With all of the major hockey leagues having started their season, it’s that time of year where we take a look at what’s different in the arena world. The most significant update comes from Oil Country, where Edmonton opens Rogers Place after saying goodbye to their home in Northlands earlier this year. It certainly is a big difference in arenas and aside from typical opening-night issues, it seems fans really like the place. Of course, the building didn’t come without funding controversy and the downtown location has a few issues like lack of parking. But bringing people into the city as part of a huge development looks like a mostly big positive. The true test I care about will be the playoff atmosphere as the old Northlands Coliseum was deafening (forward to 6:28) and I hope (but doubt) the new joint comes close. For a great recap of the entire process for Edmonton getting a downtown arena, check out this recap from the Edmonton Journal. In other NHL news, Buffalo has a new arena name for the umpteenth time. Maybe they should consider avoiding naming rights deals with banks? Also, Pittsburgh’s arena has been changed after just a few years as we now are supposed to call it PPG Paints Arena.
In the AHL, the march westward continues as NHL teams push to be closer to their affiliate, even at the expense of balanced competition. The Springfield franchise was sold to Tucson and while this may seem ridiculous from a fan support aspect, keep in mind that Springfield had horrible attendance in recent years. The Roadrunners (love that nickname) will be playing in a renovated Tucson Arena as we welcome that facility to The List for the first time. The arena is located within a larger convention center complex and it will seat 7,440. As for Springfield, one of the AHL’s oldest locations and the home to league offices, they will indeed have a team as the Portland franchise relocates to Western Mass. Hard to imagine the AHL without Maine, but that will be the case this season. In what should be a lesson to idiot city/state governments: they just spent nearly $30 million on renovations to Cross Insurance Arena and now, their primary tenant is gone with 25-35 open dates now on the calendar. Portland is trying to get an ECHL team for next season, but that has not happened yet. Elsewhere, the Calder Cup Champions changed their name as the Monsters are now Cleveland and not Lake Erie. Good Move.
Down in the lower leagues, the Evansville IceMen are in limbo as their potential move to a renovated Sportscenter in Owensboro, KY did not work out. The Ford Center will still have hockey, but it will be in the SPHL as the Thunderbirds begin play in Evansville. That leaves 27 teams in the ECHL, with Worcester coming next season (and the small chance for Portland). The league still has some work to do in order for it to be truly AA with an affiliate to each NHL squad. Back to the SPHL, also joining with a very 1990s nickname is the Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs. It’s been awhile since we’ve had Roanoke’s arena (Berglund Center) on The List, but we welcome it back with open arms as the city has another stint with professional hockey. Folding from league is the Louisiana IceGators.
We do have a couple of arenas to say goodbye to and the first has seen their fair share of minor league hockey teams through the years. Dayton’s Hara Arena has closed its doors after several decades and that forces the Demolition of the FHL to fold. Hara was unique in that it was privately owned and an apparent estate dispute led to the arena’s closure. Also, sad to see Vancouver’s Pacific Coliseum no longer have a sports tenant. After the Canucks moved to Rogers Arena in 1995, the Coliseum remained active and the WHL’s Giants began play there in 2001. It remained home of junior hockey for 15 years until this season when the Giants moved out to the suburbs for play in the Langley Events Center. The move makes sense with a modern facility that fits the WHL much better, still it is sad not to see the old Pacific Coliseum in use. Whenever I hear that name, I immediately think of Pavel Bure and that gold, flying skate logo. Not all is sad however, as there is a very old friend we say hello to once again. In Shreveport, historic Hirsch Coliseum has received a facelift. The work done was enough to get the arena in working order again to get the Mudbugs back and they are indeed playing hockey in ArkLaTex again, this time as part of the NAHL.