any hockey fan venturing to Toronto, Ontario.
Top features: scoreboard, architecture, Galleria, Hockey Hall of Fame (located next door).
Built in 1993 for $162.5 million, the Shark Tank is one of the best-named arenas in the NHL (or nicknamed, for that matter). The outside of the arena is beautiful, with glass pyramids towering above you, plus a stainless steel silver façade in the front. At night, when the building is lit up, it is even more beautiful. Downtown San Jose is also close by.
The concourse looks like a cathedral, complete with a grand staircase at the main entrance. San Jose Sharks banners hang down from the ceiling, in addition to emblems of the City of San Jose. There is tons of space within the concourse to mingle with other fans, and the concourse never seems to get too crowded.
The concessions are very nice as well, with a pizza stand, a pub, wraps, sushi and Mexican food. The team store is located around the concession stands as well.
The only problem with HP Pavilion? The scoreboard seems a bit prehistoric. When funds are available, an upgrade would make this one of the nicest arenas in the league.
Top features: location, architecture, concourse, atmosphere.
The brand, spanking new arena that replaces what was the oldest arena in the NHL (Mellon Arena), the Consol Energy Center is an incredible, state of the art building that has garnered very few complaints in its first couple weeks of existence.
Features of the building include almost 2,000 club seats, a fine-dining restaurant, four different gates to enter the building, an HD scoreboard with high-tech instant replay and scores from around the league, and an average of one concession stand for every 158 people (which eliminates long lines). The Pittsburgh Penguins team store measures over 4,000 square feet.
Also located in the concourse is the Highmark Wall of Champions, where the Penguins' help developing hockey in the arena is showcased. With two main levels of seats (in addition to the club seats and suites) the arena bowl is very nice and can accommodate every type of guest, from handicapped, to young and old alike. The architecture of the building is also beautiful, with glass windows along one full side of the arena, and a plaza filled with towering trees surrounding the arena.
Top features: architecture, atmosphere, scoreboard, location.
Despite the uproar from the fans of the famed Montreal Forum being turned into a shopping mall/cinema, Le Centre Bell is now the home of the most successful NHL franchise in history. Simply walking into the arena garners a breathtaking look at history—including 24 Stanley Cup banners and 11 retired numbers for just some of the great players that wore bleu, blanc et rouge. The arena’s bowl also simply mesmerizes you as you enter, stretching as high as you can see. With four decks, plus a press box in between, the fans can literally get a bird’s eye view, staring straight down onto the ice.
One of the few downsides to the arena is the concessions and the concourse. It is often very crowded, due to the insane number of people the building can hold, plus the concessions are few and far between. With just some typical ballpark food choices and one smoked meat stand, it is difficult to find great food to eat.
It is also extremely crowded outside the arena, as it is plopped in the middle of the city, with very few areas to gather or hang out before the game. Nonetheless, every media member I spoke to told me that the Bell Centre has the best atmosphere of any arena in the NHL.
Top features: bowl, history, location, atmosphere.
Built as the brand new arena for the expansion Columbus Blue Jackets in 2000, the Nationwide Arena has lived up to every expectation for an NHL arena. Taking bits and pieces from existing NHL buildings, the Jackets have been able to construct a state of the art arena that has impressed almost every fan that goes through the main entrance.
The area around the building is filled with restaurants, a plaza, parking lots, and more. The concourse is beautiful, roomy and never too crowded. The concessions include lobster rolls, grilled tuna steaks, quesadillas, panini sandwiches, and more.
Nationwide Arena also has a practice rink inside the arena (not to be confused with the Prudential Center, where the New Jersey Devils’ practice rink is in an adjacent building). The scoreboard, club level, suites, and every other aspect of the arena is almost perfect, showing that Columbus was indeed ready to be handed an NHL team.
Top features: location, concourse, concessions, scoreboard, entertainment.
One of the newest arenas (completed in 2000), the Xcel Energy Center has seen its share of regular season and playoff action, in addition to being one of the nicest buildings in the league. One side of the building is completely glass, while the rest of the building simply looks like something out of the 21st century (which is good, considering that’s the century we’re in right now).
The entire concourse also has a forest/nature aspect to it, sticking with the Minnesota theme. The concession stands have wood finishes, while the hallways are adorned with green, brown and copper colors. Concessions also include restaurants, a sports bar, Buffalo Wild Wings and your typical ballpark choices.
The seats in the arena bowl are all forest green, in addition to being laid out beautifully. There is an organ (which is a nice, classic touch for a modern arena), in addition to a three-piece band to entertain the crowd. The scoreboard and LED marquee around the arena also add a nice touch to this gorgeous arena.
Top features: architecture, concourse, scoreboard, entertainment.
Constructed in 1999 by the L.A. Arena Company (for $375 million), the Staples Center is one of the prides of Los Angeles, housing the Kings, the NBA’s Lakers and Clippers, the WNBA’s Sparks and the D-League’s D-Fenders. Continuing on the Kings’ former home, the Forum, which was built to represent the Ancient Roman Forum, the Staples Center is just as incredible a building. It stretches across several blocks in the middle of Los Angeles, while its lights are recognizable from miles away.
Numerous media members who spoke to me told me this is the nicest arena in the league. As far as the inside of the building is concerned, the concourse is excellent, with kiosks everywhere, a roomy hallway, outdoor balconies on the upper level, and of course, team merchandise stores.
The concessions are also fairly nice, including a Mexican stand with all the regular specials (nachos, fajitas, etc.). Typical ballpark food is also available.
Top features: architecture, technology, atmosphere, concourse, concessions, atmosphere.