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Mike McIntyre | On Sports
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Our tour around the NHL continues...
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Our tour around the NHL continues...

Happy Thursday, folks. Is this winter ever going to end?

To think, it was last March 23 when my son and I hit the links at Shooter’s for the earliest round of golf I can ever recall playing. Although the ground was still mostly frozen, all the snow was gone.

Considering we are now exactly five weeks from the one-year anniversary of that date, I don’t like the chances of history repeating itself given the mountain of white stuff and the cold that keeps coming our way.

Sigh.

A week ago in this space, I kicked off a three-part series taking you on a tour around the NHL. I’ve now been in 30 big-league barns — 31, if you include home base here in downtown Winnipeg — with just the home of the Florida Panthers, FLA Live Arena, left on my bingo card. I’ll cross that one off in mid-April when I head down to Sunrise to cover the Jets' season-ending road trip, which also includes stops in Tampa Bay, New York and Raleigh, N.C.

Whether they’ll still be fighting for a playoff spot or going through the motions and playing out the spell remains to be seen. But I’m very much looking forward to it regardless.

I created a bit of a ranking system, looking at several factors including city itself (including the all-important airport), the rink and press box, any personal attachment/significance/connections the place might have for yours truly.

In case you missed it, here’s the Bottom 10 I presented last week.

30. Buffalo Sabres (KeyBank Center)

29. Detroit Red Wings (Little Caesars Arena)

28. Ottawa Senators (Canadian Tire Centre)

27. St. Louis Blues (Enterprise Center)

26. Calgary Flames (Scotiabank Saddledome)

25. Columbus Blue Jackets (Nationwide Arena)

24. Carolina Hurricanes (PNC Arena)

23. Nashville Predators (Bridgestone Arena)

22. Philadelphia Flyers (Wells Fargo Center)

21. Edmonton Oilers (Rogers Place)

Today, I unveil my Middle 10. And we’ll wrap it up next week with my Top 10.

One thing to keep in mind: these are entirely subjective on my part, based on my own experiences and observations. Some of these places I’ve only been to once or twice, while others have hosted me on numerous occasions. In that sense, this list could very much change down the road. But this is how they currently stack up in my eyes.

As always, I love to hear any and all feedback you might have.

Mike McIntyre

Mike McIntyre, Sports columnist

Mike McIntyre

The Middle 10

20. Pittsburgh Penguins (PPG Paints Arena): Perhaps my funniest Jets travel story comes from here. A few seasons ago, I’m up in the press box about 75 minutes before game time setting up my laptop, which includes trying to untangle the usual mess of cords from my bag. At some point, I set my iPhone down on the table, not realizing it’s on top of one of the cords. This creates a catapult of sorts which launches by device into the air, right over the edge and down to the seats below. Thankfully, the doors weren’t open yet and nobody was there to get hit. My Otter Box paid for itself that day, protecting the product from any damage as it bounced off two different seats and landed on the concrete.

19. Dallas Stars (American Airlines Center): They might have the friendliest media and arena staff in the league, complete with an elevator attendant who hands you mints after the game as you head down to the locker room to conduct your interviews. Dallas is a great city, too, and I thoroughly enjoyed an extended stay back in 2018 while covering the NHL Draft.

The scene outside American Airlines Center last week about an hour before the Jets took on the Stars. (Mike McIntyre / Winnipeg Free Press)

18. Colorado Avalanche (Ball Arena): Denver is one of my favourite cities to go to, and the atmosphere inside the rink is always top-notch. I especially love their usage of the Super Mario “power-up” sound whenever they successfully kill a penalty. Games against the Avalanche are always fun, too. They also have one of my favourite airports, with terrific food and shopping options inside. The only knock is that it’s so far out of the city itself.

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17. Arizona Coyotes (Gila River Arena): Sure, they get a lot of (justified) heckling for their many issues, but there’s no disputing the fact Glendale has great weather and a sweet setup around the rink, albeit one that struggles to attract much of an audience most days. Still, this is always a trip I look forward to, and it’s always fun to see so many Jets fans in and around the building.

They have trouble attracting fans in the desert, as you can see from this opening face-off photo as Winnipeg visited Arizona last month. (Mike McIntyre / Winnipeg Free Press)

16. Boston Bruins (TD Garden): Another great stop, one rich with hockey history given the Original Six roots. The Bobby Orr statue outside is awesome, and they’ve recently added a massive food hall in the building, which is among the best setups around the league. I was just there a few weeks ago, and am already looking forward to my next bowl of clam chowder. Too bad the Jets only make one visit per year.

Bobby Orr continues to soar outside TD Garden in Boston. (Mike McIntyre / Winnipeg Free Press)

15. Seattle Kraken (Climate Pledge Arena): The newest entry to the NHL is a keeper, that’s for sure. As long as you don’t mind a little rain, Seattle is a heck of a city. The Pike Place Market was a highlight during my initial stop in December. The rink itself is quite something, built far below the ground to the point when you walk in at street level, you’re actually in the upper deck.

Two scoreboards are apparently better than one inside unique Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle. (Mike McIntyre / Winnipeg Free Press)

14. New Jersey Devils (Prudential Center): No, Newark itself is nothing to write home about, but the fact it’s a quick subway ride from Manhattan sure is. The Big Apple is my favourite city in the world, so a Jets versus Devils game means getting to soak in the sights and sounds of the City That Never Sleeps. Looking forward to getting back there next month.

13. Anaheim Ducks (Honda Center): How can you go wrong with the Happiest Place on Earth? Disneyland, of course, is just around the corner. And I always love stopping in at the house Teemu helped build, as I did for the Jets season-opener last October which included getting to have dinner with the Finnish Flash at his nearby steakhouse. They also have my favourite goal horn in the NHL.

12. Washington Capitals (Capital One Arena): It’s always a highlight to watch the Great Eight play in his own backyard, and Washington is one of the best cities to walk around as a tourist that you’ll find. My goal is to get here one time in early spring, when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom, as I’ve heard it’s a feast for the senses. One of the best press box setups, too.

Jets at Capitals is always a marquee matchup for Mike. (Mike McIntyre / Winnipeg Free Press)

11. Vancouver Canucks (Rogers Arena): Terrific seafood. A walk along the Seawall. Mountains in every direction. What’s not to like about the left coast? Well, aside from all the wet stuff falling from the sky. But at least it’s not (usually) snow! My only complaint is that the Jets always seem to come here on the second night of a back-to-back, meaning it’s usually a lightning quick in-and-out.

 

Twenty down. Ten more to go. You can figure out which barns are still left on my list, but you’ll have to wait one more week to see how I have them ranked.

Stay safe. Stay warm. And, let’s hope, stay away from that shovel.

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