This year is very quiet on the hockey arena front and that’s not a bad thing as tradition and longevity are favored in my book. With the NHL and AHL at status quo this year, we have to go down to the ECHL for a change. It’s not a good one as the Manchester franchise folded. For 18 years, the capital of New Hampshire had a professional hockey team. Like most cities, the honeymoon period wore off and attendance started dwindling. In 2015, they dropped a level and eventually became an afterthought. It’s a sad exit into the night and that means their modern downtown arena will sit empty most of the winter. The building will still host the State High School Hockey Championships, so it does remain on The List.
In Juniors, the Kootenay Ice were relocated to Winnipeg. How many teams does Winnipeg need? I love that hockey-mad place, but c’mon…not only do they have an NHL AND AHL team, but now they also have a Major Junior team? The Ice will not play in the MTS Centre unlike the other two teams, instead they’ll play on the campus of the University of Manitoba in by far, the league’s smallest rink. As for the city of Cranbrook (home of Kootenay), they will get a Junior A team to play in Western Financial Place starting 2020-2021. That is similar to what Chilliwack did a few years ago.
Finally in College Hockey, both Michigan State and Saint Lawrence are slated for hockey arena facelifts. Each are needed and should make for much better buildings, while keeping the history in tact (especially at Saint Lawrence). Up in Alaska, both schools (Fairbanks and Anchorage) are having budget issues and in a cost-cutting move, the Seawolves are leaving Sullivan Arena in downtown Anchorage for a much smaller and outdated campus home. That means Sullivan Arena is without a tenant as both the ECHL and NCAA have recently departed. Growing up, I best remember The Sully as home to the Great Alaska Shootout. For some reason, I had a soft spot for that tournament as it was my favorite out of all the college basketball events around the Thanksgiving holiday.