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.
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