NHL Hockey: Ranking the 10 Toughest NHL Venues for Opponents to Play
Every NHL hockey fan knows the arenas where their team finds it difficult to win. Some arenas are just tougher to win in than others. The fans are crazy, the boards take funny bounces, the ice is choppy, or the home team is simply better.
So I tried to accurately compile a list of the top 10 venues in the NHL. I tried to look at this over different years so I wasn't dependent on how good the team was in a certain year and take that as a fact. Capacity and attendance were certainly taken into account.
Home ice is very important in the NHL and defending home ice could propel a team through the playoffs and to the Stanley Cup.
HP Pavilion: San Jose Sharks
The Sharktank is a very underrated arena in the NHL. The fans are loud, the team is usually good and the time difference for east coast teams plays a factor (I'm definitely east coast biased, just be aware).
The Sharktank has become one of the most difficult places to play in the NHL and hockey in the Bay Area is flourishing with the success of the Sharks.
Verizon Center: Washington Capitals
Nobody should complain about me putting the Capitals in ninth place.
This team might as well be called the Alex Ovechkins because this franchise was nothing without him.
The "Rock the Red" campaign is cool but the Caps never even came close to selling out before Ovechkin. They ranked 10th in attendance this year and sold out all of their games. On the contrary, the Caps were 28th in attendance in 2005-06.
Now the arena is tough to play in but before this, it was one of the weaker arenas in the NHL.
Ovechkin saves the day again.
And concerning the whole "who's louder" controversy between Caps fans and Rangers fans—Don Maloney said it best by saying that you would never see only 5000 Rangers fans at a game like he saw on Columbus Day in Washington the first year after the lockout. Case closed.
United Center: Chicago Blackhawks
Your first thought was probably, "Really? Number 8?"
People forget that the Blackhawks had very poor attendance in the earlier part of the 2000s. In 2003-04, the Blackhawks ranked 27th in attendance.
Now they are number one.
I know that was because of ownership problems, but real fans stick to their teams through the good times and the bad. Now, the United Center fills its seats every night as the Blackhawks lifted the Stanley Cup last year, and have a bright future with Toews and Kane leading the way (as long as they can get that cap situation figured out).
Madison Square Garden: New York Rangers
Rangers fans are always there for their team.
The Garden is one of the great buildings in the NHL because of its history and mystique. This sometimes works against the Rangers as other teams come in and beat them, but the fans are always there.
Even in 2001-02, when the Rangers did not even sniff the playoffs, the Rangers ranked ninth in attendance. The Rangers have not played well at home in recent years (particularly the last two) which drops them on this list, but MSG is a place where opponents seem excited to play.
Wells Fargo Center: Philadelphia Flyers
Flyers fans have been there for a while.
They consistently rank in the top 10 in attendance even when their team wasn't very good.
As a Ranger fan, I always hate going to Philadelphia because the fans are crazy and the rivalry between the cities is huge.
Flyers fans got rewarded with the Winter Classic this year, according to reports, which should be a fun game to watch.
Rogers Arena: Vancouver Canucks
The Canucks have always had great fans contrary to what Canuck haters have been saying. They consistently rank in the top 10 in attendance.
The arena ice also provides some tricky bounces as seen with Bieksa's goal in Game 5 against the Sharks in overtime and Lapierre's goal in Game 5 against the Bruins in the Stanley Cup Finals. This adds another element to playing in Rogers Arena aside from dealing with the Green Men and the Sedin twins.
Canucks fans also travel well, as I can attest to by seeing them at MSG and Nassau Coliseum this season. Both arenas were full of Canuck fans who had travelled 3000 miles to see their team play.
Joe Louis Arena: Detroit Red Wings
The Joe is always filled with fans. The boards are electric and the Red Wings use that to their full advantage.
The Red Wings always seem to be good and the fans are very supportive. Detroit always counts on the Red Wings to be a winner and they respond to them.
Being one of the original six franchises in the NHL doesn't hurt either. There are a number of Red Wing fans who travel all over. I think they deserve a Winter Classic after they participated in one in Chicago.
And the Octopus throwing tradition is awesome.
Rexall Arena: Edmonton Oilers
The Oilers fans are unbelievable.
The team finished in last place both this season and last, yet they sold out almost all of their games.
The cold weather and an old arena make it a good home for the young Oilers and the attendance has had an impact on the young team. The old arena is full of mystique and history as it was the home ice of Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier and the great Oilers teams.
The Oilers will be winners soon, and when that happens don't call Edmonton fans front-runners (cough-Capitals fans-cough).
Air Canada Centre: Toronto Maple Leafs
Maple Leafs fans are like Oilers fans in that they support their team through the good times and the bad. No Stanley Cup since 1967 and continuous disappointment, yet they keep coming back.
One of only two franchises to have not made the playoffs after the lockout, the Maple Leafs are on the right track. The fans are always there and it creates a frightening atmosphere for opponents playing a winnable game in a tough arena.
The Maple Leafs will be a tough out in future playoffs with their home ice advantage.
Bell Centre: Montreal Canadiens
By far my most feared game on the Rangers schedule. The two worst games of the season to watch as an opponent.
Watching as a neutral is awesome: the fans are insane, the goal horn is scary, the way the Canadiens' play seems to improve at home and the red uniforms show the history of the club.
Hearing the announcer speak in two different languages makes me feel like the game is in some random place and the Canadiens' fans love their Habs. The ice has its hops and the game always seems to be fast-paced. For me, this is the most feared arena in the NHL.