Semi inspired by Thaddeus' FanShot about 10 Best Restaurants/Bars to watch hockey, part avoiding the work I need to do on my presentation for the American Schools of Oriental Research Annual Meetings in Atlanta on Thursday, part making a diversion for those (Including myself) who are tired of/don't want to talk about the Gordon firing, I thought I would compile my favorite 10 venues I've personally been to in all of hockey. It doesn't have to be restricted to the NHL level, in fact as you will see some of the best places I've been to aren't NHL arenas. You'll notice too that some of them have much nostalgia for me, especially the time I've been able to spend with my father watching hockey. I have a feeling the XCell Center will at one point be on this list, but I haven't been there yet (But I've heard good things).
Feel free in the comments to post your own Top 10, again not restricted to the NHL.
10 - Glens Falls Civic Center: Now home of the Adirondack Phantoms, formerly the home of the Adirondack Red Wings and the Adirondack IceHawks of the UHL. I was only there for IceHawks games (I moved to Albany after the Red Wings left and moved away from Albany before the Phantoms moved in...) it was pretty desolate for the UHL but I immagine it would be a good atmosphere for an AHL team provided they don't suck as bad as the current Phantoms do.
9 - Agganis Arena (Boston University): For someone who enjoyed chanting "Sucks to B-U" waaaay too much during BU-SUNY Albany Basketball games, I was converted to the Cult of the Terrier by a friend of mine from Grad School who was a BU Almnus. Great atmosphere, even in the non-conference games I've been to.
8 - Mariucci Arena (University of Minnesota): The Mens Gophers' home. The best collegiate venue I've been to, although easily the most expensive. The Gophers fans and students are intense and it does not make a pleasant experience for visiting fans.
7 - Madison Square Garden: Why would I put the enemy's territory in my list? Well nostalgia. I went several times with my father, a huge Rangers fan, when I was growing up. I remember getting to go see the Rags play Mario Lemieux and the Penguins in 1993. i loved hearing my father's stories of Eddie Giacomin, Phil Esposito and Reg Flemming putting two Bruins through the glass at the old MSG right after the B's traded him to the Rangers in 1966. No matter how I feel about the Rags, I will always have these memories about spending time with my father bonding over the game we both love.
6 - TD Garden: Sure it ain't the Boston Garden and I really, really wished I had an opportunity to go there before it was demolished... But I didn't. The *New* Garden isn't nearly as good (According to my friends that had gone to THE Garden), but it does present one of the best atmospheres I've experienced in the new-fangled NHL arenas. Part of it is the intensity and passion of the B's fans.
5 - The Knickerbocker Arena (Times Union Center, Pepsi Arena): I spent a lot of quality time at the Knick during my college days watching the River Rats loose again. And again. And again. And again. But it was fun rooting against the River Rats, especially the colossal failure that was Ari Ahonen. On the bright side I got to see Zach Parise, Brian Gionta, Travis Zajac and Rob Skrlac but also had to witness Stephen Gionta, Steve Kariya and Ted Drury (I swear, the River Rats were the stopping point for every lesser talented sibling of an NHL star). Still I have a ton of great memories, even if I was there the night of the blizzard they were so worried would collapse the roof in they canceled the Bette Midler concert the next night.
4 - Hartford Civic Center (XL Center): Warning! Soapbox time! Man, do I miss the Whalers. Now the home of the Hartford Wolfpack, soon to be the Connecticut Whale, the Civic Center (I refuse to refer to it as the XL Center...) seems like a guy who lost 150 pounds still wearing his clothes pre-lap band surgery. It is now a relic of the bygone days of the NHL, pre-luxury box, pre-Bettman, pre-"Sunbelt Hockey", pre-whatever the hell this is supposed to be. But when you go there even now, they have the banners for Howe, Francis, Ley and McKenzie (Like the Nationals do with the Expos retired numbers, the Hurricanes do not recognize the Whalers retired numbers and have issued both Ley's and McKenzie's. Francis' is retired by the Hurricanes).
3 - The Arena at Harbor Yard (Bridgeport Sound Tigers): One of the newer AHL arenas, opened ten years ago. This will be the first year I have not attended multiple games there. While it is a newer arena, it is small and pretty intimate. There is not a bad seat in the house and usually you can move up to where ever you want without muc toruble once the game started. A tradition my father and I have My only major complaint is the music. The first couple of seasons, they had awesome music (Metallica! Iron Maiden!) but the past couple of seasons it's been lame (Lifehouse? Hoobastank?).
2 - Providence Civic Center (Dunkin' Donuts Center): Home of the AHL's Providence Bruins and former home of the AHL's Rhode Island/Providence Reds. It is one of the larger AHL venues and usually draws a fairly packed crowd thanks to the relatively close proximity to Boston. It's an older arena (Finished in 1972), still proudly displays the banners from the Reds' glory days of Eddie Giacomin (I know he's a Rag, but one of my father's all time favorite players). With the size and the relatively large capacity, you get one of the best AHL atmophere's you can. It's the best combination of intimacy, intensity and atmosphere I have been to in the AHL. The organ music puts it over the top of pretty much every other venue except for one...
1 - Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum: When the Barn's a rockin', there really is no place like it. I know the critiques. The roof is falling. It can't stand up to winter storms. The sewer system explodes and floods the visitor's locker room. But when the place is packed and everyone is yelling at the top of their lungs, the atmosphere is hard to beat. With the demise of the Igloo, NVMC is the last of the old great NHL barns. When it is replaced by a sterilized, shiny new arena or renovated form, it will in my opinion be a sad, sad day.
So what are your favorite venues. Disagree with any of mine (I know many will with #7)? I look forward to seeing them.