Mike McIntyre | On Sports
Free Press
One arena stands alone...
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One arena stands alone...

Howdy, folks.

A couple weeks ago in this space, I started counting down my list of favourite NHL cities to visit in reverse order. As mentioned in the initial newsletter to kick off this multi-part series, I’m now one team away — the Florida Panthers — from completing my arena bingo card. That will occur in April, when I cover the Winnipeg Jets on their final road trip of the regular season.

Having spent time in 30 different markets, I figured it was a grand time to reflect on my experiences over the years in each. And so I created my own internal ranking system, taking multiple factors into consideration, and broke them into three segments: The bottom 10; the middle 10; and, finally, the top 10.

To refresh your memory, or in case you missed them, here’s how I had it broken down so far (full explanations of each were included in the two previous editions):

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)

20. Pittsburgh Penguins: (PPG Paints Arena)



19. Dallas Stars (American Airlines Center)

18. Colorado Avalanche (Ball Arena)

17. Arizona Coyotes (Gila River Arena)

16. Boston Bruins (TD Garden)

15. Seattle Kraken (Climate Pledge Arena)

14. New Jersey Devils (Prudential Center)

13. Anaheim Ducks (Honda Center)

12. Washington Capitals (Capital One Arena)

11. Vancouver Canucks (Rogers Arena)


Which brings us to this final installment. As always, I’d love to hear your input — which ones of the above or below have you been to? Which are on your personal bucket list? Let me know!

Mike McIntyre

Mike McIntyre, Sports columnist

Mike McIntyre


10. San Jose Sharks (SAP Center): This one is among my personal favourites for one big reason: It’s a 45-minute train ride to San Francisco, a city I’ve fallen in love with now during three previous stops. On a cold, windy rainy night a couple years ago — the night before a Jets-Sharks game — I took a tour of Alcatraz that was everything I could have imagined, and then some. I definitely left my heart in San Francisco. And, by extension, San Jose has become a road trip highlight for me.

A trip to San Jose often includes a quick side trip to San Francisco. (Mike McIntyre / Winnipeg Free Press)

Mike’s visit to Alcatraz a couple years back was on his bucket list. (Mike McIntyre / Winnipeg Free Press)

9. Minnesota Wild (Xcel Energy Center): A terrific press box view. Some of the friendliest PR and arena staff in the league. Friends who live in the Twin Cities. And a fun rivalry between the Jets and the Wild all combine to make any trip to Minnesota a welcome one.



8. New York Islanders (UBS Arena): OK, so I kinda sorta lied when I said the home of the Florida Panthers (FLA Live Arena) is the only one left on my personal bingo card. UBS Arena is the NHL’s newest, opening its doors last November, and I will make my first visit in a couple weeks when the Jets face the Islanders. However, I have covered games at Nassau, the Islanders' old stomping grounds, and that place had tons of character and charm.

7. Los Angeles Kings ( Arena): It’s now saddled with perhaps the silliest name in sports, but the building formerly known as Staples Center is always a delight. The place is loaded with sporting history and royalty, and the area outside the rink — L.A. Live — is a tremendous place to hang out both before and after games. Plus, you can’t beat the southern California climate. Plus, they serve peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in the press box! Seriously.

The ultimate comfort food is served up in the press box at the home of the Los Angeles Kings. (Mike McIntyre / Winnipeg Free Press)

6. Tampa Bay Lighting (Amalie Arena): This place will always be special, as it’s where I got to cover my first-ever Stanley Cup Final in front of fans. Seeing the hometown Lightning win it all last summer, downing the Montreal Canadiens, was a tremendous experience, especially after a year of covering NHL games inside bubbles and empty buildings. Plus, you can’t beat the Florida climate. (Sense a theme here, folks?)

It was a raucous scene inside Amalie Arena last summer as Tampa Bay won the Stanley Cup on home ice. (Mike McIntyre / Winnipeg Free Press)

5. Toronto Maple Leafs (Scotiabank Arena): Regardless of what you might think of the Maple Leafs, a visit to the so-called centre of the hockey universe is always a treat. It just feels like the spotlight is brighter, the stage bigger, and it makes for a meaningful experience that’s hard to put a finger on.

4. Chicago Blackhawks (United Center): Continuing the Original Six theme here, the Windy City is a much sought-after stop for several reasons, including the absolute BEST national anthem in the game performed by Jim Cornelison that gives me chills every time I hear it. Chicago is a great sports town, one I love to get out and explore, and my absolute favourite Central Division road city to visit when covering the Jets.

3. Montreal Canadiens (Bell Centre): The rich history is everywhere you look, and it’s hard not to be in awe of a true hockey shrine. I grew to love the city last summer while spending nearly a week covering the Habs home games against the Lightning in the Cup final, exploring Old Montreal, beautiful Mount Royal Park and, of course, all the tremendous coffee shops and eateries in the city. Speaking of food, they serve their world famous toasted hot dogs in the press box, which raises this one a spot or two alone. Très bien!

There’s so much hockey history inside Bell Centre in Montreal. (Mike McIntyre / Winnipeg Free Press)

2. Vegas Golden Knights (T-Mobile Arena): You have to give Sin City credit. They know how to put on a hell of a show. Hands down the best arena atmosphere around the league, from the pre-game theatrics to the ear-splitting noise — I remember a cup of water spilling over the edges in the press box from the vibrations as I covered Games 3 of 4 of the Western Conference Final between the Jets and Golden Knights in the spring of 2018. Plus, the area outside the rink is tremendous, with the Vegas strip and all its glitz and glamour just waiting to be explored.

Sin City knows how to put on a show. (Mike McIntyre / Winnipeg Free Press)

1. New York Rangers (Madison Square Garden): The World’s Most Famous Arena, as it’s been dubbed, stands alone. As I’ve said before, New York is my favourite city in the world to visit, and covering a hockey game in this hallowed building is always a treat. The press box, which underwent major renovations a few years ago, includes a personalized TV monitor at every seat for replays. I can’t wait to get back there again in April while on the last Jets road trip of the season.

The World’s Most Famous Arena doesn’t disappoint. (Mike McIntyre / Winnipeg Free Press)

Thanks for following along. We’ll return to our normal newsletter programming next Thursday, whatever the heck that is.

Take care. Spring is just around the corner, or so I’ve been told.

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