While T-Mobile Arena has been open for over 6 months, it made it’s professional tenant debut a few weeks ago as the Vegas Golden Knights dropped the puck after a stirring pre-game ceremony. It is obvious that this arena will feature plenty of road team fans for every game given it’s location in a destination city. The question is will the Knights and their fans be able to make it a rink that is decidedly in favor of the home team? I hope the front office gets creative with keeping tickets in the hands of the gray and gold come playoff time. We also had another arena opening in Detroit as the Red Wings moved into Little Caesars Arena. It looked like a typical Red Wings crowd on opening night, an ominous sign going forward. Beautiful building, but I am going to miss that decrepit, yet nostalgic scoreboard at The Joe that amazingly survived in this time of technology. Finally, news from Ottawa where the team reduced the seating capacity at the Canadian Tire Center in an effort to increase demand for tickets after the team got some flak for not selling out during the playoffs. Maybe the NHL is reaching its limit for exorbitant ticket prices?
Down in the minors, there was some shifting as Binghamton moved to Belleville, ON, bringing the Senators a closer affiliate. In the process, the city of Belleville spruced up Yardmen Arena for the AHL. Nice to see a team back in that area after they recently lost their OHL franchise. As for Binghamton, hockey thankfully will still be played in their fun, old-school 70s arena as they get the Devils franchise from Albany. That does mean the Capital District is without a team for the first time since the early 1990s. The franchise struggled to draw for years and the game I attended there way back in 2002 was a dull experience. Times Union Center remains on The List however, thanks to Siena Men’s Basketball, who continue to play home games downtown. One other big change is the new arena completed in Laval, Quebec. The suburb of Montreal will host the baby Habs in the 9,449-seat Bell Place and the team name is the Laval Rocket. They replace the St. John’s IceCaps and I hate to see Mile One Centre lose hockey. Those great people unfortunately suffer in the hockey world due to their remote location. A National Basketball League – Canada team will at least become the main tenant in that building.
In the ECHL: We have to say goodbye to the Alaska Aces and Elmira Pioneers. While Sullivan Arena is still going to be filled by the University of Alaska-Anchorage hockey team, the same can not be said for First Arena in Elmira. That is a rink I have been to a couple times and one that I really enjoyed. There is good news in a returning arena that I have visited as the city of Worcester is back, along with the DCU Center, just a few years after losing the AHL. Amazingly, the new Railers sold the place out for their season opener and it would be awesome to see that good support continue (like Albany, the AHL didn’t do that great in Worcester). Moving up from the now-defunct CHL is the Kansas City Mavericks. It’s not the Sprint Center, but rather Silverstein Eye Centers Arena in nearby Independence that is the home arena, which is a much better fit. Finally, Jacksonville takes over the former Evansville Icemen franchise, who were supposed to relocate to Owensboro, KY before that deal fell through. The Icemen will play in Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena.
The SPHL continues to chug along, which is good as we need a “Single-A” hockey league. Sadly, the Columbus Cottonmouths suspended operations and the team will not be back after playing uninterrupted for 21 seasons. We will see the Birmingham area get a franchise, though they won’t be playing downtown, instead they are at the Pelham Civic Center, a tiny little place that seats under 3,000 and doesn’t qualify for The List.
Both NCAA Hockey and the three Major Junior leagues in Canada feature no changes this season. There a couple of tweaks in the junior-level United States Hockey League as we saw Bloomington go through a rebrand (now known as Central Illinois Flying Aces). Their arena name changed too as it is called Grossinger Motors Arena. Up in Madison, big changes as the Mad Caps leave Veterans Memorial Coliseum. They were supposed to go to Hartmeyer Arena, but then that arrangement did not work out and they ended up at a 1,300-seat recreation rink. Not good and let’s hope that franchise is not in trouble. I actually had plans to attend a Capitols game at the Coliseum last year and am glad that did not happen as it would’ve been a waste of visit with the team departing shortly thereafter. It should be noted that building does still live on as it is the annual host to Wisconsin’s High School Hockey State Championship.