I grew up a hockey fan. More specifically, a Capitals fan. These days I’ll watch any game at any time, with the Caps being my priority, of course.
A couple months ago, I decided I needed a bucket list. I couldn’t think of a better one than to attend a game at every NHL arena. At the beginning of this season, I had only visited two. Now, I can say I have attended a game in seven different arenas.
Since I am taking the time to visit every arena, I am going to create a cheat sheet for everyone. Now YOU can decide if an arena is worth visiting.
Game attended? April 1, 2009 vs the St. Louis Blues and January 22, 2017 vs the Vancouver Canucks
Where is the arena? West of Chicago
Why is it worth visiting? I have visited the United Center twice. The first time was in 2009 and I only made it through one period after suffering a concussion while trying to obtain cotton candy. I made it through the entire game during my second visit in 2017. The Blackhawks have very passionate fans who sell out the arena every game. One interesting tidbit is that all fans applaud and cheer during the National Anthem. If you aren’t expecting this, it can be confusing. I was rooting for the Canucks during the 2017 game and everyone was very polite to me.
Cons of the arena? Beware of the concussion-causing concrete walls.
Do they sell cotton candy? Not anymore and I think I am the reason why.
Game attended? October 29, 2016 vs the Nashville Predators
Where is the arena? About an hour south of San Francisco driving, but also accessible via train.
Why is it worth visiting? SAP Center is definitely a must-visit if you are in the San Francisco area during hockey season with an evening free. My favorite part of the arena was how hockey-oriented it is. Since the SAP Center only hosts the Sharks and their AHL affiliate, the San Jose Barracuda, the arena is decked out in Sharks photos and branding. Everyone I interacted with during the game were incredibly happy and you could definitely tell they loved their job. I also sat next to Mike Fisher’s uncle during the game, so you never know who you will run into!
Cons of the arena? There is only one concourse, so it got pretty crowded during intermissions. The store is also pretty small and was pretty packed. The line outside was long, but once doors opened it moved fairly quickly.
Do they sell cotton candy? Yes
Game attended? January 17, 2017 vs the Carolina Hurricanes
Where is the arena? In the heart of Columbus, Ohio
Why is it worth visiting? I drove out of my way from Cleveland to attend this game and it was worth it 100 percent. The arena is centrally located, easy to find off the highway, and has plenty of parking and restaurants around. Nationwide is beautiful, fully decked out in Blue Jackets branding. I can’t tell if my favorite part is the store (so big and SO many options), the tacos, or the music they play. My section also won a lottery ticket, although my ticket was not a winner. Overall, I probably will still rank this as my favorite arena.
Cons of the arena? Hands down, the cannon. Even when I was expecting it, I still flinched.
Do they sell cotton candy? Yes AND they have Timbits.
Game attended? February 18, 2017 vs the Capitals
Where is the arena? On the water in Detroit….basically Canada but not quite.
Why is it worth visiting? The history. Although, the Joe won’t be around anymore after this season.
Cons of the arena? Since the Wings learned they were getting the Little Caesars Arena, they stopped putting money into the Joe. It was bare bones arena to begin with, but now the seats are even falling apart. The fans also weren’t the nicest to a fan of the visiting team. The new arena is going to be wonderful and I will have to pay another visit to Hockeytown.
Do they sell cotton candy? I didn’t see any. I was too focused on my wings.
Game attended? March 14, 2017 vs the Toronto Maple Leafs
Where is the arena? Sunrise, Florida, which sits around 20 miles from the beach in Fort Lauderdale.
Why is it worth visiting? I wouldn’t say BB&T Center is a MUST visit, but if you happen to be on the oceanside of Florida during hockey season, it is worth a stop by. The tickets are fairly reasonably priced and everyone I interacted with was friendly. A perk of an arena in Florida is there is a porch one can go out on during intermission to enjoy the warm weather. The arena has a huge parking lot and is across the street from a massive mall.
Cons of the arena? Although the arena looks huge from the outside, it feels cramped inside and the seats are really narrow. All the drink stands are cash only, but you can use credit for food. It may have also been the game I chose to go to, but the arena was 80 percent filled with Maple Leafs fans.
Do they sell cotton candy? No
Game attended? March 18, 2017 vs the Capitals
Where is the arena? Right in downtown Tampa
Why is it worth visiting? Amalie Arena is nice. The outside doesn’t seem like much, but the inside is roomy and the seats are comfortable. There is also a porch in this arena, and unlike BB&T Center, there are vendors and seats. A lot of people enjoyed the intermission outside. Perks of the in-game entertainment are the MASSIVE jumbotron and organ. Fans were nicer to a fan of the visiting team than the Wings were, but I did hear a few remarks here and there.
Cons of the arena? The Uber surge pricing.
Do they sell cotton candy? No
Game attended? I can’t even begin to count.
Where is the arena? The heart and soul of downtown DC
Why is it worth visiting? Because it is home ice! Even though I have been attending games since it opened, I don’t have a photo in front yet. This has to change soon!
Cons of the arena? The Caps give the fans an amazing home ice advantage with 30 home wins this season, but sometimes I feel like I am stuck in loud, 90’s ringtone and that is not really my taste.
Do they sell cotton candy? Yes
So far, there hasn’t been an arena that I wouldn’t go back to. They all have different pros and cons, but hockey usually outweighs most of the cons. The only thing holding me back from going back is distance. I am sure I will pay a visit back to some of these, but not a planned trip until I cross off every arena.
I am planning on jumping up to Philadelphia in April for one last arena this season. Where will I visit next season? Stay tuned! (Because I really don’t know yet. Vegas, maybe???)
Have you visited any other arenas? What have been your stand out favorites?
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