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Hockey Updates for 2015-2016

Posted by Sean Rowland on October 22, 2015


       The AHL’s radical changes mean that Worcester’s DCU Center does not see hockey this winter

Wawaweewa, where do we begin? Lots to discuss, but we’ll start at the top where the only NHL change is with the New York Islanders. They sadly leave the raucous
Coliseum for the non-hockey fitting Barclays Center in Brooklyn. I’ve written about this before and have nothing more to add. OK, now on to the real craziness. The AHL has resorted to extreme measures to appease their big affiliate brothers by creating a West Coast Division this season. The geographical anomaly means that the California teams only play 68 games, while the rest of the league plays 76. Out of those 68, almost all of them are within the division (Bakersfield for example has just four games against teams not based in California, Texas or Manitoba). There’s a couple reasons I hate this and it starts with the continued push in the stressing of “Development”. Unfortunately the days of putting the minor-league city, sweater and fans first are becoming a distant memory. That small-time charm and passion is getting further buried. Secondly (remember I am all about the smaller cities/arenas), there is a disturbing trend of NHL teams putting their farm team in their own building. This is going to happen in both San Jose and Winnipeg this year. Ugh. I’m sure playing in front of hundreds in an empty pro arena will do wonders come playoff time to gain atmosphere experience. 

Here are the changes (not necessarily the direct relations)…Adirondack, Manchester and Norfolk all drop to the ECHL while Stockton, Ontario and San Diego come up to the AHL. The Oklahoma City franchise folds, while Bakersfield gets promoted up to the American League. OKC’s arena, the Cox Convention Center, remains on The List as it is home for the Blue of the NBDL. As mentioned earlier, San Jose takes their affiliate team in house, while Worcester is left with nothing and there will be no hockey this winter at the DCU Center. The Manitoba Moose are back in the league, while longtime mainstay, Hamilton, oddly drops down to the OHL. The only good piece of arena news this year in the AHL is the return of the Charlotte Checkers to Bojangles’ Coliseum. The team leaves the city’s new pro arena for a return to this 1956 arena that is finishing a big renovation. Yea for that. In the ECHL, Gwinnett changed their name to Atlanta as I guess the branding bigwigs think that is better. Their arena in Duluth has also been renamed “Infinite Energy Center”. With all the big changes at AAA and AA, the A-level SPHL only sees one change and it is the addition of the Macon Mayhem. The city’s Coliseum has been off again/on again for minor-league teams and it will be back on again this winter. Finally, in the very low-level Federal League…Berkshire and Watertown are out, while Berlin, Brewster and Port Huron are in. Both Berlin and Brewster will be playing at community rec-style rinks, while McMorran Place, site of plenty former Port Huron teams, returns.


  Hamilton moves from seeing the AHL to the OHL, where FirstOntario Centre makes for a large home to the juniors 

In the OHL, I mentioned Hamilton joining the league and they replace Belleville. This is a sad move as we lose an old-school OHL town/rink, while gaining a franchise that is much more suited for high-level professional hockey with their games being played in 17,500-seat FirstOntario Centre. The other change is somewhat odd as the Plymouth franchise moves only an hour North up to Flint. Low attendance led to the selling of the franchise, who oh by the way was done by Peter Karmanos, the old jerkoff who moved Hartford to Carolina. Anyway, the move was at least justified here by low attendance, but the weird thing is that the new owners are taking up residence in a city with profound struggles and in an arena that is older. Though Flint’s renamed facility is completing some upgrades to the guts of the building, it’s still questionable to see how successful the move is. By the name, the new arena name is Dort Federal Credit Union Event Center. As for the arena in Plymouth, it was sold to US Hockey, who actually will be placing their U-18 team in USHL there.

Out in the Q, we have Quebec City’s Videotron Centre opening to much fanfare and interest. While the Remparts welcomed a sellout for their home opener, this is the building that Les Quebecois are hoping brings the NHL back to the city. Populous built this arena for a cool $370 million and it is designed with very steeply for better sightlines. The design philosophy calls for minimal distractions and complete focus on the game, which I’m liking the concept. The new arena does mean we say goodbye to the Pepsi Coliseum, the old home for the Nordiques and Remparts that was built in 1949. It will lie dormant and the future is bleak for this terrific old place. Another new arena just opened in the WHL as well as Medicine Hat said goodbye to their plain 1970 arena and hello to the Canalta Centre, a building 10 years in the making. The capacity for Tigers’ games is 6,016 and it is a surprisingly large place for a small town that only has a population of 60,000. 

Lastly, let’s talk College Hockey. If you were to take a guess as to which Division I program would add hockey to their sports profile, I’m thinking that Arizona State would not be one of your first 50 (or 100) that you guess. As crazy as it sounds, the Sun Devils will be an independent this year. While their club team has been very successful and the sport is growing at all levels in Arizona, there certainly are skeptics on the rapid move from rumor to reality. ASU will play home games in the 750-seat Oceanside Ice Arena while waiting for plans to play in a better facility. They will also have some games at Gila River Arena in Glendale. The final new arena this season comes from Omaha, where UNO completes the snazzy Baxter Arena. The facility will not only be home to hockey, but it will also host Maverick Basketball and Volleyball as the school quickly climbs the ladder into Division I for all sports.

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Hockey Update – The Wheels Are Set In Motion

Posted by Sean Rowland on October 21, 2014


The new ECHL, which includes teams from the now-defunct CHL. Just two teams away from the ability to become a true AA league with affiliates for each franchise (image from ECHL)


The biggest story in the hockey world regarding franchises, leagues and active arenas is the potential colosial restructuring coming of the lower leagues. With the western teams in the NHL understandably wanting teams closer to home base, the whole design of the minor leagues could be in flux. The wheels have somewhat been set in motion this season with the very recent absorption of the 7 CHL teams into the ECHL. Remarkably, this happened right near to the start of the season, but somehow the league re-did the schedule and divisions in a tight timeframe. The ECHL now is a 28 team league, just two short of having a legit AA imprint and partnership with the AHL-NHL. It should be noted that the San Francisco Gulls only lasted a season and a half in the practically empty Cow Palace and replacing them is the Indy Fuel, which will play in a renovated, historic and awesome Fairgrounds Coliseum. Also gone from this season are the Las Vegas Wranglers as they leave Orleans Arena and their idea of putting a new hockey rink on the roof of a casino didn’t exactly work out. From the CHL, there were 10 teams playing last season and with 7 making the move to the ECHL, the other three folded. Two of them are hoping to return next season, but for now the Arizona SunDogs and the Denver Cutthroats go dark, along with their respective arenas on The List. The Family Arena, former home to the defunct St. Charles Chill, will remain thanks to indoor football playing in the facility.

In the AHL, the historic league retains it’s general make-up for at least this year (and for selfish reasons, I hope for much longer), but there are still a few very notable moves. Ironically, the most recent western expansion move did not work out and the Abbotsford franchise folded. That leaves a $66 million, relatively new 7000 seat building tenant-less and unfortunately off The List (with probably a lot of pissed off taxpayers). The Flames affiliate sets up shop in Glens Falls, where the Phantoms have left to be just an hour outside Philly as the brand new PPL Center has been completed in downtown Allentown. Lehigh Valley is a true AAA market with both the AHL and IL baseball now in town. I’ll give it a few years to work the kinks out, but I can not wait to visit the Phantoms and PPL as I now will have AHL hockey just an hour drive from me. In Portland, the lease issue has been settled between the Pirates and the Cumberland County Civic Center. Hockey returned to a near sellout crowd last week and the building has been renamed Cross Insurance Arena, in conjunction with renovations that include premium seating and enhanced concessions. Renovations also finished in another older arena as Binghamton added a new video scoreboard above center ice. This goes with the replacement of every arena seat last year. Their naming rights is a little strange as the Floyd L. Maines Veterans Memorial Arena not only pays homage to the veteran Maines, but it is also a deal with the family owned Maines Paper and Food Service company, which is paying $75,000 a year for Floyd’s name on the building. Lastly, Hamilton sold out and got rid of a pretty good name (Copps Coliseum) for a generic corporate one (FirstOntario Centre).

Down in Juniors, a new arena has opened in the league that I have a long-term plan to see every team play a home game. The OHL’s Niagara IceDogs move into the Meridian Center in Saint Catharine’s. It certainly is a pricey building at $50 million for an arena with just around 5000 seats. Also of note, the Ottawa 67s return to the Ottawa Civic Center as they were forced to depart last season due to renovations for both the arena and the attached stadium that houses this year’s expansion CFL franchise. Annoyingly, both the arena and stadium will be called TD Place.

America’s top junior league featured a few franchise changes as the USHL welcomed the Madison Capitols. Veterans Memorial Coliseum (inside the bigger Alliant Energy Center complex) will host the team and this a homecoming of sorts as the Capitols played in the same league and arena from 1984-1995. In Sioux Falls, the Stampede move into a surprisingly large and state-of-the-art arena given their location and region. With a capacity of 10,450, the Denny Sanford Premier Center not only will host regular hockey, but also may put in a bid to host the First Four games in the NCAA Basketball Tournament. Of course this makes absolutely no sense given South Dakota’s remoteness and poor accessibility given travel is a big consideration for those games. Researching this new arena, it was challenging to actually find out about it because the whole thing is a huge complex and it was actually built around the existing Sioux Falls Arena, which will still host events including Augustana College basketball games. That makes Augustana the very rare college, let alone D-II, to have two basketball arenas on The List as their split on-campus home meets capacity requirements. 

Wrapping things up at the college level, Rochester Institute of Technology just opened a 4,000-seat building on campus. The Gene Polisseni Center gives a RIT a first-class facility that should be filled with orange many nights. Though they are from my hometown, I can’t quite root for them as I was at plenty of RIT-Oswego (my alma mater) games back when the Tigers were Division III. Given the power of their program and a beautiful facility as well, I’m surprised the Lakers have not followed suit and moved up to the D-I level yet.


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2013 Hockey Arena Updates

Posted by Sean Rowland on October 29, 2013

So long to the Sun National Bank Arena as the Trenton Titans have folded

So long to the Sun National Bank Center as the Trenton Titans have folded

While there are no arena updates in the NHL this year, we cringe at the move next year that the Islanders make to the Barclays Center. I’ve written before how the Coliseum may be a dump, but my goodness is it deafening in there come playoff time. Moving to the minor leagues, there are some significant changes, starting with the AHL. Houston moves to Iowa and though it may be the Gulf Coast of Texas, the Aeros franchise was around for quite awhile and a small, but passionate bunch of fans had their hearts broken thanks to the jerks at Toyota Center/Houston Rockets stubbornly not renewing their lease, thus trading a 20 year hockey team for more concert dates and money. Meanwhile, this is the second go-round for the AHL in Des Moines’ Wells Fargo Center after a failed first attempt. Up in New York, welcome back Utica! Robert Esche led the charge to take on a relocating Peoria franchise (where Bradley basketball is really the main draw at Carver Arena). Amazing that in a league trending to big and new arenas, they will be back in Utica Memorial Auditorium and take it back to an era when teams like Cape Breton and Fredericton played there. Awesome and welcome back. In Portland, the Cumberland County Civic Center is undergoing renovations and is scheduled to re-open in January. One problem. The Portland Pirates won’t be there this season as the two are locked in a bitter dispute between lease negotiations. The Pirates instead will play about 45 minutes away in Lewiston, at the smaller Androscoggin Bank Colisee. Rather unusual circumstance to see and that must be infuriating Pirate fans that the two are acting like the US Government.

A level down in the ECHL, the Trenton Titans have folded as the attendance, fan support and income just wasn’t there. Too bad as the franchise used to do well. As a result, the Sun National Bank Center (where I have visited) is off The List as there are no sports teams playing there. A real shame as it is a decent mid-sized arena. In the SPHL, a couple of Illinois teams arrive in the southern league, making for an odd geographical trip. Peoria drops from the AHL, while Bloomington left the CHL. Also, the Augusta and Fort Worth franchises folded. The one in Augusta is noteworthy because the Ice System failed at James Brown Arena and there is some disagreement on the fix. No Ice, No Hockey. Therefore, the King of Soul’s arena is gone.

College Hockey has been completely restructured conference-wise (like everything else) thanks to the formation of the Big Ten. This set off a chain of events as CCHA folded, while the NCHC formed and the team swapping is too numerous and ridiculous to list. Back to the Big Ten, Penn State’s relatively new team is ready to debut in Terry Pegula’s hockey arena, which opened October 11th.

In the popular Canadian Major Junior leagues, the biggest change is in the OHL, where Brampton moved to North Bay. This is the city’s second stint as the Gateway to The North, had a team from 1982 – 2002. It is a shame however, that North Bay they kept Brampton’s nickname (Battalion) instead of reverting back to their Centennials. Plus their jerseys are hideous. After some lower-level hockey during the in-between-OHL years, North Bay Memorial Gardens received minor renovations in the offseason on their back to major junior. Back in Brampton, an NBL Canada team will play at the Powerade Centre. Two other teams saw changes in their building, with the big one coming in Erie, where the $46 million renovation basically transformed the home arena of the Otters. In Ottawa, it’s the renovation of Frank Clair Stadium for the CFL that has the 67s playing sharing big league arena in Kanata with the Senators. The 67s will move back into the Ottawa Civic Centre next season. Staying in the OHL, Kingston gets shamed for now having two sponsors on their arena name, which may be a first. Their arena is now the Rogers K-Rock Centre. Gross name. The only other junior change up in Canada is the re-naming of the PEI franchise in the Q. They are now known as the Charlottetown Islanders (love that change in name) and play in the newly-sponsored Eastlink Centre.

Down in the USHL, the major junior league of the US, just one change and it comes in Indianapolis. With historic Pepsi Coliseum out of commission for another year due to renovations, the Ice will split games at Bankers Life Fieldhourse and Pan-Am Pavilion. I can’t seem to find seating capacity info from the Pavilion anywhere, so I had to glance at the seating chart and it looks like it may not even hold 1,000, which is not enough for The List. In the NAHL, there were four teams that folded and three new teams, but none of these changes impacted The List.

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We are going to miss The Coliseum

Posted by Sean Rowland on April 7, 2013

Nassau Coliseum

Before I get into my re-visit to see the Islanders and the Nassau Coliseum, first a little side story. Ten years ago right around this time, I took a trip to see an NHL arena on the same weekend of the Final Four. The team visit was Montreal, while my favorite team, the Syracuse Orange were playing in the second National Semifinal. It took a lot of focus, but I managed to stay clear of any scores and was able to watch the game on VHS in my dorm room when we got back at 3 AM. Ironically in 2013, a very similar scenario played out. With more technology, the challenge to stay clear of the result was more difficult, but I still managed and despite my superstitious-ness, the result was different as the Cuse lost to Michigan.

OK, back to the task at hand…I can’t believe despite all of my trips to Long Island to visit my wife’s family, I have yet to make it back for another visit to Uniondale for an Islanders game. A lot has changed since 2003 and after years of failed projects, referendums and votes, the team will only be “Islanders” by technicality as they move to Brooklyn in 2015 (yes Brooklyn is on LI, but it’s really Nassau and Suffolk County that is true Island). Though Brooklyn was not the destination I wanted to see, I was somewhat OK with the move since Charles Wang has tried for ten years to improve the arena situation in the horribly outdated Nassau Coliseum. Enough was enough after numerous failed projects and votes and I won’t blame Wang one bit as the political game on Long Island is really what drove the team away. But the more thought I gave, the sadder I got to see it come to this. The Islanders are Long Island’s only professional team. The franchise is suburb in every sense of the word and that will now change as many won’t haul out to Brooklyn for games (but very thankfully for fans, well within distance from where they could have moved).

The fan base of NYI is confounding in that there are so many times you can turn on the TV and see a completely dormant Coliseum with little noise and sections of empty seats. Yet, Islander fans that I have come to know are deeply passionate. It has been rare in the last twenty years to see a team worth watching, but when it happens there is an unmistakable buzz. I was fortunate to see a game that mattered as the team is near a playoff spot with ten games to go and the young talent is coming together. The fans responded and it was a near-sellout Saturday Night vs Tampa. The Coliseum was rocking and constant “Lets Go Islander” chants complimented the explosion after each goal. Inside, there is only one level of seating to the arena and the 100s, 200s and 300s are just separated each by a wall. Combine that with the low roof and the fact that suites in no place interrupt the seating bowl (they are nestled underneath the roof, hanging over the 300 level), the stage is set for a very loud building. And it is that, for what I will miss with the Coliseum. There are not many left as today’s arenas are huge (save for Winnipeg) with numerous corporate seating. The Coliseum remains old-school and for the many, many times it is desolate, those few times that it rocks make it worth it in today’s NHL. Yes, overall the place is awful: there is nothing but parking lot around it, concourses are ridiculously tight, food is bad (like my disgusting buffalo chicken wrap) and many of those upper seats are obstructed by the overhang. But I’ll take all of those deficiencies for the atmosphere that Long Islanders can occasionally create as opposed to seeing a game in an arena built for the NBA with a fan base that has more rival fans (Rangers) than home fans.

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Don’t Forget the other Hockey Leagues

Posted by Sean Rowland on January 21, 2013

Maybe the Marlies are worth a visit as opposed to dropping hundreds of dollars on the Leafs

Maybe the Marlies are worth a visit as opposed to dropping hundreds of dollars on the Leafs

It’s a great time to be a sports fan. We have the NFL playoffs, the heart of college basketball season and of course, Hockey is Back! At least that’s what the NHL tells us. The league’s slogan is incorrect in that hockey has been going in many forms since autumn. Minor, College and Junior all have offered great games, players, teams and of course, arenas to enjoy the action. I am still quite mad at the NHL, however I know I’ll be back and suckered in like everyone else (as evidence by the numerous sellouts this weekend). We just keep feeding the machine and it seems to be a vicious circle with no end. Not saying I won’t be a part of that (TD Garden and the Boston Bruins are a possible stadium trip in March), but there are many other places to spend money and watch hockey. Below is a team/arena per league within an hour drive from an NHL city that is well worth a game:

AHL – Rochester Americans (Blue Cross Arena)……Just over an hour from Buffalo, Blue Cross is a worthy place to check out a game in one of the older buildings that still hosts hockey. Though the old War Memorial was renovated in the late 90s, there are still many reminders of the glory days when Don Cherry barked behind the bench.

ECHL – Colorado Eagles (Budweiser Events Center)……This is a team that has rapidly ascended up the minor-league latter as this is their second season in the AA ECHL. Games have constantly been packed (along with a paid attendance sellout streak ongoing) and the Eagles are doing quite well in Loveland.

CHL – Allen Americans (Allen Event Center)……Allen is only a half-hour outside of downtown Dallas, where the Stars play. The Americans are just a few years old, but they play in a newer building that is quite a treat to visit. Plus the city itself has many nice bars and restaurants.

NCAA – Boston University (Agganis Arena)……The region that best defines college hockey is New England and within a short ride on Boston’s train system (the T), fans can visit Northeastern, Harvard, Boston College or Boston University. I picked the Terriers because I’m hoping to visit in March and also because it provides a remarkable hockey experience.

OHL – Windsor Spitfires (WFCU Centre)……Just hop on the Ambassador Bridge from Detroit and the city of Windsor offers quality junior hockey in the form of the Spitfires. I was saddened to see old Windsor Arena close, but the WFCU Centre is a beautiful new modern building.

QMJHL – Quebec Remparts (Colisee du Pepsi
)……OK, so this one is a little more than an hour away from the nearest NHL city (Montreal). However, the 2.5 hour drive provides the opportunity to check out an old NHL building. This is where the Nordiques played and time may be ticking on the Colisee as the province plans on building a new arena to attract the NHL back.

WHL – Red Deer Rebels (ENMAX Coliseum)……My last recommendation is halfway between Calgary and Edmonton. Ignoring the corporate name for a second, Red Deer is a place to enjoy hockey in it’s finest Canadian roots. That personal, community feel is really what binds hockey and its fans and that is exemplified in this Western Canadian town.

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Finally…some hockey

Posted by Sean Rowland on December 15, 2012

Sovereign Center Interior


First, my thoughts and prayers are with everyone, especially those affected by the horrific tragedy yesterday. Like everyone, I can’t begin to wrap my head around what happened and unimaginable that nightmare is for some. Raymond Curren had a very good piece this morning, I encourage you to check it out.

My trip to Reading came with two goals…one to get another take on their home arena and the other was to quench my thirst for some hockey. I left work on time early in the afternoon and made the two-hour trip west. My first visit in 2005 came at night, so I wanted to make sure I got some exterior shots of the Sovereign Center. The arena is right downtown and while driving thru Penn Street looks fine building-wise as a mid-sized city, this was kind of a scary place. There were plenty of people out when I was walking around taking pictures, but several were giving that uneasy vibe (loudly swearing, just generally acting like punks). Walking around the vicinity of the arena is fine for games, but I don’t think I would venture much beyond there.

While having a little extra time, I drove a mile east to Mount Penn, which offers incredible views of the city and surrounding area. With Reading’s landmark Pagoda, the spot is famous in the area and after being the only one there, it filled up with photographers getting ready to catch the sunset. Heading back down the hill, I parked at a garage near the arena for dinner before the game. My plan was to eat at Jimmy Kramer’s Peanut Bar, which I thought was near the garage and arena. Google Maps put it near 6th and Penn, so you can imagine my confusion when all I saw was a bank, office complex and CVS. No restaurant. After walking around and not finding it, I settled for the Outside In Restaurant, a weird place on the second floor of an old school 80s-style mini mall. The food was blah (I had a chicken wrap) and it turns out that the peanut bar was on 3rd street, a walk I did not want to make.

Things got much better once inside the arena. The Sovereign Center was built in 2001 and it starts with a cool entrance as the chandelier from the old Astor Theater hangs above the small atrium. The concourse is full of decoration and food items, which I didn’t even mind it being small. Walls are filled with jerseys, Royals honors, timelines, a hat trick display and other memorabilia. Meanwhile, there are food stands everywhere with a ton of options. The Pit BBQ and Chickies and Pete’s were the big ones. The city known for pretzels, had an item that fit perfectly…a huge soft pretzel braid. Inside, the arena is simple (a one-level seating design that rounds the rink), but its one that promotes lots of noise with its small surface area. Though there were only a couple thousand on hand, the building rocked and there was a lot of energy from the fans. They really got into the game and even after the big win, cars were honking throughout the garage to celebrate. Speaking of that win, what a great game. After Reading’s Philipp Grubauer gave up some awful early goals, the Royals almost came back by cutting the Fort Wayne lead to 3-2. They then gave up what I thought was a demoralizing goal with 12.6 seconds left in the second period as Ryan Lasch got a hat trick. But one of the best team’s in the ECHL came out on fire in the 3rd period as they scored four goals and dominated play, eventually winning 6-4. Man, did I miss hockey. I’ll have an updated review done later today and also I’ll be writing a review for Stadium Journey that should go up next week.

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Returning to Reading

Posted by Sean Rowland on December 12, 2012


Friday, we’ll be making a return visit to see the Reading Royals and the Sovereign Center to update a couple reviews. Along with writing a review for Stadium Journey,  I really want to fix up my Sovereign Center review, which was written seven years ago. Speaking of that, the review cleaning-up process is coming along as all football venues have been done and I’m now on to basketball and hockey arenas. Anyway, what I remember most about my trip in 2005 was the giant road closed sign on US-222 as I made my way back to Jersey. Without GPS, that was not a fun feeling, especially given how new I was to the region, just moving down for a job a few months prior. That incident made me switch to the Rt 61 to I-78 route whenever I returned to Reading. I also remember what an old-school building the Royals had, despite the 2001 opening. Loved that small design promoting a great atmosphere and I hope to see an energetic crowd upon my return. Looking forward to checking up on the Royals again and I’ll have something written up this weekend.

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Hockey Arenas Update

Posted by Sean Rowland on November 9, 2012

Sherbrooke returns to the Q after an absence of ten years.

Well here we are on November 9th and no NHL. This whole labor situation saddens and angers me at the same time. Let’s just skip past the subject and move on to arena updates in the Minor Leagues. The current top pro league (AHL) playing right now in US and Canada had a stable and quiet offseason with no changes amongst their 30 franchises. In the ECHL, they are getting closer to having the same number of teams which would give the AA league a nice feeder system to the NHL. One team however, did fold. The Chicago Express are gone in a completely oversaturated hockey and sports market (remember there is both an NHL and AHL team in Chicagoland). Their arena (Sears Centre) out in Hoffman Estates does remain on The List because the Chicago Slaughter of the Indoor Football League play there. A really nice addition this year is the historic Cow Palace in the San Francisco area. That city does not have a big time arena and this smaller venue has a lot of historical value. The San Francisco Gulls will play there this season. Also, the Evansville and Fort Wayne franchises that played in the CHL have moved up to the ECHL. Speaking of the CHL, there were a lot of changes as that league seems shaky. In addition to losing the Indiana teams to a different league, three other franchise shifts occurred. Dayton moved to the FHL, while Laredo and Rio Grande Valley folded. Both of those arenas are safe though as indoor football teams play there. One interesting change though was another old arena in a big city. The Denver Coliseum will now host the Denver Cutthroats. I know, vicious name, but apparently its a fish. They may want to rethink that one. Lastly, out of the single-A Federal League most of their six team league has changed. The most interesting note is from the new Williamsport Outlaws. They are playing the entire season outside. That’s right outside! I can’t imagine this working, but their entire 30 home game schedule will be at an ice rink at Bowman Field, home of baseball’s Crosscutters. Best of luck on what I think is a gimmicky play that will struggle when it loses its sex appeal and when the weather sucks.

In the junior leagues, let’s start in the US, where the lone new hockey arena can be found. In the USHL, the Omaha Lancers will be moving into brand new Ralston Arena this season. Ralston is a suburb of Omaha and will also be home to University of Nebraska-Omaha basketball as they make the transition to Division I. Interesting to note that there are now four arenas in the Greater Omaha market. Downtown has two (Qwest Center and the older Auditorium), while across the river in Council Bluffs is the Mid-America Center. Back to the USHL, the Indiana Ice will be playing in Bankers Life FieldHouse this year as their old home Pepsi Coliseum, undergoes an extensive renovation and won’t re-open until 2014-2015. The lower tiered NAHL sees many changes as three franchises move and four fold. One of those folding is the Dawson Creek Rage. A weird fit in the NAHL given how ridiculously far north they are in BC, but anyway it’s a shame as they are off The List because there is no tenant left at the brand new EnCana Events Center. In Canada ‘s junior leagues, Sherbrooke is back in the Q. We welcome the Sports Palace back as the Maine experiment failed in Lewiston and the franchise returns to it’s old home of ten years ago. In the OHL, the Ottawa 67s will play in the Senators’ arena as the old Ottawa Civic Centre will undergo a two year renovation. One last arena note comes from London, home to one of the most beautiful small arenas in that country. The John LaBatt Centre is no more. It is now known as Budweiser Gardens. How disgusting is that, the home of John LaBatt and the building named in his honor and the LaBatt Brewery in town, has now changed to an “American” beer. Remarkably, it was Labatt that made this happen as they are a part of Anheuser-Busch and they brew/sell Budweiser. They required that the name be changed when they renewed their naming rights contract. This whole thing just doesn’t sit right and I’m sure many Londoners aren’t happy with the renaming of the JLC.

Finally in NCAA Hockey, Penn State began it’s Division I program this year. We are still a year away from their brand new arena thanks to Terry Pegula (Also known as Mayor of Upstate New York and the Owner of the Buffalo Sabres!), but until then they will play in the tiny Greenburg Ice Pavilion.

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Best Hockey Playoff Atmospheres

Posted by Sean Rowland on April 30, 2012


Out of the five major pro sports (yes, I count MLS), the NHL has the best playoffs and in my opinion it is no contest. Every night for two months, each game is intense and usually competitive, especially this season. Those players wear the pain and it all culminates in that moment the Cup is hoisted. Didn’t mean to get all poetic there, but the playoffs also mean an elevated atmosphere in each NHL building. Now I’ve only been to one playoff game (
Buffalo-Pittsburgh, Game 5 in 2001), though I have seen quite a few games on TV over the last couple decades. Every arena and fan base is unique in it’s own way, but a great building and crowd really makes the game better…below are five of my favorites:

 1) Rexall Place – Edmonton Oilers

It’s been awhile since they’ve been in (2006), but that old arena helps make that place an absolute loudhouse. We’ve already lost Chicago Stadium, The Forum and Boston Garden, so despite plans for a new arena, I really hope it doesn’t happen just for my own selfish reasons to have an old barn remain in the NHL.


2) Madison Square Garden – NY Rangers

There may be a ton more to do in New York City than in Edmonton, but that does not mean the hockey fans aren’t passionate. They are smart fans (loved the mock Alfie chant in Thursday’s Game 7) and it is raucous in there, especially up in the 400 section. MSG is extremely loud too.


 3) Pengrowth Saddledome – Calgary Flames

The Flames also haven’t been back to the playoffs in several years..but the C of Red is something to behold during playoff games. I think every one in that arena has a red Flames jersey on. The ebb and flow of a game is really noticed here just by hearing the crowd.


4) Wells Fargo Center – Philadelphia Flyers

Speaking of being decked out in colors, the Flyers crowd has now gone all orange and this is a place that keeps rising on my list. Though the arena is nothing special in my book, the simplicity of it help to make the crowd the star. Where Chicago and Montreal are too cavernous, the Wells Fargo Center‘s basic two-level oval  provides a good set-up for noise and the crowd doesn’t get lost.


 5) HP Pavilion – San Jose Sharks

San Jose is underrated and while most of the non-traditional markets aren’t among my favorites (though Nashville is growing on me), I’ve always admired what has gone on in Northern California. HP seems like an arena that suits my liking and the crowd has a lot of playoff experience….Now if they only can get to the Finals.


Honorable Mention:

Winnipeg – They’ll likely be #1 after their first appearance
Buffalo – I’m biased…but sometimes it can be too quiet in there if nothing’s going on
NY Islanders – In 2002, the Coliseum was insane…seemed to lose a little bit in 2007
Montreal – A European feel with incredible fans. Very loud.
Minnesota – Been awhile for the State of Hockey
St Louis – The Cardinals may rule the city…but the Blues aren’t far behind
Vancouver – Has my favorite pre-game intro

Posted in Hockey | Leave a Comment »

Toronto, the Leafs and the Marlies

Posted by Sean Rowland on April 4, 2012

This trip began where the last one left off…with snow! For those living in the Northeast, there’s nothing worse than having a prolonged taste of Spring (more like Summer) and then see the snow fall. Expectedly, it didn’t stick to the roads, but it foreshadowed a chilly weekend in Toronto. After picking up my brother in Rochester, we made the three hour trek Saturday Morning and stayed in the suburb of Oakville, opting to take mass transit and using the GO train to Union Station. Emerging downtown is a treat as this is one of the nicest cities in North America. Clean, tons to do and very diverse, which aids in the terrific restaurant scene. Right in the middle of it all in a historic building is the Hockey Hall of Fame. Now I’ve been here before and though not too much changed from what I remember, this is still a worthy Hall of Fame and you can’t beat the Great Hall. This is where all the famous trophies are, along with each inductee. And of course, shining front and center is the Stanley Cup. Of all the sports things one can do, putting your hands on the Stanley Cup is certainly up there.

After grabbing dinner, it was off to the Air Canada Centre for a game between the Leafs and Sabres. When I got to the arena, I was blown away at what was in front of the building. When I was in the CN Tower eight years ago, I had an unobstructed view looking down at the ACC as there was nothing much immediately in front. Now there are many towering skyscrapers as the mixed-use Maple Leaf Square was built with condos, restaurants and other entertainment facilities. Crazy the difference between Canada and US in terms of city projects as most have halted here in the States; meanwhile, Toronto (and Vancouver for that matter) is filled with cranes and under-construction buildings. Anyway, inside the ACC is a really nice building with a good design for hockey. Though the concourses are inviting with some cool spaces, I was disappointed though in the lack of history and/or displays on the walls. A franchise with that much of a storied past should do much more with displaying it. Though I’m not keen on the overhanging gondolas obstructing views in the upper sections, I very much enjoyed the layout of the seating bowl. Our seats in the middle portion of Section 317, right near the wall were actually pretty decent (I like walls and goofy corners breaking up a standard  ring of seating). Of course, they cost an arm and a leg as the ticket prices here are an absolute joke. The Leafs are one of the highest priced experiences in all of the four major sports. This usually makes for more of a corporate, quieter feel inside…but I didn’t really notice that at our game. Maybe because the Leafs were winding down the season with their longest home losing streak (11) in franchise history, so maybe a lot of season-ticket holders sold their tickets. This led to a good chunk of Sabres fans in attendance (Buffalo is only a couple hours away), but it was not a good day for us as the team dropped a 5-3 game to the home Leafs. It was a brief reprieve for Toronto fans from what has been an awful season as their shocking run of no playoffs (since 2004) continues. Fans were cool to us in Sabre jerseys with just some relatively pleasant verbal jabbing and nothing too harsh.

On Sunday, we saw an afternoon matinee at RICOH Coliseum, home to the Toronto Marlies of the AHL. RICOH is a very strange, but refreshingly different arena as the building is old and historic, built in 1921. Walking in, you’re expecting an old-style rink, but instead the place is relatively new. That’s because there were no sports held here until they essentially built a hockey arena inside during 2003 renovations. Prior to that, agricultural events and playing host to the many exhibitions held during the Canadian National Exhibition (a huge fair) was the purpose of the facility. In fact, the whole area that the arena sits in, Exhibition Place, is primarily the home of the CNE and throughout the grounds are buildings and other housing areas, designed for the CNE and other special events. Exhibition Place also includes BMO Field, where the MLS Toronto FC team plays. They had a game the day before and the train we were on was filled with many dressed in red scarves heading to the game.

RICOH was a pretty good AHL home and unlike the ACC nearby, the walls had many old pictures and stories, detailing the history of the facility, and the Toronto farm team relationship. Inside is a single level seating area with a lot of standing room behind the bowl. There was a pretty good crowd on hand, mostly consisting of kids and groups, though they were able to generate some good noise after goals and a decent atmosphere. Unlike their parent team, the Marlies are pretty good as they completed a three-game streak this weekend (the first two over my hometown Amerks). It was a great game as Grand Rapids took a 2-0 lead and Toronto was able to tie it up in the third. Then with less than a minute left, future star Nazem Kadri crashed the net and gave the Marlies the lead and the win.

I’ll have both reviews up probably within the week or so. In the meantime, check out the excellent summaries for the Leafs and Marlies written over at Stadium Journey by Dave Cottenie. Special thanks to Wayne Young on this trip. Had a terrific time up in Canada and there are two more Toronto venues left for me: the Rexall Centre for the ATP Tour event in Toronto and BMO Field for Toronto FC. Hopefully that can be done in the future with a Summer Trip. Otherwise, enjoy an awesome sports week with the NHL/NBA getting ready for playoffs, Baseball Opening Day and of course the Masters. Happy Holidays this weekend!

Posted in Hockey, Stadium Reviews, Trips | 1 Comment »


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