NHL Hockey: Ranking the 10 Toughest NHL Venues for Opponents to Play

Robert DemmettCorrespondent IIIJune 12, 2011

NHL Hockey: Ranking the 10 Toughest NHL Venues for Opponents to Play

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    VANCOUVER, BC - JUNE 10:  The Vancouver Canucks play against the Boston Bruins during Game Five of the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Final at Rogers Arena on June 10, 2011 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.  (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
    Rich Lam/Getty Images

    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

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    SAN JOSE - APRIL 27:  Vesa Toskala #35 and Joe Thornton #19 of the San Jose Sharks skate onto the ice before the start of the fourth game of the Western Conference Quarterfinals of the NHL Playoffs against the Nashville Predators won by the Sharks 5-4 on
    Robert Laberge/Getty Images

    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

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    WASHINGTON - MAY 04:  General view of the on ice display of an American Flag during the National Anthem prior to the start of a NHL game between the Washington Capitals and the Pittsburgh Penguins during Game Two of the Eastern Conference Semifinal Round
    Len Redkoles/Getty Images

    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

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    CHICAGO - MAY 31:  A general view inside the United Center during the national anthem before Game Two of the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Final between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Philadelphia Flyers on May 31, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Michael Hei
    Michael Heiman/Getty Images

    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

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    NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 22: (l-r) Former New York Ranger players Andy Bathgate and Harry Howell have their numbers retired by the team prior to the game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the New York Rangers on February 22, 2009 at Madison Square Garden in
    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    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

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    PHILADELPHIA - JUNE 04:  Lauren Hart sings 'God Bless America' before Game Four of the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Final between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Philadelphia Flyers at Wachovia Center on June 4, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Andre
    Andre Ringuette/Getty Images

    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

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    VANCOUVER, BC - JUNE 10:  The Vancouver Canucks play against the Boston Bruins during Game Five of the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Final at Rogers Arena on June 10, 2011 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.  (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
    Rich Lam/Getty Images

    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

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    DETROIT - JUNE 6:  Skaters carry flags around the ice prior to the start of Game Five of the 2009 NHL Stanley Cup Finals between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena on June 6, 2009 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by: Bruce Be
    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    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

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    EDMONTON, AB - DECEMBER 14:  General view before the game between the Minnesota Wild and the Edmonton Oilers on December 14, 2006 at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.  The Oilers won 3-1.  (Photo by Tim Smith/Getty Images)
    Tim Smith/Getty Images

    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

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    TORONTO - OCTOBER 4:  Too celebrate the achievements of three former Toronto Maple Leafs players, Leonard 'Red' Kelly, Clarence 'Hap' Day, and Borje Salming, members of  the Toronto Maple Leafs wear their numbers on their jerseys prior to the raising of t
    Dave Sandford/Getty Images

    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

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    MONTREAL, QC - MAY 22:  Fans and players stand at attention as the Canadian National Anthem is perform prior to the start of Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Bell Centre on May 22, 2010 in Montreal, Canad
    Michael Heiman/Getty Images

    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.