Personally, the most exciting change in the hockey world is the return of the Nassau Coliseum. The New York Islanders’ ill-advised move to the Barclays Center has failed on so many levels. It doesn’t matter that fans long knew Brooklyn’s arena would suck for hockey, what matters is that financially it wasn’t working for all parties. While a deal for yet another New York Metro arena (costing nine figures) gets negotiated in Belmont, we can all enjoy a return to the heavily-renovated Nassau Coliseum. Sorry, I mean NYCB Live! I’m curious to see how the spruced up old barn works out as the previous version may have been a dump, but the atmosphere was electric. The Islanders are going to split their time between Brooklyn and Uniondale for the next three seasons and the final 10 games this year will be at the Coliseum. For the rest of the NHL, multiple arenas are getting upgrades that are mostly focused on technology, concourses and premium seating spaces. Bridgestone Arena (Predators), Capital One Arena (Capitals), Enterprise Center (Blues) and Wells Fargo Center (Flyers) are the NHL buildings that will be seeing changes this season. I also can’t leave out the high comedy playing out with the owners in Detroit, where they are changing the seats at Little Caesars Arena from red to black. Try as you might, but you won’t avoid shaming at @emptyseatsgalore
Elsewhere, the remarkable ascension of the Colorado Eagles continues. The very successful franchise out of Loveland has gone from the defunct CHL to the ECHL and now to the AHL as they become the 31st team in the circuit as the affiliate of the Avalanche. Also departing the ECHL is Quad City, however we’ll still see hockey at the Taxslayer Center as the Storm join the SPHL. Replacing those two departing ECHL teams are a pair with awesome names and logos: the Maine Mariners and the Newfoundland Growlers. Both are welcomed back as professional hockey rightly returns after a brief absence in Portland, ME and St. John’s, NL. Another team worth watching is the Florida Everblades, the reason being to see if Hertz is able to weasel its way into coinciding their arena naming rights agreement with an all-out paint job that would turn the exterior of Estero’s arena to bright yellow. Boo. In the far lower leagues, we say goodbye to the Mississippi RiverKings and a big hello to Elmira, as they and First Arena return as the Enforcers in the FHL.
While all is quiet in the College ranks, we do have one new arena in Junior Hockey and it comes from the Q. The teams from the Maritimes have some impressive facilities and you can now count Moncton in that group. The 8,750-seat Avenir Centre is the new home for the Wildcats as their days in the Coliseum end. That former AHL building will focus on hosting trade shows. Junior Hockey in Canada starts in September and what a lovely sightseeing/hockey trip one could make during that time to Saint John, Moncton, Charlottetown, Halifax and Cape Breton. Back in the States, Muskegon did a big renovation at LC Walker Arena, essentially giving it the Minor League Baseball treatment by adding a plethora of social spaces (beer garden, party decks, suites, etc.).