March 28, 2015
It’s been an incredible 15 games, and it’s hard to believe I’m already at the halfway point of my trip. I’m documenting a lot of things along the way – here’s my report (very subjective of course) with rankings, ratings, and interesting tidbits observed in the 15 arenas visited so far.
Oldest arena: Technically Madison Square Garden is the oldest arena, but it underwent a $1 billion renovation 3-4 years ago, so it doesn’t count.
The two oldest arenas (built in 1972 and 1974 respectively) are Nassau Coliseum (Islanders) and Rexall Place (Oilers). The Islanders are moving to Barclays Center next season (in Brooklyn, where the New York Knicks play), and the Oilers will be moving to their new arena (Rogers Place) for the start of the 2016-2017 season. The fans for both cities have a lot to look forward to, especially after seeing so many awesome arenas so far in my trip.
Newest arena: Consol Energy Centre (Penguins) which was built in 2010. Absolutely gorgeous facility!
Most seats: United Center (Chicago) with 19,717 seats, and 22,428 capacity with standing room.
Least seats: MTS Centre (Winnipeg), with 15,016 seats (Probably explains why it’s so hard to get a ticket to a Jets game.)
Loudest arena (fan noise): Tie between Chicago Blackhawks and New York Rangers.
Quietest fans: Buffalo (But this may be due to the tough season they’re having. Things will turn around for the Sabres.)
Best fan celebration after a home team goal: Chicago Blackhawks (There’s nothing like hearing the fans sing the Chelsea Dagger song.)
Best Jumbotron: New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins and Florida Panthers.
Brightest ice (yes, brightest ice): Philadelphia and Pittsburgh have the brightest ice. It’s amazing watching a game in these two cities. It’s like watching a game on HDTV.
Favourite anthem singers: It’s a three-way tie between Lauren Hart (Philadelphia), Rene Rancourt (Boston) and Sonya Benson (Tampa Bay), but in fairness, I didn’t get to see Mark Donnelly from Vancouver, who had the night off when I was there. (Donnelly is the operatic singer who took a tumble when he donned skates to perform the Canadian anthem at the Canucks home opener this season.)
Best chants during the singing of the national anthem(s): Chicago for their deafening cheers during the singing of the national anthem, Dallas fans for shouting out “Stars,” Flames fans for shouting out “See” (C), when “O say can you see” is sung, and Jets fans for chanting “True North” when this phrase is sung in the Canadian national anthem. Very very cool!
Best location for an arena: New York Rangers, Vancouver and Winnipeg (It’s great to be able to be in the heart of a city, and see a hockey game.)
Best pre-game experience: Tampa Bay, Dallas, and Arizona (The weather probably helps, but they have lots of areas outside their arenas for food and drink, live bands performing before their games, area for kids to play street hockey, etc.)
Lowest priced beer: $8 at First Niagara Center (Buffalo).
Favourite arena food items: Philly Cheesesteak (Philadelphia of course), Pyrogy Dog (Vancouver), Jumbo Jet Dog (Winnipeg) and the Pepperoni Pizza (Buffalo).
Favourite Mascot: Harvey the Hound from the Calgary Flames. (But I’m biased because he presented me with a custom jersey commemorating my 30 game trip.)
Best game experience (for me): Tampa Bay Lightning. I was named as their Social Captain for this game, and they gave me a grand tour of the building, and seats in their Chase Club. And I got to meet Phil Esposito, and I was also able to watch the players warm up before the game.
Neatest experience: Hearing the Canadian national anthem at a Sabres-Caps game in Buffalo. They do this to recognize the large number of Canadian fans who come see games at the First Niagara Center in Buffalo. Very classy!
Another neat experience: Seeing a Boston Bruins game on St. Patrick’s Day!
Best fans: I know this is going to sound like a cop-out, but it’s a 15-way tie for me! The fans in every building have been amazing, some coming up to ask me about my trip, some who want to take their picture with me, and many who promise to make a donation on-line to Make-A-Wish! And all who offer their best wishes!
Most generous fans: Well, so far it’s Edmonton, but it’s my home base, and I have not been to 15 cities yet. We’re about halfway to my goal to raise $30,000 for Make-A-Wish, and I think we will do it!
Favourite airport: None. No bad experiences to report, but it’s my least favourite part of the day, usually taking between 4 – 8 hours of my day, from leaving my hotel until I check in at my next location.
Other: I’ve had lots of questions about my health, and for the most part, I feel great! My sleep patterns are off, and some nights, I only get 4 or 5 hours sleep, but I’m feeling good. I checked my weight after game #11 in Edmonton, and surprisingly, I lost 4 pounds. (Which will please my medical team. I don’t really have a medical team, and for those who know how I fuss about my hair, I don’t really have a “hair management team” either.)
Interestingly, I made sure to book hotels with gyms, but I’ve since learned that you have to actually use the facilities to benefit. Since I packed light, I only have one pair of shoes (not runners), so I’m trying to stay fit with some in-room exercising, and I’ve been doing a lot of walking! Speaking of walking, I learned that Buffalo Sabres head coach, Ted Nolan, walks to each and every game his team plays on the road. Sometimes it’s a few blocks, but sometimes it’s 8 – 10 miles.
I hope you enjoyed my mid-trip report! And continued thanks to everyone for your support! (And for your donations to Make-A-Wish!)