9 Worst Places To Watch An NHL Game
With the NHL season at its midway point, it is a good time to step back and take stock of what we’ve seen so far. And while a lot of pundits have focused their mid-season reviews on the top plays, how teams have performed (who are the big surprises?), and the state of the game in general (what are we going to do about all these concussions?), at Total Pro Sports we’re going to focus instead on fan experience. So today we bring you a list of the 9 Worst Places to Watch an NHL game in 2012.
Similar to other lists we’ve done recently (like the best places to watch college basketball), in evaluating NHL venues, we’re looking at a combination of fan enthusiasm, venue amenities, ambiance, and of course quality hockey. Some of the places that made the list have all but one of these qualities. Some have none. Still, creating the list was obviously an exercise in subjectivity, so keep that in mind as you read on.
So who made the list? Click on to find out.
It's not you, Maple Leafs fans. It's the venue. You guys are great. You're so great, in fact, that you deserve better than a venue that forces you to pay $80 for a seat in the corners, about 3,000 yards away from the ice. Sure, the ACC has nice concourses filled with great concessions. But you wouldn't need to be entertained by a 24 ounce beer and a hotdog with chili and bacon on it if you could actually see the game.
9. Toronto's Air Canada Centre
If you're evaluating the ambiance created by the fans, there is nowhere better than Chicago. Want some patriotic goose bumps? Make sure to get in your seat before the national anthem so you can feel the building vibrate from all the cheering.
But things weren't always so great at the United Center. When the Hawks were busy sucking from 1995 to 2005, the place was a ghost town. And then you really noticed the big problem with the venue: it's practically the size of the NFL stadium. Seriously. The above photo shows the United Center next to the old Chicago Stadium before they tore it down. The new joint has got to be the most cavernous venue in the NHL. And as with Toronto, the awesome fans in Chicago deserve much, much better.
8. Chicago's United Center
Buffalo has some of the most passionate fans in the NHL, and I had heard that the First Niagara Center (formerly HSBC Arena) was one of the loudest buildings in the league. But when I actually got the opportunity to see a game there last season, the Sabres were in the midst of a losing streak, and the place was like a mausoleum. You could literally hear crickets. And I'm pretty sure I saw a tumbleweed roll down the upper concourse.
Oh, and speaking of the concourses...yikes. Bland and boring.
So in short, if the Sabres are rolling, I'm sure this is a great place to watch a game. But if they're slumping, you should find a better way to spend your Friday night.
7. Buffalo's First Niagara Center
Fort Lauderdale is a pretty unlikely pro sports city, and it shows when you go to a Florida Panthers game at the BankAtlantic Center. Attendance is actually somewhat decent this year, with an average of about 16,000 on hand each night. But we're not talking about 16,000 people who live and breath hockey history, here.
No offense to the six or seven hundred real die-hard Panther fans, but you could probably find just as much hockey knowledge at a monster truck rally.
6. Florida's BankAtlantic Center
The NHL All-Star game was held in Raleigh last year, and by all accounts all the fan activities were wildly popular. So you would think they would be able to get their arena more than 80% full for home games. But no.
I'm starting to wonder if Raleigh isn't really a basketball town at heart. You know, I've heard there are a couple of pretty good college teams in the area.
Still, the RBC Center might not have made this list if the Hurricanes weren't also putrid this season.
5. Carolina's RBC Center
Ah Columbus. That traditional hotbed of professional sports.
Wait, no. It's a college town. Yes, a huge college town. But still. I'm pretty sure the Ohio State women's basketball team is more popular in Columbus than the pathetic Blue Jackets, who've made the playoffs once in their 11-year history. This enthusiasm shows in the attendance figures: they're averaging just 14,000 per game this season.
4. Columbus's Nationwide Arena
No one thought hockey would work in Dallas. Then Mike Modano and the Stars proved everyone wrong...for a while.
But over the last two seasons, attendance has gone from an average of 17,000 per game to 15,000 per game, and then, currently, to a sad 13,000 per game. And the Stars aren't even that bad. In fact, they're pretty average, and in the hunt for a playoff spot. So while the hockey is pretty solid, there are few places in the league more depressing that American Airlines Arena right now. (The above photo is from a game this past December. Yikes.)
3. Dallas's American Airlines Arena
For starters, if your arena's name has a ".com" in it, something is wrong. Also, if your arena is located 20 miles from downtown, something is wrong.
So is it really a surprise that the Coyotes have the worst attendance in the league, with just 11,500 people there are a nightly basis?
There is only one more depressing place to watch an NHL game than Phoenix right now...
2. Phoenix's Jobing.com Arena
Not only are the Islanders the 3rd worst team in the NHL, but they're venue is just downright embarrassing. The capacity of the Nassau Coliseum is only 16,250, and from the outside it looks like a boarded up Burlington Coat Factory.
Sadly, the Islanders do have some die-hard fans. But they likely won't get a better place to watch hockey (or a better team) any time soon.