Folks, those of you who know me know how much I love hockey. Hell, those of you who have met me just once know how much I love hockey. It’s a great sport and that’s why it’s a lifetime goal of mine to get to all 32 rinks if you include Seattle.
So far I’ve been to nine NHL rinks (in this order): Tampa, Minnesota, Florida, Colorado, Detroit, Columbus, and Philadelphia, Buffalo, and Nashville.
I have compiled a list of ratings for these rinks. I will continuously update them as I get to more rinks. So without further adieu, here are my NHL arena rankings:
1. Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida
People are going to call me a homer for listing my favorite team’s arena as number one but anyone who has been to this rink agrees with me not just because they’re all Lightning fans but because they’re smart individuals.
I’ve probably attended somewhere in the neighborhood of 75 games here and every single one is always a blast. From the great in-game entertainment, the tesla coils that literally shoot out lightning bolts, to the scenic views of downtown Tampa, the pipe organ, and the fact that there’s not a bad seat in the house (I’ve sat as far down as 10 rows up from the ice and as far up as 3 rows from the top) are just a few reasons why Tampa comes in at number one.
So if you’re an NHL fan looking to see a game in a rink different than your own team’s home one, come on down to Tampa and enjoy the four B’s in life that everyone needs:
Beaches, Beer, Best Arena in hockey, Best team in hockey.
Pro tip: Take a walk downtown before the game and get some Eddie & Sam’s pizza. It’s super good and some of the best pizza in Florida.
2. Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, Michigan
This place is absolutely unreal. It’s the most futuristic arena I’ve ever been in and everything is super new. They have cool tributes to some of their legendary players of the past all while setting a new standard that all new arenas will have to try and match.
Now to the negative parts: The gondola seating is great for the rich folks but for the common people who just want to cop a cheap ticket to the game it hangs down and obstructs your view.
You can still see the ice so it could be worse but not being able to see the jumbotron definitely takes away from the experience. The other complaint I have is that the seats are too close together and you’re packed in like sardines. That factor mixed with the gondolas combined with the fact that the Wings are currently one of the most miserable teams to watch creates an unpleasant experience.
I still put this rink at number two though just because of how cool it is inside. It’s a must see if you’re ever in Detroit (which is also a great city despite what many haters and losers may say).
Pro tip: Park at the MGM Grand Casino down the road for free and walk to the game from there to save some cash.
3. Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota
I absolutely love this rink. It’s beautiful inside and out. The fans are great. It even smells like cinnamon donuts throughout the entire stadium because they sell them inside. The colors of green and red combined with the smell of baked goods literally makes you feel like you’re watching every game there on your couch on Christmas eve.
They even have a bunch of statues of the Peanuts characters all around the stadium which is a cool touch. They have some sort of meaning but I don’t entirely remember the full story.
If you’re a traveling hockey fan then you’ve gotta add a stop to the Twin Cities to your list.
Pro tip: Cossetta in St. Paul which is right across from the rink has amazing Italian food. Some of the best Italian food I’ve ever eaten.
4. Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio
Home of the Blue Jackets, Nationwide Arena is another great place to see a hockey game. They have tons of entertainment around the arena filled with great restaurants and things to do. The sightlines are awesome and the fans are incredibly friendly.
That being said, fuck the Columbus Blue Jackets for destroying my dreams as a Tampa fan during last year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs. I still have not emotionally recovered from it.
Pro tip: If you’re a visiting team playing a playoff series there, show up and don’t get swept after tying an NHL record for games won in a season.
5. Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee
Not going to lie, when I planned my trip to see a Preds game here I was expecting this rink to come in a bit higher on the list. The atmosphere of the rink was awesome as advertised. Nashville fans are loud and incredibly rowdy which makes for a good time. There’s a lot of cool things to do in the arena and the best street in America with some of the best live music bars in America is right outside of the arena.
That being said, the hockey watching experience is probably the worst of the rinks that I’ve been to. The seats are incredibly close together and if you weigh more than 150 lbs it’s not going to be comfortable. The sightlines are also bad. The rink almost feels like it was built more for concerts than hockey which is understandable but they could use a complete overhaul of the seating arrangements there.
Pro tip: If you’re going to come to Nashville (which I’d highly recommend) then stay as close to Broadway as possible. Also be prepared to spend a lot of money because drinks are EXPENSIVE in the city.
6. Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado
Was there anything spectacular about the Pepsi Center? Not particularly. The atmosphere in there is still electric and the sightlines are great. It’s conveniently located right on the outskirts of downtown Denver and is easy to walk to if you’re staying in a hotel downtown.
In the entire city of Denver they like to remind you how tall their city is. There are signs that say “5,280 ft” or “Mile High City” everywhere and it’s like, “Okay, we get it. You’re tall. Stop bragging.” I know this method is designed to intimidate the opponent but when I was there they blew a 1 goal lead to the Preds in the last two minutes and lost in OT so the intimidation tactic failed.
Pro tip: If you’re from out of town go easy on the alcohol. Since the elevation is so high there is less oxygen and you get way drunker way faster. Things can go south very quickly. I wish someone would have told me that before I learned it the hard way.
7. BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida
The BB&T center is home of the Florida Panthers. It’s a very nice rink from an aesthetic standpoint but the atmosphere surrounding it is a bit strange.
For starters, the rink is literally on the edge of the Florida Everglades. When you finally do get into the rink, which is located in the middle of nowhere, you enter through a gift shop which feels unnatural. You then get into the arena and you’re all by yourself. Literally nobody goes to these games. It’s weird.
I try not to shit on the little brother franchise in Florida too often because I want Florida hockey to grow and I think it’d be cool if there was an actual rivalry between the Bolts and the Panthers but as long as the Panthers keep things as they are then that will never happen.
Pro Tip: You can park for free at the mall across the street.
8. Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
If you could dream up the most average arena possible in the world then you’d dream up the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. There’s nothing wrong with it but at the same time there’s nothing outstanding about it.
The reason why you have to go see a hockey game in Philadelphia is because of the fans. These people are complete lunatics and it’s so much fun to listen to. You have 14-15 year old girls cursing out their own players. You have grown men screaming their cheesesteak stuffed faces off the entire game. One of their player’s could decapitate someone and the fans would hurl vile insults at the referees if they called a penalty.
Going to a game here is something that every hockey fan should do if they’re in the neighborhood.
Pro tip: When you’re in Philly get a Cheesesteak. Don’t be the person who is too good for it. I went to Jim’s Steaks on South Street and it was one of the best things I’ve ever eaten in my life.
9. KeyBank Center in Buffalo, New York
The area around the arena is gross. The arena is old but not in a good way. It’s really run down but not in the way that gives it character. There are these weird green floors that go around the rink that don’t match anything and just adds to the weirdness of the rink. The only positive is that the sightlines were great so the hockey watching experience is good.
Pro tip: If you’re going to come to Buffalo to watch a game then do it in the fall where the Sabres play on Saturday and the Bills play on Sunday. That’s what I did and the Bills leg of the trip made it worth it. Bills fans have the best tailgate scene in professional sports and you may as well come to the Sabres game on Saturday night too because there’s nothing else to do on a Saturday night in Buffalo.
In conclusion, I hope to attend a few more rinks every year until I end up getting to all 32. The top of my list for where I want to go next is Vancouver, Vegas, and Montreal. Stay tuned!